DESERT ISLAND PICKSSo. If you were marooned on a desert island, and could have only one book, one film, and one cd with you, what would they be? Frankly I’m doing well to get it down to five of each: choosing just one is incredibly difficult, and, in a couple of months time, I’d probably give completely different answers. It all depends on what mood we’re in, and where we are in our lives. So I’ve simply gone with: which ones do I keep coming back to over time. Feel free to post your own up. BOOKWatership Down by Richard Adams. I was given this as a present when I was 9. I ignored it for a few months, because, despite the picture of the rabbit on the cover, I assumed it was something to do with ships: eventually I read it, and a love affair was born. I still have my original copy, held together with sellotape, and with my name and address written on the edge in marker (the full address, ending in Earth, The Universe). I read it every 3 or 4 years, and I still get completely involved each time, even though I know it backwards.These are no Beatrix Potter bunnies, dressing up in trousers and going off to work in the office. There has to be some element of anthropomorphism, obviously, or there’d be no story, but Adams keeps it to a plausible minimum, and portrays them as authentically as possible within that frame, while giving them distinct, rounded personalities: the visionary Fiver; intelligent Blackberry; macho Bigwig; crazy Woundwort; and peevish Hawkbit, the only rabbit I’ve ever wanted to slap.It can be read as an allegory, I suppose, with Woundwort and Efrafa representing totalitarianism, but that’s turning it into too much work for my liking. I read it as a story – exciting, sad, scary, inspiring, engaging, and very very imaginative. FILMI’m not really much of a film person, I lack the attention span for them, but there are a few that make it through my lack of visual awareness. Harold and Maude turns the idea of love on its head, and manages to be simultaneously dark, light, daft, clever, quirky, and sweet. It covers the big themes – love, fear, death, freedom – in a very low-key and flaky way that’s beautifully humane and life-affirming. Cat Stevens provides the soundtrack that catches the mood perfectly. MUSICGuitar legend Richard Thompson proves his versatility in 1000 years of popular music. Literally what it says on the tin. Alongside Thompson are Judith Owens (Mrs Harry Shearer) on keyboards, and the magnificent Debra Dobkin on drums; and between the three of them they take us through the centuries, beginning with some seriously catchy medieval songs and covering pretty much every genre along the way, including ballads, music hall, honky tonk, a glorious version of The Easybeats’ ‘Friday on my mind’, before delivering a very tongue-in-cheek rendition of Britney’s ‘Oops I did it again’. The box set comes with 2 CDs (perfect for singing along to in the car) and a DVD of the gig, which includes all the between-song banter. Rich, versatile, educational in the best sense of the word.
Lou Reed passed away on the 27th of October 2013.He was one of the most influential figures in rock music. His first band The Velvet Underground is probably solely responsible for any "Indie Music" we hear today. However he is most famous for two songs, "Walk on the Wild Side" and Perfect Day". The former was a hit in 1972. A most unusual chart song with sparse arrangement of an infectious backing vocal, two note bass line and spoken styled melody of lyrics about transsexuals and prostitution inspired by characters of the pop artist Andy Warhol's hangout, The Factory. The song surfaced again in 1990 as it's memorable bass line was sampled by A Tribe Called Quest as the backbone of their song "Can I kick it?". The latter was "Perfect Day" (the b side to Walk on the Wild side) which had a resurgence in the film Trainspotting and was released by an all star cast as a charity single in 1997. Both songs were featured on the album Transformer.The Velvet Underground were formed in 1964 and played as the house band in Andy Warhol's Factory. Reed and John Cale were the main composers. Their first Album The Velvet Underground and Nico is so unusual, some tracks sound like Bo Diddley duelling with a violin and other tracks are so achingly beautiful and simple the album is hard to forget. There is no point in me trying to explain it, just listen! It is still one of the most unusual records I have ever heard. When you look back to what was happening in the charts at the time, Nancy and Frank Sinatra, The Doors, the world was not ready for The Velvet Underground.The album only sold 30,000 copies, but as musician Brian Eno said "each one of those people who bought the record started a band".Lou Reed went on to record twenty solo albums after The Velvet Underground disbanded. He died of complications following a liver transplant.His life partner is artist Laurie Anderson.
A very important and fascinating book was published this year, "Where Were You? Dublin Youth Culture & Street Style 1950-2000" by Garry O'Neil and Niall McCormack.The book is a compilation of photographs documenting social and fashion scenes in Dublin. What sets this book apart is that there are no staged fashion shoots or celebrities, just amazing photographs of everyday people wearing what was in style and ordinary people with extraordinary style.It's a very intimate account of street culture in Dublin. This feeling of intimacy is directly linked to the way in which the material was sourced. Posters were hung up in cafes, bars and shops around the city asking people to send in photos, rather then all the material being collected in newspaper archives.O'Neil travelled around Dublin meeting people to look through their albums and hear about the scenes that were happening at the time. He also received material from different parts of the globe offered by people who had emigrated. The chapters are organised by decades starting with the 50s and 60s.Each chapter has a very readable preface setting the scene for that era by mentioning clubs,dances, streets and shops that were frequented by young people. They also include quotes from people who were interviewed, here is a very good one from the 50s and 60s "You dressed like your folks or you look like you were dressed by your folks". The pages of photographs also have ticket stubs from gigs, posters and flyers for clubs and really cute adverts from the time.It also documents the violence that sometimes surrounded street culture for example the Boot Boys and Skinheads in the seventies. So from suave suits in the sixties to break dancing, skateboarding and raving in the nineties I would highly recommend buying this book. If you've been stuck out in the suburbs for a while borrow or buy this book and you will remember just how colourful Dublin can be.Another interesting layer to this book is O'Neil's collaborator Niall McCormick who is a great graphic artist based in Dublin. Has designed book covers for O'Brien and Lilliput press. After you have enjoyed "Where Were You?" feast your eyes on Niall's website.