Pauline Black. It’s official. I’m in love. Saw The Selecter live for the first time last week. You might think it’s thirty+ years too late, but really, it’s not. This is one slick outfit. They brought the house down. Having spent a lot of time lately ranting about the absence of fictional female heroes on our movie screens, it was nice to see a real-life one strutting around on a stage. Pauline Black. The voice of 2-Tone. Cuts a dash in a fedora. And takes no crap: she changed her surname from Vickers to Black so that people would have to call her black.
And as I looked on, and listened, and danced and sang, and laughed along with the crowd, I couldn’t help but take a little trip down memory lane to where ska and reggae smashed up against punk and a healthy dose of working class irreverence and created a peculiarly British sound. And an oh so stylish look. (Perhaps a little of the very British mod found its way in too.) I really don’t go in for patriotism, I’m not full of rose tinted affection for a Blighty that never existed, but if there’s anything that could at least make me feel glad to have been born British, glad even to have been born in the 70s, it could just be this sound. And if there’s something that can make me believe that, in the end, the harder they come, the harder they’ll fall it might just be this sound.
Come reminisce with me:
Have a laugh at this hilarious video (I’ve only just noticed that this is all filmed around my manor. It’s not Coventry…) Be amazed, or horrified, or enraged at how relevant this track sounds today:
OK, so there’s a theme brewing. Insert name of your choice:
I’ll leave you with Too Much Pressure. You know what happens when there’s too much pressure, don’t you? Eventually something explodes…
All videos linked from YouTube. None are my work. Thanks to all who posted them there.
A few years ago most of my tapes (remember C45s and C60s anybody?) a handful of my records (yes actual, precious, vinyl) and a couple of my CDs (now these I really don’t care that much about, and they were truly the crap ones anyway) were deposited in a charity shop. Or a skip. I’m not sure which. I didn’t do it. It was in the spirit of a clear out. I’m not quite over it.
As a consequence, years later I’m still in the business of re-amassing the missing music MP3 stylee. So it was that, a couple of days ago, I found myself in the iTunes store – virtually speaking you understand, there isn’t actually a place tucked away down the Old Kent Road or something that no-one’s told you about – purchasing a copy of Ramones, the Ramones’ debut album. I listened to this endlessly as a kid.
And I’ve pretty much had it on loop ever since I downloaded it. Do you know what the most perfectly brilliant thing about the Ramones is? Brevity. The longest track on the original album comes in at a whopping 2 minutes and 40 seconds. I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement if you were wondering.
Now Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets about love. Not to mention inflicting on us that Romeo geezer endlessly droning on the about the depths of his passion for Rosaline or Juliet or whoever. But I’m not sure that any of this conveys with such poignant simplicity the courageous emotion of I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend. And I’m not convinced that Salinger told us any more about youth and alienation in 200 or so pages than Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue does in 1 minute and 36 seconds.
When Ramones was first released I would’ve been 4 or 5 or something. It would be a few more years before I’d be listening to it over and over again on tape (a ragged patchwork of memories is telling me that Too Tough To Die was on the other side, but I might be making that up). It’s kind of sweet that there’s such a market for this stuff – I imagine crinkled Ramones fans lovingly loading it up on their grandkids’ iPods. Today MP3, Tomorrow the World. I finally saw the band at the Brixton Academy, many years too late, in 1991 I think. I really can’t remember that much about it. As it should be.