Podcast #9, 19/6/16: Grace Jones, pop vs Brexit, and the annual Glastonbury row

Podcast #9, 19/6/16: Grace Jones, pop vs Brexit, and the annual Glastonbury row

This week on the smart pop culture podcast: Why is pop kept quiet on Brexit? Does the deluxe release of ‘Warm Leatherette’ prove once and for all that Grace Jones was the best pop star ever? Why do people feel the need to argue about who headlines Glastonbury? And the inevitable much, much more with our special guests, journalists Sîan Pattenden and Justin Quirk, joining Andrew and Matt in BIGMOUTH’s underground bunker.

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In the battle for The Beatles, Macca’s greatest PR coup

In the battle for The Beatles, Macca’s greatest PR coup
With his new McCartney biography, can famous Lennon man Philip Norman cross the floor to join Team Macca? PAUL DU NOYER explores Norman’s long and winding road from Lenninist to Macolyte.

A small annoyance of being in The Beatles, alongside all the good stuff like money and the adulation of millions, was the typecasting. Each Fab was given an official personality and nothing they did could ever shift it. We all know Paul McCartney’s: he was the cute one, the crafter of winsome ballads and (a double-edged attribute, this one) the diplomatic fixer. The PR man.

It was all a bit reductive, as stereotypes will tend to be. But it persisted, because there was just enough of the truth in there to make the image stick. And now, with the publication of a mammoth new book about him, it could be that McCartney has scored his greatest PR coup so far.

Philip Norman, author of the latest biography, was for years our bassman’s journalistic nemesis. Even before the publication of Shout!, his 1981 biography of the Beatles that casts Macca as a scheming lightweight, forever in John Lennon’s artistic shadow, Norman was no friend to the Paul faction. He had penned, most notoriously, a brutally dismissive poem in the Sunday Times that all but called for his assassination. Continue reading “In the battle for The Beatles, Macca’s greatest PR coup”

Podcast #7, 5/6/15: The Monkees, Moby’s book, new Top Gear

Podcast #7, 5/6/15: The Monkees, Moby’s book, new Top Gear

This week on the smart pop culture podcast: Should UKIP and Donald Trump stop pinching beloved songs for their campaigns? Are Moby’s book and the first Monkees album in 20 years any good? The new ‘Top Gear’: decent refurb or candidate for the scrappage scheme? Guests Kate Mossman of the New Statesman and David Stubbs of The Guardian, When Saturday Comes and (once) Melody Maker join Andrew and Matt to argue on this and much, much more…

 

Podcast #6, 29/6/15: Eagles Of Death Metal vs politics, Dexys, ABC and Sylvia Patterson’s amazing Smash Hits “book”

Podcast #6, 29/6/15: Eagles Of Death Metal vs politics, Dexys, ABC and Sylvia Patterson’s amazing Smash Hits “book”

This week on the smart pop culture podcast: Should Eagles Of Death Metal be kicked off festivals just because of their singer’s politics? Comeback albums from Dexys, ABC and S’Express. And legendary Smash Hits writer Sylvia Patterson talks us through I’m Not With The Band, her hilarious memoir of life at the sharp end of pop journalism. Also joining us this week is special guest Alexis Petridis, The Guardian’s chief rock and pop critic.

How Dylan’s ‘Blonde On Blonde’ created the modern album

How Dylan’s ‘Blonde On Blonde’ created the modern album
Fifty years ago Bob Dylan turned pop entertainment into a vehicle for dazzling visions – and it’s been that way ever since. James Medd investigates the album that invented an art form.

In 2016, the single is king. iTunes’ unbundling of the album into single tracks for sale individually changed the way we buy and listen to music. We all know it, but we often act is if it isn’t so: though we most likely access music through streaming services or downloads, we still talk about “new albums”, and newspapers and magazines still review them over individual tracks. Strangely, many artists think this way too. The most innovative and ambitious of them, such as Kanye West or Kendrick Lamar, release albums and even a pop sensation like Miley Cyrus turns to the long format when she wants to be taken seriously. We continue to view the album as the mode for music worthy of attention, for art. The reason for that is ‘Blonde On Blonde’.

Released 50 years ago this May, ‘Blonde On Blonde’ still sounds fresh and unlike anything else – a sprawling double album that’s the perfect entry point to Bob Dylan’s sprawling career. Even unbundled, it is astonishing. There’s ‘I Want You’, a pop song that could compete with The Beatles for catchiness; ‘Just Like A Woman’, a torch song Sinatra could have covered; ‘Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands’, the original epic love ballad; and ‘Visions Of Johanna’, a stream-of-consciousness tone poem that’s as enigmatic and atmospheric as anything in popular music – and none of them are the best song on the album.

Crucially, though, it’s the other tracks, the “filler”, that make it. What ‘Blonde On Blonde’ has, above all, is cohesion: it’s an album – in fact, it’s pretty much the album. It’s where rock – or pop as art – started, and where a new kind of listening began, one that’s only just coming to an end now. Continue reading “How Dylan’s ‘Blonde On Blonde’ created the modern album”

Podcast #5, 22/5/16: The sensitive 90s Man-Rock revival, punk at the British Library and more

Podcast #5, 22/5/16: The sensitive 90s Man-Rock revival, punk at the British Library and more

This week on the smart pop culture podcast: Richard Ashcroft, the Manics, the Stone Roses… they’re all back. Where did this sensitive 90s Man-Rock revival come from? Will Trainspotting 2 be any good? And how punk is the British Library’s Punk exhibition? Music writers Arwa Haider and Dev Sherlock of the Hype Machine join Matt Hall and Andrew Harrison to argue the “toss” on these and other matters.