A two week holiday in Minorca has provided the backdrop to recent influences. Musically, July has been summed up by three main themes. Two cd box sets and an old favourite.
First lets look at the box sets. Much of my listening has concentrated on two recent compilations that covered both sides of the more discerning approach to eighties Britain. C87 came out at the end of June and is intended as an imaginary follow up to C86, the legendary NME tape showcasing the underground indie bands of 1986 which has achieved almost mythical status in the development of British indie. C87 picks up the story a year on. The three cd set contains almost forgotten classics such as the sublime Pristine Christine by The Sea Urchins, Room Without A View by The Nivens and In A Mourning Town by Biff Bang Pow (featuring a pre-Creation Alan McGee). Can be viewed alongside Sam Knee's A Scene Inbetween, an excellent book of polaroids taken of some of the floppy-fringed bands of the time.
The other compilation, is Chris Sullivan presents The Wag - Iconic tunes from The Wag Club 1983 - 87. The said Wardour Street establishment (formerly The Whiskey A Go Go in the sixties, frequented by The Beatles, Stones, Small Faces etc and sitting above the Flamingo) was a regular haunt during the period covered by this set and the tunes in question bring back many memories of Soho back in the day. Standouts include Funky Nassau (The Beginning Of The End), which was heard everywhere in clubland in the mid 80s, Hard Work (John Handy) and the brilliant re-working of Gil Scott Heron's The Bottle (Brother To Brother). Also represented here is The Wag's featuring of jazz (The Jazz Room hosted by Paul Murphy on a Monday night was legendary - check out Sidewinder by Tamiko Jones and Herbie Mann on disc 3) and the early days of acid house on disc 4. The whole thing brings back the feel of the club, with its stylists and "fabulous nobodies", and is well recommended both for those who were there and for anyone simply looking for a strong selection of underground funk, soul and jazz.
The other key musical offering involved a favourite from way back. David Bowie's Diamond Dogs, like all of his output, was essential listening back in the day. A random hearing re-awakened that particular record in my consciousness recently and pushed its dystopian brilliance to the forefront of my mind. The need to play it became a key element of the last few weeks. Late nights of alcohol-fuelled listening have been an essential feature, especially the trilogy of Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (reprise) which oozes sleaze deliciously and is arguably one of the finest things Bowie recorded in his illustrious career. I see the Diamond Dogs as the delinquent offspring of All The Young Dudes and Halloween Jack as a mega fan of Ziggy Stardust. I love the influences that are mashed together - A Clockwork Orange and 1984 sit juxtaposed in a Ballardian landscape that reflects brilliantly the post-60s England of its creation, with its bootboys and glam and emerging trashy populist culture, a million miles from peace, love and understanding. As a prequel for punk there were few rivals.
Back to Minorca. A night of reggae at beach bar at Cala'n Blanes was particularly memorable, featuring Right Time by The Mighty Diamonds, a classic from the Front Line compilation from 1976. The former capital in Cuidedela is also well worth a visit, especially the harbour area which at night has a particular ambience.
Poolside reading featured Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, his memoir of twenties Paris, with a cast of luminaries including Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, Alastair Crowley and many others. Favourites for me are the portraits of F Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Fitzgerald, the former one of my favourite authors since I read This Side Of Paradise as a teenager. Its all written in Hemingway's unique crisp style. Well worth a read.