Monday, 18 June 2012

A place of memory and desire, part three

Surely, being beyond memory and desire is to cease being human. Dead, that is. To nick a line from — to nick a Bob Dylan encomium — def poet Andrew Marvell, it might well be a fine and private place but none, I think, do there embrace.

At the very least, the only route to that place beyond memory and desire is via memory and desire. Or, to put it another way, the only possible way to frame and explore what you might see or hear or smell in that place beyond memory and desire is through the prism of your memory and desire — if not necessarily in that order.

And so — obviously — to Sound City Beat by the Radiators From Space. It’s an album on Chiswick Records and, to declare an interest, I offered to part fund it. Or rather when they were looking for part-funders, I put my hand up, modestly. They didn’t call in the cash, though. They found another way to raise the money.

Some questions you might want to see answered . . .

Who are the Radiators From Space? An Irish punk-period pop band. They made a couple of albums then . . . well, you know how things go.

Should I know anything else about them? Guitarist and songwriter Philip Chevron was an important Pogue.

What’s so special about Sound City Beat? It’s a collection of their versions of tracks made by Irish groups in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Isn’t that rather dull sounding, academic even? I understand your worries, of course, but actually it’s wonderful. None of the tracks are recreations. They are all re-creations.

Er? Take the first track. It’s one of the best, of course. First tracks always are. They take the Movement’s Head For The Sun — no, I’d never heard of band or song, either — and they dip it in a pond of Ramonesness. So you have a 1970s punk group some 35 years on looking back at 1960s Dublin through the prism of mid-1970s Manhattan — and mid-1970s Dublin visions of that American dream.

A mix of memory and desire? Exactly.

Other examples? Rory Gallagher’s It’s Happened Before stripped of its progressive framing and recast as a beat group song. Thin Lizzy’s Dublin — which highlights Phil Lynott’s real, if modest, qualities as a poet — is given new poignancy with the words read by someone whose name I can’t recall for the moment . . . I left the CD in another part of the country so, in writing this, I’m relying on those two trusted tools, memory and desire. But sometimes, of course, particularly as you get older, they can’t help but let you down.

Any songs on the album that I might actually know?
Yes. Them’s Gloria. It’s not an original take on it or anything but, cut live, it does reflect something of the younger Radiators. There is also, their take on Ian Whitcomb & Bluesville’s You Turn Me On. Though it doesn’t mean much to English listeners, it was a big hit in the US — number eight in 1965, I’m informed. The Radiators refract it through their memories of Whitcomb’s true desires. Or, at least through their knowledge of Whitcomb’s true love, early 20th century music — I have a CD of his recreations of what the bands would have been playing on the Titanic. So they play Whitcomb’s US rocker hit on a ukulele — as an imaginative leap of how he might himself have first played it in his rooms at Trinity College, Dublin.

Again, doesn’t that sound somewhat academic?
Trust me, it isn’t. Like I said, it’s a wonderful record, not just in its imaginative re-imagining of a lost world of 1960s Dublin popsters but in its own right. Plus everything is so capably explained and explored in sleeve notes by Phil Chevron (qv) and Ted Carroll.

Aren’t they friends of yours? Er, yes. But don’t hold that against them. Or set that fact against my judgment of the record.

Is that, as Leiber & Stoller had it, all there is? No . . .

Next up The Radiators, my memories and my desires

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