Thursday, October 29, 2009


The phenomenon of the one-hit wonder is often talked of in terms that imply they had only a single moment of talent, as if commercial success is somehow a measure of creative worth. Sometimes that's true but often it's not.

Poor old Jeff Beck. He spends years being one of the foremost guitarists of his generation, fusing white backbeat pop-rock with real searing blues, yet what's the only track of his that everyone knows? Hi Ho Silver Lining.

Other one-hit wonders leave you amazed that anyone wanted to listen to anything they ever did in the first place. In the 1980s there was a swathe of blokey guys with guitars, the sort of sub-Bryan Adamsers who were clearly surrounded by an entourage of coked-up yesmen telling them they were some kind of Springsteen.

One of these was Rick Springfield. If you're 40ish in the UK, you may vaguely remember his only half-hit here, Jessie's Girl.

For those of you who don't, and indeed those of you who do but could do with a reminder about why you have no clear memory, here's the video. It's a great piece of unintentional comedy, just look at how this negligible tosser takes himself soooo seriously.

And if that was where we could leave him, well, what's the harm? I'll tell you the fucking harm. To explain the damage and my personal grudge, let's go on another one almost-hit wonder detour.

The Church are one of my favourite bands ever. For thirty years they've been making music of great beauty, mystery and intelligence, generating luscious opiate warmth yet with a tremendously potent sense of undefined unease and longing. Rich, soulful, beautiful.

In the late 1980s they had their fifteen minutes with a single called Under The Milky Way. Mercifully for them, their albatross-song isn't a Silver Liningesque anomalous novelty, it's actually pretty representative of their work.

If you're American you probably know it, but in Europe nobody has really heard of it unless they were into what we then called Alternative Music. I get genuinely surprised when I mention The Church to anyone and there's any kind of recognition at all. In the last couple of years there's been some sharper folks that at least know the song thanks to its use in Donnie Darko.

But anyway, Rick fucking Springfield. He just won't let it lie, he still makes albums, and guess what he's applied his one dimensional croak to?

And that's not actually the bad news. The song's had a sort of pincer movement performed on it.

We live in an age where any decent song is rapidly reduced to being just a corporate shill. Advertising, the most evil concept ever, debases anything you love in order to make you buy things you don't need from people you don't like.

The Cure's Pictures of You sells computer printers ('these pictures of you, I almost believe that they're real' - geddit? See what they did there?).

Stuart Maconie said of Frank Wilson's supreme northern soul belter Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)

If you want to know what the magic of Northern Soul is, get yourself a copy... and allow yourself to be swept away by its life-affirming, luminous, lump-in-the-throat beauty and effervescence.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no ailment or depression so profound and weighty that two and a half minutes in the company of this fabulous tune won't lift and banish.

These days it's the soundtrack for fried chicken adverts.

And of course, everything you ever cared about, from The Jam's harsh description of urban deprivation Town Called Malice, to Nick Drake's magical gossamer Pink Moon to Led Zeppelin's frenzied Rock n Roll, sells fucking cars.

Here's the new ad for the Lincoln MKT.

I'm off to put my head in the oven.

Monday, October 26, 2009

anti-coal on a roll

I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants

- Al Gore

Good point, but why wait for the new-build? As Richard Bernard said a week ago outside Ratcliffe on Soar power station as a thousand people attacked the fences

With Kingsnorth now shelved the time is for us to look at existing coal-fired power stations and say that coal has no future, fossil fuels have no future, it's time to close them down.

And as Kingsnorth settles in the sidelines, it's also time for other prospective builders to step into the firing line and see that every attempt to build new stations will come with a bumper pack of activists.

At 4.30am today protesters occupied Npower's flagship coal station in the UK, Didcot in Oxfordshire. Splitting into two groups - one shutting down the coal conveyor belts, another scaling the chimneys and abseiling inside so they can't be used - they say they have supplies to last them 'weeks, not days'.

One of them explained

N-Power, the company that runs this power station, is now the foremost advocate for new coal in the country. They want to build 30 new coal power stations in Britain and Europe. They expect to get planning permission for Hunterston in the next few weeks. We’re saying to them that we won’t leave until they cancel all their plans for new coal.

Hunterston - like Kingsnorth, at a site where an old station's being decommissioned - lost its major investor only a week after Eon announced the Kingsnorth climbdown. The owners, the Peel Group, say they'll press ahead anyway, possibly with money from Royal Bank of Scotland.

Meanwhile, the fact that RBS is now in public ownership means that, as Mark Thomas pointed out, they should be compliant with the government's stated carbon objectives, and ditch their £16bn of carbon-extractive investments. Indeed, a bunch of NGOs are in the High Court right now trying to force that to happen.

But today's action isn't just at Didcot. It's been a very active day for the coal-focused domestic extremists elsewhere too.

As Npower's station forcibly powered down this morning, up at Shipley in Derbyshire protesters occupied an opencast coal mine producing coal for - it's them again - Ratcliffe on Soar power station.

Meanwhile at Mainshill in Scotland, where there's an ongoing protest camp defending woodland under threat from a proposed opencast coal mine, access roads were barricaded and people locked on, ensuring no logging work can be done.

The changes we need are only going to happen if we force them to. The burgeoning climate justice movement glows with bright potential, but time is short. Those activists Npower are going to get sick of? That's you, that is.

And this coming weekend there's a weekend of info, action and whatnot at Mainshill.

Friday, October 16, 2009

everyone move to leeds

David Cameron may bang on about Broken Britain, but there's clearly an oasis of Dock Greenesque peace and social harmony in West Yorkshire.

There is a complete absence of domestic violence, street robbery, rape, large scale tax evasion and drunk driving in Leeds. There is scarcely a dropped fag butt and no standing around looking shifty or visible flouting of building regulations. We can be certain of this.

Why else would their local CID take the time to call at houses this afternoon just to let the residents know that the police think some people at the address were planning on going on the Great Climate Swoop protest tomorrow?

When detectives are telling you that some of your friends might be going to go somewhere in another constabulary where some people might be engaging in peaceful direct action, surely they've already solved all the reported crime, polished all the Chief Constable's silver buttons, sharpened all the pencils, done the lotto syndicate and all that day's crosswords and are now just gormlessly drumming their fingers on their impeccably tidy desks dreaming up stuff up to do.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

kingsnorth is cancelled

Despite the government's enthusiasm for a third runway at Heathrow, it's reported that Heathrow's owners have decided not to build it.

When the government said it would give the go ahead to the runway, I thought it might make it harder for them to say yes to the new coal power station at Kingsnorth. It didn't occur to me that, like BAA with Heathrow, E.On might lead the way themselves.

Tonight, Kingsnorth was effectively cancelled by E.On.

The decision by E.ON marks an end to one of the most bitterly fought environmental campaigns in British history. The admission, which emerged after an unplanned and off-the-cuff remark from one of the company’s German officials, will be greeted with delight by environmentalists

Too right it will.

"This development is extremely good news for the climate and in a stroke significantly reduces the chances of an unabated Kingsnorth plant ever being built," said Greenpeace executive director John Sauven.

"The case for new coal is crumbling, with even E.ON now accepting it's not currently economic to build new plants. The huge diverse coalition of people who have campaigned against Kingsnorth because of the threat it posed to the climate should take heart that emissions from new coal are now even less likely in Britain."

He added: "Ed Miliband [the environment secretary] now has a golden opportunity to rule out all emissions from new coal as a sign of Britain's leadership before the key Copenhagen climate meeting. With E.ON's announcement he's now got an open goal."