The 6000 miles… Desert Island Discs post

Music. I love it. Can’t get enough of it. Literally.

And that’s one of the reasons that I could never – would never – want of be able to come up with a Top 10 of my favourite songs. Although I’ve often wanted to, I’ve always been hugely concerned that I’d leave something important out. And I probably have, because following on from The Blog Up North‘s lead, and despite the fact I don’t do memes, I’m finally going to a Desert Island Discs (DID) post.

Wikipedia tells me that Desert Island Discs is:

…the longest-running factual programme in the history of radio. Guests are invited to imagine themselves cast away on a desert island, and to choose eight pieces of music, originally gramophone records, to take with them; discussion of their choices permits a review of their life.
Excerpts from their choices are played or, in the case of short pieces, the whole work.
At the end of the programme they choose the one piece they regard most highly. They are then asked which book they would take with them; they are automatically given the Complete Works of Shakespeare and either the Bible or another appropriate religious or philosophical work.
Guests also choose one luxury, which must be inanimate and of no use in escaping the island or allowing communication from outside.

I’ve been thinking about doing this for so long and the BUN post was the nudge I needed to get me over the speedbump of indecision and onward towards actually getting a list down on paper… er… pixels. Regular readers will note that several (if not more) of the tracks listed have been featured in one form or another on the blog before.
And with good reason.

So – here goes, in no particular order:

1. Jamie Cullum – High And Dry
Including this Radiohead cover partially excuses me from not actually having a Radiohead song in this list (see below).
In my mind anyway.
This is off his breakthrough 2002 album Pointless Nostalgic. I saw him perform an intimate gig at Warwick University in summer 2003, where his support was a beautiful and talented (but at that point unknown) teenage singer called Amy Winehouse.
Cullum sat and chatted with the audience about his life and his (newfound) career and amazed us by using his piano as a impromptu set of bongos – something which he claimed to have been thrown out of a posh New York hotel for doing while on tour.
Talking of which, here’s a video for the song – shot in the Big Apple. I mentioned the carefree and relaxed feel of this cover: I’m not a fan of jazz per se, but this example of Cullum’s jazz/pop/indie fusion just does it for me.

2. James Blunt – No Bravery (live)
One of those artists (and one of those tracks) that unexpectedly knocks you completely off your feet when you see them live. Having been coerced into accompanying Mrs 6000 to see Mr Blunt at Grand West in 2008, I was impressed with his live performance, but this was the track that will stay with me from that concert. His energy, the passion in his voice and the lyrics, together with the backdrop of images from Kosovo – many of them shot by Blunt himself – were so powerful that the audience was simply stunned into silence.
Here’s a video of the track (live) with some of those elements on show. And the bonus of French subtitles. Find yourself a quiet spot and spend 3½ minutes watching it. You’ll probably want to give yourself another 3½ to watch it again.

3. Depeche Mode – Enjoy The Silence
Electropop at its very, very, very best. For a band whose career has spanned so many years, it was surprisingly easy to choose one track for this list. There are a billion different versions out there – most of which are very good, but this original version will do nicely for the purposes of this list. Although there’s no one thing that jumps out at you about this 1990 song, the 2004 re-release, imaginatively titled Enjoy The Silence 04 – for some reason never really lives up to it’s predecessor. Enjoy The Silence came off the Violator album, which also gave us Personal Jesus, Policy of Truth and World in my Eyes – any of which could have made a top 50 DID list. But this is the top 8 –  and this one is the best of Depeche Mode’s offerings.

4. Arctic Monkeys – Mardy Bum
Hometown band alert. This a great song from Whatever People Say I Am…
Have some Glastonbury 2007 YouTube goodness.
Why do I like it? Because the title needs explaining to anyone outside South Yorkshire and because it describes the simplistic male approach to arguments within relationships so very perfectly – pseudo-feigning innocence while deflecting the blame elsewhere. Come now, we’ve all done it.
The lyrics are clever too: “I see your frown and it’s like looking down the barrel of a gun, and it goes off…” and “you’ve got the face on”. Elsewhere on the album, we see the same sort of argument from a third person point of view in Settle For A Draw – which was a another close contender for this list.

5. Tony Christie – Louise
DOUBLE hometown band alert. With some hometown piano on a sideplate.
This one featured fairly recently on 6000 miles… and is off Christie’s 2008 album Made In Sheffield. It’s a stripped down piano and trumpet reworking of The Human League’s 1984 synthpop hit and it ticks a lot of boxes for me. Piano is one of them. It’s not something I go out looking for in a song, but if there’s one in there, I seem to like it. The change in key and pace in the chorus of this cover is beautiful – Richard Hawley is at the keyboard here.
Also a big plus is the openness and simplicity of the performance. As with James Blunt above, there’s nothing to hide behind here – you have to get it exactly right, every time.

6. Morten Harket – Spanish Steps
While a-ha were on sabbatical, Morten released his second solo album Wild Seed (1995). For me, it features some of Morten’s best vocal work. There were a number of stand-out tracks: A Kind of Christmas Card , Half in Love, Half in Hate, Los Angeles and Spanish Steps amongst them. This one makes it in because it bears special significance for me: The theme is one of lovers separated by (in this case) 5,000 miles. That’s about 83.3% of how it was for Mrs 6ooo and I before I moved to SA and she became Mrs 6000 – and so yes: it’s personal and it’s soppy. But it’s still a great song.
The sound isn’t great (and neither is the video – WTF?!?) on this link, but it does give you an idea.

7. Muse – Map Of The Problematique (live)
Muse remain one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen. And this was the best track of the day that day. The album version is good, but this is one of those songs that gains so much from being played live. Not much more to be said about this – it’s just a great rock track played with huge energy. Really good.

8. a-ha – Hunting High And Low (live at Vallhall 2001)
Wow. I could have put [several] a-ha tracks into this list, but I thought that would be pretty dull for the DID listeners. So I didn’t. And having made that decision, I thought I’d limit it to just one. Yes, there was the Spanish Steps thing in there as well, but in a pub quiz scenario, there’s Queen and there’s Freddie Mercury, there’s The Smiths and there’s Morrissey. And you don’t get the point if the band did the song, but you thought it was the solo artist. So I can get away with including both these songs here.
Having made the decision to just include one, the choice was easy. Despite being a huge fan of all that a-ha have done, HH&L is my single favourite song and this version is sublime.

I think it goes without saying that it’s even more sublime if you ignore the Portuguese subtitles. Unless you’re Portuguese, in which case they will probably enhance the sublimeness, the sublimitude, the subliminity of the track for you.
And check it out: plenty of piano, plenty of openness and exposure. And it’s carried off brilliantly. Written in 1984, performed here in 2001 , it might not have had the commercial success of Take on Me and The Sun Aways Shines On TV, but it still stands the test of time. The only downside is that it’s traditionally a track that the band leave to the end of their concerts. Great to hear, but then you know that the end is nigh. Really nigh in 7 weeks time. And this one is going to be the killer for me that bittersweet night.

So – tying up a few loose DID ends:
My “most highly regarded choice” : easy – that last one, by a country mile.
My book: I don’t read a lot, so I think a photographic book of Cape Town and surrounds – to remind me of home.
My one luxury: I think I’ll take my biltong-making paraphernalia, please.

Apologies to the bands that nearly made it in here: Manic Street Preachers, The Smiths, Radiohead, The Stranglers, ABC, Oasis, Arno Carstens, Nirvana, The Cranberries, Snow Patrol, The Levellers, The Killers, Zebra & Giraffe, Crowded House (see you next week, guys), Carter USM, New Order, Coldplay, Pet Shop Boys, REM (but how?!?), The Verve, Royksopp, Skunk Anasie and many others.

Maybe next time. Because this cannot be the end of this.

In the meantime,  please feel free to share your thoughts and/or your 8 tracks in the comments below.
If you do this on your blog, let me know and I’ll do some linky stuff.

UPDATE: More DID goodness from Joyanne and The Cave
Also, more apologies are due, this time to Placebo, The Wildhearts, Therapy?, System of a Down, AFI, The Streets, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip (probably not the one you’re thinking of), Terrance Trent D’Arby and 30 Seconds to Mars.

I knew this was going to happen.

Chasing the sun with Tony Christie

Because of the timing of the flights on my recent trip up to Durban, coupled with the relative geographical positions of that city and Cape Town and with the addition of a pinch of the turning of the earth, I found myself chasing the sunrise east on the flight out and chasing the sunset back home on the flight back. Needless to say, our pursuit was rather fruitless last night and so we gave up when we reached Cape Town airport, but we tracked down the sunrise on Wednesday morning with no difficulty. It was almost as if it wanted to be caught.

And all the while, I was enjoying something very chilled on the iPod: Tony Christie’s Made in Sheffield, in which Christie covers songs written and previously performed by Sheffield artists and bands such as Richard Hawley, Arctic Monkeys, Pulp, Human League and others.
And while you can listen to Christie’s wonderful cover of
The Only Ones Who Know via that link to  the album review above, here’s Alex Turner singing an (almost) equally relaxed version with Richard Hawley at the Union Chapel in Islington.

Christie’s gentle pub crooner/swing/jazz style didn’t seem wholly appropriate as we set off, but it soon became apparent that it was the perfect accompaniment for gazing out of the window at South Africa beneath me. And ironically, it probably prevented me from smashing the aggravating bloke sitting next to me in the face, South Yorkshire style.

Ashtray Electric’s Dark Bus Trip

Here on 6000 miles… you know that we are always happy to promote the latest musical offerings from South Africa – especially for our overseas reader(s). To that end, please find below the video from Cape Town band Ashtray Electric for their single When Sex Becomes A Sport.

Great song, wonderfully dark video.
I’m getting elements of The Music, Snow Patrol, a touch of Starsailor and a dash of Placebo. Add that to a hint of red berries and plenty of coffee and spice and it’s all good.

Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts 2009/10

Summer’s here and with it the promise of lazy Sunday afternoons enjoying the Old Mutual Summer Sunset Concerts at Kirstenbosch.

Kicking off on 22nd November with South African legend, Johnny Clegg, the concerts run through to the end of March (and, I guess, the end of summer) with Watershed signing off for the season on the 28th.

The full line up:

2009 

22 November – Johnny Clegg
06 December – Jesse Clegg 
13 December – Jonny Cooper Orchestra
27 December – Ashtray Electric and Pretty Blue Guns
 

2010

03 January – A Fist Full of Diamonds with Josie Fields, Faryll Purkiss and Dan Patlansky
10 January – Freshlyground
17 January – Zebra & Giraffe
24 January – Fokofpolisiekar

07 February – aKING
21 February – Just Jinjer
28 February – Prime Circle

07 March – Goldfish
14 March – The Dirty Skirts
21 March – The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra
28 March – Watershed

Tickets for the first concert cost R95 for adults (yep – that’s what I thought too!) and are available from Kirstenbosch ticket office (021) 761 2866 or via http://www.webtickets.co.za/.

As usual, Kirstenbosch will be the place to be to rock out those Sunday afternoons (with the exception of 21st March, perhaps).

EDIT: While cross-checking details for the above piece (we’re damn thorough here at 6000 Towers), I saw this on the sanbi.org website:

cr

Is that a promise?? I hope so.

Choked

I’m in shock. Mildly, anyway. I just got this in my email from a-ha’s official website:

With the current album ‘Foot of The Mountain’ enjoying both commercial success and critical acclaim, A-ha has decided to call it a day.

As a consequence, A-ha will not be releasing any further albums in the future.

The band would like to thank their fans and everyone who has contributed to their amazing journey, and say:
‘We’ve literally lived the ultimate boy’s adventure tale, through a longer, more rewarding career than anyone could hope for.
Doing this now will give us a chance to get more involved in other meaningful aspects of life, be it humanitarian work, politics, or whatever else – and of course through new constellations in the field of art and music. We are retiring as a band, not as individuals.
Change is always difficult and it is easy to get set in one’s ways. Now it is time to move on.’

Wow. We shared a quarter of a century together.
You were my first compact disc, you came to my school discos, you kept me sane on wet Lake District holidays.
You popped in while I was at University, you played at my wedding (on CD, because we couldn’t afford to fly you to Cape Town and still have the lamb on the menu) and at the birth of my child (as an mp3 file, for obvious reasons); a child that I then named after your lead singer. 
You are my most played band on iTunes. By a country mile.

And now you leave me for humanitarian work and politics? Politics??

Gutted.