Graham’s soundtrack to 2004

Disc 1

1 The Delgados – I Fought The Angels
2 Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
3 The Beta Band – Assessment
4 Six By Seven – Ready For You Now
5 Dance Disaster Movement – Saturday
6 Persil – Traces Of Knots
7 Delays – Long Time Coming
8 Underworld – Dinosaur Adventure 3D
9 22-20′s – Shoot Your Gun
10 Chris T-T – 7 Hearts
11 James Yorkston & The Athletes – Heron
12 Lambchop – Nothing Adventurous Please
13 Trans Am – June
14 The Polyphonic Spree – Two Thousand Places
15 Joy Zipper – Dosed & Became Invisible
16 Khonnor – Dusty
17 Dave Matthews Band – Bartender
18 PJ Harvey – The Desperate Kingdom Of Love

Disc 2

1 22-20′s – Why Don’t You Do It For Me?
2 Graham Coxon – Freakin’ Out
3 Ladytron – Oops Oh My
4 Persil – New Zong
5 Ballboy – The Ghosts Of New Orleans
6 The Aphrodisiacs – The Hour Is Late But Please Consider
7 The Crimea – Opposite Ends
8 PJ Harvey – Shame
9 The Delgados – Bits Of Bone
10 The Divine Comedy – Our Mutual Friend
11 Badly Drawn Boy – Holy Grail
12 Dance Disaster Movement – The Shots
13 Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
14 The Polyphonic Spree – One Man Show
15 Cat Power – Maybe Not
16 Califone – Wingbone
17 Six By Seven – Bochum (Light Up My Life)
18 Delays – On

‘Brought up around that architecture / But it never was his fault’

2004 – the year I completed university, spent most of my spring waiting to get back to camp, had a mixed summer there, then came home and worked full-time for Sports Interactive, makers of Football Manager. The soundtrack is one of the very best I’ve made, and so it’s a shame that I never distributed it far and wide – I think only three or four people got a copy, because I was saving all of my hard-earned on one of those newfangled iPods and a trip back to America for camp’s winter reunion. So it’s nice to finally release it to the world properly.

The Delgados get us underway, with the opening track from their final album, Universal Audio. I was a proper fanboy of the Delgados by the time this came out, as each successive album was a major step up on their last. Sadly the poppy Universal Audio didn’t quite keep this trajectory going, but it sure had its moments. The Delgados split up shortly after it was released and I got to both their final London gigs. The Beta Band – a band that became something of an indie touchstone around the turn of the century – split up around the same time, but not before releasing one of their very best singles. ‘Assessment’ began sounding like U2’s ‘Pride’ and ended up in a cacophony of brass – what’s not to like? Six By Seven’s ‘Ready For You Now’ brought to mind an even more surprising reference point. Is that chorus not influenced just a bit by ‘Hey Baby’, of DJ Otzi (and others) infamy? And was the guitar line nicked from Madonna’s ‘Ray Of Light’? I wouldn’t be surprised, given Six By Seven’s track record of ripping off album covers, but the song is still an absolute blinder.

John Peel’s show was still my primary source for new bands – at least until his untimely death in October (will write more about Peel in my disc 2 blog) – and he was responsible for bringing Dance Disaster Movement and Persil to these ears. DDM epitomised that very-2004 fad of dance-punk (see also: The Rapture), while Persil – the Netherlands’ only contribution to all of my soundtracks – played straight to my weak spot, a slice of pure New Order with added clattering drums. Clattering drums might also explains my enjoyment of ‘June’ by Trans AM.

Other Peel favourites of the time were 22-20s, a blues-rock duo who came across as a better-produced White Stripes, who released just the one album – underrated it is too – before calling it a day, while Chris T-T came across as a sort of 21st-century Billy Bragg, with his output roughly divided 50/50 between political protest songs and love songs. ‘7 Hearts’ is firmly in the latter, and it would take someone with no heart at all to be unmoved by his tale of a man who was born with, guess, seven hearts (really, it’s great).

There was a room for a few old favourites. Underworld take one of the ‘wildcard’ slots with ‘Dinosaur Adventure 3D’ from 2002’s A Hundred Days Off album – it took me a while to get into its restless, kinetic energy, but it stuck with me eventually, rather like its vaguely terrifying video. Lambchop released a sprawling double album – Awcmon/No You C’mon – which would have been far better served as a single helping, but it did at least give us the unexpected pleasure of Nothing Adventurous Please, ironically the most adventurous track that the band had ever released, verging into all-out rock territory. Meanwhile the Polyphonic Spree had changed direction, with their second album Together We’re Heavy seeming to soundtrack an imaginary musical.

There were a quartet of songs which bring back specific memories of the seasons – Delays’ minor chart hit ‘Long Time Coming’ is the spring song, with anticipation growing for three months in America, while James Yorkston’s brooding ‘Heron’ covers the leaves falling in autumn. My friend Scott recommended Joy Zipper’s American Whip to me as the perfect summer album – and I’m a sucker for anything that’s influenced by My Bloody Valentine – although the song I chose for the soundtrack, ‘Dosed And Became Invisible’, is comfortably the most downbeat track on the album. If the sun-drenched Joy Zipper represented a summer at camp, then Khonnor’s ‘Dusty’ is the flipside, a track to walk around camp to as the snow falls at the winter reunion. Khonnor (real name Connor Long) was just 17 when he released his only full album, Handwriting, and it seems he’s just done a series of low-key EPs ever since. A shame.

Camp Mason also influenced the last two tracks on the disc. In readiness for a summer I’d always find myself giving a listen to bands which were favourites of camp staff – Dispatch, Sublime, OAR, that sort of stuff. The Dave Matthews Band were enormous in America, although their star was perhaps on the wane by then, but I’ll hold a special place in my heart for ‘Bartender’, an eight-minute tour de force which in its two-part, crescendoing construction and religious allegories – stick with me here – is a sort of jam-rock equivalent to ‘I Am The Resurrection’. They may well have done decent songs since but ‘Bartender’ was the last time I particularly cared about DMB. And Polly Harvey rounds things off with the brief, two-minute ‘The Desperate Kingdom Of Love’ which brings back a very specific, vivid memory – waking up on Upper Barn at camp having slept under the stars on our cabin overnight, and listening to this track at 6am, half awake, with everyone else still out cold. It’s those little memories that made the whole camp experience what it was.

I’ve left one song until last to talk about, because it was the last song to make it on to the disc. I discovered Arcade Fire maybe a day or two before I compiled this soundtrack, and listening to ‘Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)’ just now brought me back to the first time I heard it. I don’t think a song has ever stopped me in my tracks quite like it… only maybe ‘There Goes The Fear’ runs it close for that. It’s the sum of the ingredients that makes it so special – the slightly out-of-tune piano at the start, the verses building and building, the beats-per-minute seemingly rising even though it isn’t, and that chord wobble under the screamed lyric ‘Sometimes! We remember our bedrooms!’. And then topping the whole fucker off with that climax. ‘Ooh-ooh-ooh-OOH-ooh!’. Goosebumps. Like the aforementioned Doves song, it is one of the very few songs that I consider essentially perfect – the sort of song that changes your life when you hear it. Arcade Fire feel like part of the musical furniture now, so it’s worth a reminder once in a while of just how awesome they sounded when you discovered them. Album number four is due in a couple of months and I’ll be all ears.

On the day after John Peel died, I wrote the following tribute on the blog I had at the time. Given his show’s influence on me around the time that I did these CDs, it seems like a decent time to reprint it here (and also saves me writing a full blog for the disc).

I was out of the office as the news about John Peel’s death had been spread. When I got back, my mobile was ringing constantly from either my mother or Scott Connor to tell me the news. The others in the office had turned the off because it was pissing them off so much. I called Scott back and he told me the news. Thinking he was winding me up, I kind of tried to pass it off as like a ‘yeah, whatever’ thing, but he insisted that I checked the internet. And there it was on the front page of BBC news. Immediately I called Scott back to apologise. My chances of doing any focused work had gone after that, so I left at that point. I put on the Delgados ‘The Great Eastern’ album (another Peel introduction to me) on my way out, and it was a combination of hearing ‘American Trilogy’ and walking out and London Bridge to see the sellers of the London Evening Standard with the huge headline ‘JOHN PEEL DIES’ on their boards that brought it all home.

As it happens, the reason I was out of the office was that I had gone out to Borders this afternoon to seek out the Aphrodisiacs album. The Aphrodisiacs are a band from Motherwell whose song ‘This Is A Campaign’ was played in demo form by John in June 2002. They played a session for John on September 25 of that year, which is my sister Melanie’s birthday. Living in Massachusetts at the time, I wrote an email asking John to dedicate the session version of that song to Mel, which he gladly did. The Aphrodisiacs were all gathered at one of their mates’ houses when the show went out and apparently the place went mental when they heard my dedication, their first ever on national radio. Two years later, they’ve gone from a band sending out CD-R demos to releasing their debut album. It was released yesterday. Alas, I can’t find it but I’ll keep looking.

When famous people pass away, there’s a feeling of sadness but ultimately it gets forgotten fairly soon, because you respect what they did, you didn’t really know them. This is very different for me in the case of John Peel.

Just before leaving for Camp Thunderbird in 1999, I bought a single called ‘Touch Sensitive’ by a band called The Fall, who I was well aware of, but had never listened to before. I saw the video for ‘Touch Sensitive’ on late-night MTV and became hooked. I then became aware that John was a massive Fall fan, and it was through this avenue that I discovered his show after getting back from Thunderbird. The appeal of his show to me was immense… all this new music from all over the world and in all sorts of genres. To him there was nothing perverse about playing an old 78rpm record next to some breakcore drum’n’bass or a Norwegian death metal song. As to someone who I admit was a bit of a music snob at the time, it opened my mind up in so many ways to a whole new world of music.

I had my first email read out by him at the start of 2002, and from there my connections with his show grew. In the summer of 2002, my absent summer from camps, I won a competition to go and see a Peel session being recorded. The artist in question was New York anti-folker Jeffrey Lewis. Just after this I went away on my internship to Massachusetts, and I kept in contact with John’s producer Louise in the hope I could go to a session or two on my return.

In the end, I went to at least a dozen of them, always invited along by John’s team whenever I asked and if there was space. It was always greatly inspirational to see all these incredible artists play right in front of you. The most memorable ones were a DMC turntabling demonstration which really had to be seen to be believed, a one-man band by the name of Jawbone, some grime MC’s spitting rhymes at an amazing pace, and right at the end, the biggest of them all, the Super Furry Animals. At the previous session, I had given his production assistant Mark a bottle of red wine for all the team, by way of thanks for inviting me to so many sessions and also getting me along to see the Datsuns at the London ICA at the end of May when I joined the whole team for what turned into a decent drinking session. Louise told me it was going to be the studio tipple for the SFA session. After 37 years, it turned out to be his penultimate session at Maida Vale.

I spoke to him on a number of occasions at Maida Vale, incuding during one frankly strange incident in the toilets next to Studio 4 when we were both taking a piss and The Dawn Parade were practicing their harmonies. As we were both taking a leak in the urinals, The Dawn Parade decide to serenade John with a rendition of his favourite song, ‘Teenage Kicks’ by the Undertones. John said afterwards to me it was one of the bizarrest experiences he’d had while working on the show. On another occasion, a session clashed with the England vs Liechtenstein Euro 2004 qualifier, and we had a conversation on the merits of Emile Heskey being on England’s left wing. He was always incredibly pleasant (going against the ‘grumpy old man’ persona of the TV series, and incredibly shy, far shyer talking to me than I ever could be talking to one of my true heroes, which is really saying something. I met up again with him and Louise when I saw Melt Banana live at the Brighton Concorde II last year, the concert that he has said was the most astonishing gig he had seen since seeing Captain Beefheart in 1970. I had quite a few emails read out by him over the past three years, the final one being a dedication ‘to the staff and children of Camp Mason in Blairstown, New Jersey’. I asked for ‘In The Summer Camp’ by Herman Dune, but as I expected, he didn’t have it to hand.

It’s very difficult to underestimate the influence that him and the music he played has had on my life. A lot of my attitude to music, and with perhaps a knock-on effect to my views on life, have been changed irreversibly as a result. Anyone who knows me will know what an effect music has on my life, and his attitude of ‘anything goes’ has rubbed off on me big time. When people ask me what kind of music I’m into and what my favourite bands are, I find it impossible to give an answer because John widened my tastes so much. It’s much easier to say that I’m a John Peel fan.

My last contact with him was just after I got back from camp, to send him an email on his 65th birthday, toasting the next 65 years – to which he replied:

Thanks Graham. That would make me 130 though and that would be a bit much. Mind you, I wouldn’t mind a more realistic l5 more years though. john

Alas, he only had another few weeks in him. I know that hundreds of thousands of people genuinely feel the same way but I think that my evenings will never be the same.

Rest in peace John.

Eight years on, where are we? Well, his legacy didn’t really seem to live on at Radio 1, that’s for sure; they took the decision to replace his slot with three different DJs – and while Huw Stephens, Rob da Bank and Ras Kwame are excellent DJs, none of them had the sheer breadth of taste that Peel showed. It’s perhaps not too surprising that the best keeper of the Peel flame, as loath as he would find it to mention on his own show, is John’s son Tom Ravenscroft, who has grown in confidence in his three years at 6 Music. I haven’t heard him play much happy hardcore or Norwegian death metal, mind, but you can’t have it all.

What was interesting was how many bands I loved who called it a day soon after Peel’s death. Just from the bands on my 2004 soundtrack as an example… the Delgados gave up the ghost, as did the Beta Band. Six By Seven and 22-20s both called it quits, though they would both later reform, while Persil and Gordon McIntyre’s Ballboy became far less prolific. The Crimea, meanwhile, looked destined for greatness for a short time, but denied radio play, they limped along weakly without the recognition that looked theirs for the taking. And what of the Aphrodisiacs, whose album I’d been out trying to buy when the news came through? They disappeared off the face of the earth… although nine years later it appears they’re back making music again. Good for them.

Looking at other soundtracks, well, The Fall and Half Man Half Biscuit both stride on – you think it would take a nuclear holocaust to finish off either of those bands – but they’re without their most vocal champion on the radio. It was interesting to remind myself of that Emile Heskey anecdote I wrote back then. Of course Peel loved Heskey – champion of the underdog.

I think I should return to John Peel for the final word. He was once asked why he continued to search for new music, and he replied with a story he’d heard about the British Academy of Inventors (or somesuch), who in the 1920s talked about disbanding, because ‘there was nothing left to invent’. It’s that continuing desire to find the new, with a healthy respect for the old, which made Peel’s shows so essential – and it’s that same desire that drives my own musical taste, and of course this whole soundtrack project.

2004

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