My Pop Life #182 : Am I Wrong ? – Anderson .Paak ft. ScHoolboy Q

Am I Wrong ?    –   Anderson .Paak  ft. Schoolboy Q

Am I wrong to assume
If she can dance, then she can’t ooh?

I miss those teenage days when you would listen to an album back to back around and around and revel in each listen, purr with delight at each unfolding chord sequence, lie back and indulge in the slowly-becoming sweet familiarity of this new music.  Your new favourite record.  You just couldn’t get enough of it.  Sometimes you needed someone else to convert or share it with, but the experience was personal, deep, profound, special.  Why a record becomes personal and ‘favourited’ is a mysterious thing – it hits your sweet spot and refuses to budge.  First hearing is usually a delight, but it is possible that a favourite will creep up on you.  But once you’ve heard it three or four times, you then wonder if it will wear off – and your true favourites never ever do.  You simply always love it.  Each year I mentally compile my favourites of the year just gone, trying to be ruthlessly honest.  But as I get older, fewer and fewer albums or songs manage to penetrate me in the same way.  Thus is the golden age born.  I love nostalgia but I also love to hear new music, and I always have.  Perhaps growing up with the Top 40 every Sunday makes you ready to hear fresh music every week.  The new stuff would always get an airing for that huge audience, and often we would go out and buy one we liked.   I listen to music and read reviews online these days and seek out new stuff which might appeal to me.  Could be anything, usually is…

Last year, in mid-2016, The Guardian online had some kind of “what’s been good so far” music article with some stuff I’d heard (Skepta, Rihanna, Bowie) and some I hadn’t (Margo Price).  In the below-the-line discussion Cif (Comment Is Free) area, a place I usually avoid due to certain frothing at the mouth trolls and gits, were the usual types whinging about the Guardian or their own favourite band.  Anderson .Paak was mentioned four separate times by people simply saying “listen to this fella”.  It is usually a good indicator of something worth checking out.  Next minute I’m on Youtube listening to this brilliant LP Malibu which came out in February 2016.  I am immediately hooked and buy it on iTunes.  Each time I hear it after that it gets better.  And better.  Eventually I burn it onto a CD and give it to Tony Gerber, Lynn Nottage’s husband and my New York gig buddy and friend.  The people we see the most here, they’re about 20 blocks away in Boerum Hill.

Tony Gerber avec du vin blanc

We’ve seen Young Fathers, FKA Twigs, Kode9, I gave him my Run The Jewels tickets, we went to Stevie Wonder together.  Tony is a documentary director and runs his own company Market Road Films from an office in Gowanus near the canal.  Last year he went to Liberia, Congo, Iraq, Turkey, the UK and Kurdish Iraq making documentary films, mainly for Nat Geo.  He works all over the world often in dangerous spots and always dependent on a local fixer for his and his crew’s safety, interviewing militias in the Eastern Congo or Kurdish fighters about to go into battle with ISIS in Iraq.  Tony enjoys the buzz understandably and he knows what he is doing in terms of film-making.  He’s been all over the world.  Market Road Films has a small but eclectic staff and always has some younger trainees and interns from interesting places.  They throw a mean Halloween Party every year with an open mic for ‘moths’, plenty booze and food and a few intrepid types in fancy dress.  Jenny and I decided to indulge in fancy dress last year.   Sorry no pix.

Tony, Wally and Lynn last summer in their garden

But usually Tony and I meet at his and Lynn’s house, a classic Brooklyn brownstone where her Dad Wally has the ground floor, and Tony & Lynn & their children the three floors above that, with the kitchen right at the top, bedrooms in the middle and living room by the front door which is up the stoop from the sidewalk.  Often when we visit there are other family members, friends, a convivial gathering including writers, film-makers, lawyers, policewomen, producers, United Nations employees, directors and real-estate brokers.  New Yorkers.  And what was very lovely about going round there last year in particular was Tony playing this CD I’d burned for him with regularity – and always pointing out to the assembled throng that I’d introduced him to Anderson .Paak.  Why ?  Because he actually loved it as much as me.  I should point out at this point that Tony and Lynn have two kids – Melkamu who is now 8 yrs old and Ruby who is in her first year at college aged 19.  So Ruby brings music too and now and again we would sit around and listen to this and that – hip hop, Drake, Princess Nokia.  One of the best gigs we went to last year was in the Music Hall in Williamsburg, a couple of miles north of where Jenny and I live.  Tony, Ruby and Ruby’s friend Isabel and I went to see LA producer laptop DJ genius Flying Lotus.  He joyously played Busta Rhymes ‘Gimme Some More’ (My Pop Life #42) in amongst his own songs, none of which broke the three minute mark.  Great gig.   I am currently grooving to his compadre – the bass player Thundercat‘s new album “Drunk” – the best thing of 2017 so far.  They are both part of a new young jazz/hip-hop collective based in Los Angeles which includes Kendrick Lamar on whose masterpiece album To Pimp A Butterfly they both appeared in 2015.

So in a father-daughter kind of dynamic Tony likes to introduce Ruby to new stuff as well, a two way street being better than one.  I reckon!

Anderson .Paak

Anderson .Paak is also from L.A. but further up the coast.  The countryside.  In fact if you’ve ever been to Los Angeles you’ve probably heard the local radio station KCRW, one of the best in the world, broadcasting out of Santa Monica and other transmitters including KCRU Oxnard Ventura, which gets called on the hour every hour.  Oxnard is an area north of Malibu, rural, coastal, rugged and beautiful and is where Anderson grew up.  His (half-Korean) mother had a strawberry farm there for years until it went bust.  His father disappeared after beating his mother in the street when Anderson (actual name Brandon) was very young.  He worked in a marijuana farm for a while after learning the drums in church and made his musical debut under the excellent name Breezy Lovejoy.  The first Anderson .Paak LP (the dot is a gimmick to attract attention) was Venice in 2014.  In 2015 he appeared on six tracks on Dr Dre‘s album Compton.  In 2016 he released Malibu and another record : Yes Lawd! with collaborator Knxwledge under the collective moniker Nx Worries.  He sings, he raps, he plays the drums, he grooves.  Boy he grooves.  The whole of Malibu is one groove after another, old skool style but fresh as a daisy.  It is an amazing record.  I’ve heard a few interviews with him and he hates the lazy designation ‘Urban Music’.  He is a country boy.   But this is disco funk.  This is soul music.

I waited for another record to beat it last year – a new Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper, Solange, A Tribe Called Quest, Frank Ocean.  All excellent.  Beyoncé made her finest to date, Lemonade, which many felt was the album of 2016.  But to quote my own honesty from earlier, it wasn’t the record that I kept playing last year.  The one that I couldn’t get enough of.  The one that never went stale, every play enhancing my love for it.  The one Tony always put on when I went over there.  What a precious feeling.  To be young again !!

Anderson .Paak ‘playing’ on the Ellen show with his band The Free Nationals :

My Pop Life #99 : La Tristessa Durera (Scream To A Sigh) – Manic Street Preachers

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La Tristessa Durera (Scream To A Sigh)  –   Manic Street Preachers

…I retreat into self pity…it’s so easy….

 The summer of 1993, West Hollywood.  132 N King’s Road just off the corner of Beverley Boulevard.   About ten blocks from The Beverly Centre.   Breakfast in Jans.   A small circle of friends centred on David Fincher‘s gang – Chip & Carol, Paul Carafotes, Rachel Schadt, Marcie, Ron, David’s girlfriend Donya Fiorentina, and a few Brits : Anita Lewton and Suze Crowley in Venice, Bruce Payne in Beverly Hills and his girlfriend Nina Kraft and a revolving door of visitors that is the lifeblood of Hollywood, or at least some of the blood – British and Irish actors – Jude Law, Richard E. Grant, Paul McGann, David Thewlis, Fiona Shaw, others whom I never met.   It’s a strange bubble, hard to find the centre, and the beating heart of LA carries on with or without you.   An indifferent city.   But it is also the centre of the film industry, where people talk about films, go to see films, compare the opening weekends of film openings, where choosing what you’re going to see on a Friday night feels like it actually matters.   I always liked that.   Getting auditions and meetings at Paramount Pictures, at Universal, at Disney.  Having a “drive-on” so you can park your car on the lot.   You never want to take that for granted.    I’d done my first truly Hollywood film in 1992 :  Undercover Blues with Kathleen Turner and Denis Quaid, Fiona Shaw, Obba Babatunde and Stanley Tucci, (all shot in Louisiana while Jenny and I were on honeymoon).

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But I’d had a “drive-on” for costume fittings and read-through at the MGM Studio Lot in Culver City at the time.    By 1993 I was into a routine of regular meetings and auditions all over town.    I can only remember one.   Billy Hopkins, who’d cast Alien3, the very reason why we lived in Los Angeles, had asked me to come in and read for the part of Howard Payne in a new thriller being directed by Jan De Bont.   Howard Payne was the bad guy.    I did one of the best auditions of my stupid life, unpredictable, whispered, snarled, charming, bisexual and deadly.   The following day one of my agents Jim Carnahan rang me to say they’d offered me the role.    Whoop!    My life – our life – turned around.    But the etiquette – indeed the common sense – of show business – means that you do not talk about jobs, work, gigs until you’ve signed the contract.   There are always quite a few days of negociating.   And so we started, the number of days, weeks, the quote (per week), the dates, the costume fittings, the billing, the whole shebang.   It did drag out.    But no more than usual.   Until the day 2 weeks after the audition when Jim rang me and told me that they’d just offered my part to Dennis Hopper.   The film was called Speed.   It also starred Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.   It was an unexpected hit.   I would come across Billy Hopkins again a year later, but that’s another story, even worse than this one.   This one wasn’t my fault.   It was the glass ceiling of Hollywood.

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The Manic Street Preachers had passed me by until their second album Gold Against The Soul, which everyone said wasn’t as good as their first.   We played it a lot.   Probably heard on Radio One whilst in England, but also likely to have been played on KCRW the Santa Monica College Radio Station that everyone in LA listens to.  (All white bourgeouis I mean).   There is a morning show called “Morning Becomes Eclectic” between 9 and 12am where you could hear almost anything white and groovy.  Not much hip hop or Dance music.  A little bit of groovy mexican music.  Loads of English indie.  Otherwise American Radio is totally segmented into genres – ROCK FM, GROOVE FM, COUNTRY FM, CHART FM.  all with tons of commercials of in-un-ending banality.  So KCRW’s gentle white supremacy became the least-worst ear-bashing of a morning.

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James, Richey, Nicky, Sean in 1994

La Tristessa Durera is in an unknown Pyrenean language half-way between French and Spanish.  Le Tristesse Durera means “the sadness continues” in French, and were the last words spoken by Vincent Van Gogh according to a letter written by his brother Theo.  Vincent Van Gogh shot himself with a rifle near one of the cornfields which obsessed him toward the end of his life.   Why Richey James translated Le Tristesse as La Tristessa we shall never know, (I suspect it’s just more poetic?) but there’s a lot we shall never know about Richey James Edwards.  The song itself is lyrically brilliant, one of Richey’s best and concerns a war veteran who describes himself as “a relic, I am just a petrified cry – wheeled out once a year, a cenotaph souvenir…

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That a young writer could put themselves into the shoes of an old war veteran, singing “Life has been unfaithful…and it all promised oh so much” is a huge credit to a compassionate and disturbed individual who seemed to see through everything and everybody and only find the pain and hypocrisy, the torture and ugliness inside.  He suffered from depression and self-harmed on a regular basis, also was reported to have suffered anorexia too.  He wrote and spoke about all these issues with great humility and common sense.   He would go on to write 80% of the lyrics to the next Manics LP “The Holy Bible” (1994) which is a monument to man’s inhumanity to man and a modern rock classic, and the following year in February 1995 Richey would disappear.  Not quite without trace – his car was found near the Severn Bridge, with evidence that he’d been living in it.   The outcry and column inches would last for years.   He was finally pronounced missing presumed dead in 2008.

Richard James Edwards was born in Caerphilly in 1967 and went to school with all the other band members at Oakdale Comprehensive in Blackwood in the 1980s.  He joined the Manic Street Preachers as a roadie in 1990 after securing a 2:1 in Political History at the University Of Wales, Swansea.   His politics and poeticism helped to shape the Manics entire image, Nicky Wire playing bass also wrote lyrics, while James Dean Bradfield, guitarist and singer provided the music.  With Sean Moore on drums they were a formidable live act but I did not get to see them until the late 90s as a three-piece.

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They always had a visceral passion and anger which was grounded in punk rock, a militancy based on being from South Wales, so recently hammered by Thatcher in the miner’s strike (1982) and an intellectual and poetic analysis and understanding which came from Wire and Edwards’ voracious appetite for reading, whether it was Dostoyevsky, Rimbaud, Camus, Orwell or Mishima.  They were my favourite band for a few years in there, they seemed to have their collective finger on my pulse.    These were songs you would sing along with not necessarily understanding the exact meanings of the lines:  “the applause nails down my silence” or my favourite line to spit out “I see liberals – I am just a fashion accessory…”  but of course there he is referring literally to the use of war medals as badges on fashion catwalks.   In the final verse our old soldier admits “I sold my medal – it paid a bill…“.

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All of their songs have this deep disgust at life’s injustices at their core and their huge success is built on being able to articulate the fury of the intelligent left-over people of the world.   Another song from this album “Life Becoming A Landslide” was also instrumental in my screenplay for New Year’s Day (see My Pop Life #75) which would actually begin with an avalanche, and also hopefully bottle some of those powerful feelings of disappointment at how life unfolds for each of us, and all of us…

the video

Live at Glastonbury ’93 with Richie (turned up!)