Book of Brilliant Things - Five things we’ve loved this week - 31st October
Twenty years ago this month, Apple launched the first iPod. I didn't even have my own computer then, just using ones at work, but I knew I was going to have to join the 21st century and correct this. I jealously eyed my friend's iPod as he explained it held 1,000 songs, so was his pocket jukebox. I wanted one so badly...
It took me a while, but by 2002, I had acquired my first (and last) PC and my first iPod (a second generation. that held 2,000 songs!!). Huge amounts of time were dedicated to uploading my CD collection, and then painstakingly deciding which albums made the cut to be loaded into the iPod. Hereon, every CD would be immediately burnt onto my computer and playlists created with gusto.
The greed and desire for more capacity took over, and bigger iPods were bought as they were released (bigger in memory obviously, the things themselves got lighter, smaller and slicker). Eventually, I had two 160GB iPods, each holding 10,000 songs....
They were revolutionary and brilliant, but also had unintended consequences. I stopped listening to albums. Everything was a playlist or on shuffle. Whole albums were never played. We even had a stereo that was special built to slot an iPod into it, so the iPod took over my listening. My lovely separates system was despatched, no longer required...bad choices, all influenced by this little modern miracle.
When I moved to Blackheath and lived on my own again, I set myself a rule that I've stuck to for the last ten years - that the iPod would never be played at home, that whole albums would only be played.
Then the iPod was replaced by my iPhone, and soon Spotify took over, so there was no need to waste time uploading CDs into my computer (since that first PC, it's been MacBooks all the way) and then syncing my iPod. Apple still delivered my on the move listening, through the iPhone and iPad, but the iPods languish in a drawer, gathering dust and holding memories...
But they deserve better, they were revolutionary and brilliant and this week I will charge them up and take them for one last spin for old time's sake...and try and work out how you build an "on the go" playlist again.
2. The 80s - Music's Greatest Decade
Dylan Jones’ new series on BBC 2 and iPlayer looks back at the decade of my teens, and like the above iPod, the technological shifts were similarly revolutionary - the Walkman and being able to listen to music on the go! Wow! Though the tech was less slick, it was no less impactful. And the decade itself is unfairly maligned overlooking much of the brilliant music it produced.
The second episode is fairly unnecessary, just old footage and pointless text explanations that add little. But the first episode is great, narrated by Jones, with interviews with many of the decades stars now, looking back at their heydays. You forget how different pop bands like Bananarama were and how many barriers they broke in terms of controlling their own destiny.
Jones argues that the 80s was modern pop's year zero, a creative whirlwind, joyous and hugely influential on modern music. Some of his choices are suspect (Pat Benetar? Really?), but the technology claims are true and the impact of MTV still felt now. Plus CDs, the rise of indie, SAW, hip-hop, and so much more. Well worth a look, especially as you can see 80s fashions back in style in today's youth.
You can watch the first episode here.
3. Duran Duran
Speaking of the 80s, one of its biggest acts is back, Back, BACK! Duran Duran have released their 15th album, Future Past. It's a massive affair, co-produced by Mark Ronson, Giorgio Moroder and Erol Alkan (producer to Ride, Mystery Jets, MGMT and many more). The albums guitarist is Graham Coxon from Blur and Bowie's pianist, Mike Garson appears, plus younger guests like Tove Lo, Chai and Ivorian Doll.
This is no nostalgia affair, yet it‘s resolutely Duran Duran. Le Bon's lyrics are on form, Beautiful Lies looking at the perils of modern living, while Wing tells of unrestrained desire (which at his age is good going!).
Standout is opener, Invisible, which is the perfect Duran Duran song. Marvellous! Though stop with the capitalisation of every song title - no!
Very sad to hear that Doves have had to cancel their forthcoming shows, as Jimi their singer and bass payer is having some mental health challenges and needs to take time out. But it's brilliant to see how supportive his band are being and how understanding the fans have been. When social media is so often a vehicle for hate and bile, it's reassuring to see so many messages of goodwill and best wishes.
While we wait for the shows to be rearranged, here's a blast of their come back gig at the Royal Albert Hall in 2019, which me and Mrs JO'B were at, just marvellous fun.
5. Parquet Courts - Sympathy For Life
Loving the new album by Parquet Courts - very Talking Heads, but also some of the more repetitive, hypnotic sounds of Primal Scream and even Kraftwerk. It's a step away from their usual post punk indie - Trullo is stripped down funky krautrock, while Puncinella is slow, heartfelt. Imagine The Strokes, but braver, more experimental and you get the idea. I really like this.
See you next week, stay safe, x