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October 2009

SPANK GOLD: And You Sure As Hell Can't Sing: Pick Of The Year 1994

Still no sleeve, sorry.Let's clarify the chronology a little here. Younger Than The Stones: Pick Of The Year 1993 was recorded some way into 1994: driven not so much by a desire to mark the passing of 1993, as a desire to win an argument I'd had in a pub with Lou. It might have been as late as March, in fact - I believe I hadn't heard one of the tracks on there (Aimee Mann, if you're curious) until it came up on a Sean Hughes radio show in early 1994. This tape, on the other hand, was made at the end of the year, as God intended, and all the other ones since have been made that way.

Lou's always had a theory that these compilations are a reliable indicator of my state of mind at the time I record them, and he suggested to me some time later that this one must have been made during some sort of low patch. Listening to it now, it's certainly a bipolar collection of tunes, with happy poppy things rubbing up hard against the noisy and the miserable. People who were on everyone's list back in 1994 - you'll know them when you see them - sit alongside bands that I heard once on the radio and investigated further out of curiosity. Here's what it all sounds like to me now, anyway.

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Well, They Call Me Felix The Pleaser

It's been a busy old month or so, both on the site and in the real world. So unfortunately, I missed the exact day when this happened: the hit count of something I'd made and put on the internet went into six figures. By the time I noticed, my video for Tom Waits' Lucinda was at 103,000 views and counting.

I don't think that's happened to anything that I've ever posted before: even after eleven years, the original Unpleasant Lair has more or less flatlined at around 91,000 hits. So I'm pretty chuffed at having achieved this milestone, even if it did take over two and a half years to do it.

If you're one of the 100,000 viewers, many thanks: if you're not, here's your chance to become one of the first 200,000. (Meanwhile, The Felix Project continues to plod along: there was a new addition only last week, for reasons which should become clear shortly.)

SPANK GOLD: London Film Festival 1996

Programme design by Nancy Fouts. Not as good as last year's, though.The 40th London Film Festival – an anniversary marked with a one-year-only trailer featuring a giant can of film rolling through the city – was mainly notable for being the final one under the leadership of Sheila Whitaker. “My tenth and last year as Director which, for me, is very sad but the decision is not mine,” she pointedly wrote in her introduction to the programme. Rumour had it that she was bumped out as part of a big reshuffle at the BFI: rumour also had it that the huge blank space in the programme booklet where the Opening Gala film should have been was part of her sneaky revenge. (Although Sheila herself claimed that it was down to a last-minute withdrawal by a distributor. The space was eventually filled by ho-hum chickflick The First Wives Club.)

Internal backbiting aside, it wasn’t too bad a festival, although only the Surprise Film – attended by a plethora of LFF staffers in Sheila wigs – had any of the sense of occasion that you’d have expected in the circumstances. After a couple of years of unofficial websites, the LFF took a crack at making one of their own, and discreetly gave the job back to the amateurs the following year while they worked out where they’d gone wrong. (I'm pretty sure it used to have more content than the archive linked to above does.) Meanwhile, if this website had been going back then, here’s what I would have been writing about.

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We are the Quads! We are the Quads! We are we are we are the Quads! Clockwise from top left: Daniel Curtis the Romantic, Rob Kendrick the Hypocrite, Jack Roth the Lunatic, George Maguire the Tough Guy Some days, the internet can surprise you. Today, for example, it surprised me when I discovered that apart from the one that’s going to occur at the end of this sentence, there’s only one other reference on the entire web to Rentacassette. Back in the seventies, before local libraries started lending out music as well as books, Rentacassette was one of the few ways you could listen to records that you couldn’t cadge off your mates. It was a rental service that worked on a similar principle to the way Lovefilm or Netflix operate today: you paid a regular fee, and selected a wishlist from their catalogue of albums. They’d then post you random selections from your list as they became available, on a medium we used to call “cassette” (think of it as a big plastic MP3, kids).

I learned about Rentacassette from an ad in the back of a music paper – shit, that’s another concept I’ll have to explain to the under-20s – and spent a couple of happy teenage years getting to hear records I probably would have missed otherwise. And one of those was The Who’s Quadrophenia, an album for which I quickly developed a huge amount of affection. Which would make me the perfect demographic for the stage musical adaptation that’s currently touring the UK. The problem is, the album isn’t the main thing people remember Quadrophenia for.

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Edinburgh Festival 2009: Unspanked & Institutionalised

Richard Herring and his Hitler Moustache. I wasn't trying to imply that this is Nick at all, it's just the way the layout happened. I will STILL keep doing this joke EVERY YEAR until someone notices. This is as close as I came to the Edinburgh Festival in 2009. I didn't get to see Richard Herring's Hitler Moustache, and neither did anyone else that I know: but I contributed £25 to his programme fund in aid of Scope, so he kindly gave me a namecheck inside the programme and sent me a copy he'd signed on the outside. Next time, I'll ask him to dedicate my programme to Lucky Winner Of eBay Auction.

Meanwhile, a group of Spank's Pals went up to the Festival without me this year. They've filed the following reports, starting with tour leader Nick.

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Simian Substitute Site for September 2009: The Lonesome Stranger

I said August was going to be a quiet month round here, but it turned out I was wrong. So I'm not sure I should even attempt to guess how September's going to play out. Here's what I know: because I fell behind a little in July what with the TOTAL BLOODY ECLIPSE and all that, I'm planning two Spank Gold pieces on the London Film Festival. Once I've got 1996 and 1997 out of the way, that'll be the decks cleared in time to get back up to date with 2009 (and there's interesting news already available). Also in old badly remembered shit, I'll be looking back at the Pick Of The Year compilation for 1994, and wondering why I'm trying to remember it when I could just get the cassette out of its box and play it.

As for new stuff, it's all currently under negotiation. One way or another, there'll be a brief return to Edinburgh: beyond that, we'll just have to wait and see. (And that includes the photos and video wrapping up Year Of The Monkey 2009, although regulars could always try looking in the usual places to see what's there so far.)

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