Sunday, July 30, 2006

Ball games

Muay thai (Thai boxing) is, of course, Thailand's most thrilling sport, but takraw runs it a close second. (It was actually invented by the Malays, but don't tell any Thai people that.) It's a bit like keepy-uppy; players have to keep a rattan sphere off the ground, using any part of the body apart from their hands and arms. It has several variations, derived from volleyball and basketball, but the purest form consists of nothing more than a few blokes kicking the takraw to each other on any available patch of flat earth. Often, the acrobatic skills on display make Brazilian footballers look like arthritic Cybermen, and they can keep it going for hours (which is more, it seems, than the Brazilians can manage these days).

I mention this because there's a big building near my house. I don't know what goes on there; people come and go during the day, and trucks occasionally arrive at the gates. But there's a Wonka-esque mystery about what's actually happening inside. The only activity anyone can see or hear is a bunch of blokes playing takraw in the car park, all day, every day. Maybe it's a takraw factory, and they're testing them.

There's less mystery about the goings on in the building a few doors down. It's a sauna. Usually, the clients at Thai saunas can have a beer before, after or even while they, um, do what you do in Thai saunas. For some reason, this one doesn't appear to offer such facilities, although there is a bar directly opposite. As a result, it's not unusual to see an elderly, pot-bellied Asian gentleman, wearing nothing but a skimpy towel about his loins and a post-coital glow, strolling across the road for a Singha or two, and then returning, revived, for another session. At 11 in the morning. Land of Smiles, eh?

Where there's sex, there must be death. There's a good line in Tim Hilton's Guardian obituary of sinophile and art enthusiast Peter Townsend: "Avant-garde magazines sometimes change character when editors move to a new pub." And while we're digging out that black tie, anybody called The Reverend Bevan Wardrobe can claim a Telegraph obit on the basis of his name alone, surely?

Also: Salman Rushdie offers Germaine Greer outside; Chuck Klosterman on blogging, irony, populism and the undeconstructible Snakes On A Plane; patriotic Iranians are exhorted by comedy president Ahmadinejad to refer to pizzas as "elastic loaves"; Rod Liddle almost gets Barthesian on Thorpe Park's ass, but bottles it; and, from the mighty Tangents, news that Bob Stanley of St Etienne is putting together a C86 movie. If you have any video or cine footage of shambling/anorak/twee/indiepop* performance from the era, please send details to blog@tangents.co.uk.

*Select your pejorative of choice.

28 comments:

Spinsterella said...

So, Wikipedia seems to think that C86 was the beginnings of indie.

I'm just a little bit too young to know, but that seems a bit late to me...

Tim, have you found the answer yet?

Tim Footman said...

Spin: Answer to what?

Spinsterella said...

When the term 'indie' was first used to mean a genre of music.

(Sorry, I have a really good memory - from one of your posts many weeks ago)

Robert A. Swipe said...

"Bob Stanley of St Etienne is putting together a C86 movie."

Why? It was a load of shit.

Tim Footman said...

Spin - damn, you're good. Yeah, I narrowed it down to 1981-1983, and then gave up. Really need to break into King's Reach Tower and plough through their back issues.

Bob - 'Velocity Girl'? 'Buffalo'? 'Therese'? Rubbish? You jest, sir, surely?

And I think the important thing about C86 was what it meant, rather than what it was. (Connotations vs denotations, yeah?) it's interesting to note that a lot of the stuff on it was fairly ruff rawwkk - proto-grunge, to an extent - rather than the twee pop we associate with the genre.

Alistair, who knows a hell about the genre even if he hates the idea, talks about the whole thing here. "Insipid and vile." Love it...

Billy said...

I like the way takraw can adapt itself to volleyball or basketball variations, nice ideas there.

I find amatuerish twee music very endearing although after listening to a lot of it you do yearn for something with some shouting in it.

Robert A. Swipe said...

Sorry Tim, I think it was a very bleak time, popwise - the NME trying to manufacture a movement (when they weren't being consumed by white middle class guilt because they'd ignored black music for so long and started disparaging everything that came out that wasn't on DefJam) Just admit it Tim - we didn't have the musical soundtrack that our forebears in the sixties and seventies did. Why pretend? Talent will out, time will judge and that era will be found wanting. Wisdom leads to truth, acceptance follows - and the pain will pass...

I saw the Wedding Present at the Astoria. They were absolutely shit. And don't get me started on Pwimal Scweam. I already have the Rolling Stones back catalogue. I believe the word is 'otiose'? They were better when they started trying to sound like Kraftwerk. Not much, but better. And the Oxycute is kicking in at last. Half Man, Half Biscuit? The Viscounts of Indie. Fuzzbox? (...)

Tim Footman said...

No, it wasn't as good as the 60s or 70s. But it was the only decade we had at the time. And even second-rate music can be important in cultural terms. Twee pop such as the Pastels and Talulah Gosh was playing with notions of masculinity in a world that still couldn't quite get its head round the notion of a female prime minister. And musically I think C86 shows a significant intersection on the rock 'n' roll tube map, taking us from post punk to, variously, grunge, riot grrrl, lo-fi, emo, etc.

The fact that it wasn't much cop is irrelevant. The Da Vinci Code is hugely interesting because it's got people fascinated by arcane byways of theology and art history. Don't mean it ain't shite.

Robert A. Swipe said...

"C86 shows a significant intersection on the rock 'n' roll tube map, taking us from post punk to, variously, grunge, riot grrrl, lo-fi, emo, etc."

Exactly.

A pox upon it.

Do you ever play any music that you actually like rather than find interesting?

(Sorry - I'm in a very obstreperous mood today - I've just chopped the top of my thumb off. I'll never play the guitar again you know. So at least SOME good's come of it....)

Tim Footman said...

Bob, I've just played eight cover versions of 'Karma Police' end to end. Since I had to do it (it's work) and I defy anybody to do something like that for pleasure, I have to find it interesting, or I'll go a bit Adam Ant.

I'm now going to listen to 'Stay With Me' by Lorraine Ellison, which is utterly depressing, but much better than the above, and therefore what might paradoxically be defined as enjoyable.

It is better, surely, to chop off the top of one's thumb that the bottom of one's thumb. Or indeed one's bottom.

Robert A. Swipe said...

Eight??!!??!! How can these people do this to you, Tim?? Can't you get the human rights people onto it?

Anyroad, hopefully this will cheer you up after Lorraine's caterwauling...

Spinsterella said...

If someone paid me to investivate the begginnings of indie, I'd be a happy bunny indeed.

Might have to invest some earplugs for the C86 period though, but then again I do associate it with the word 'twee', which doesn't belong near any sort of music.

Annie said...

Tallulah Gosh! Tee hee hee! Thanks for the memories. Seem to remember a fashion for wearing duffel coats, stripey breton tops and holding tea parties... and that was just the boys.

That said, I was very fond of that time, lots of good stuff coming out too, like the Pixies, Spacemen 3, Dinosaur Junior, My Bloody Valentine... or am I getting my chronology all mixed up?

scribe said...

I'm on my way, get that couch ready!!!

Tim Footman said...

Bob: I am cheered, thank you. Particularly admire Sean Dickson's stout rearguard action as the rest of the tail implodes about his ears. Always had a soft spot for the Soupies, before they discovered that there had always been a dance element to their music.

Spin: It's nice, but sadly they don't pay me quite enough to keep body and soul together so today I've got to find examples of performance metrics for measuring the efficiency of outsourced non-core business functions. In an ideal world, I'd rather eat my toes raw. But if the indie thing comes off, how'd you like to come on board as my assistant? (I did ask Zhang Ziyi, but her English is lousy and she probably prefers crappy Canto-pop. And if I asked her to work late she'd probably kick me in the neck. What a way to go.) Anyway, C86 wasn't just twee. That's one of the great myths.

Annie: I think they were all in existence, but probably in their very early stages. Come On Pilgrim was released in 1987, I know that; MBV were around, but they had that different singer, whose name escapes me, but I'm sure some swots among you will remind me.

Scribe: What am I, your shrink? We've got a spare bed anyway, if you clear off the guitar and all the electrical gubbins.

Chaucer's Bitch said...

meh. athletes row. everyone else is just playing with their balls.


(that has nothing to do with the present conversation, but i know nought about indie rock, so i settled for mumbling some condescending wank. thank you.)

alistair fitchett said...

I try not to think about C86 these days. I largely agree that it is a pox upon the musical landscape, though disagree that there were not some fabulous bands around in the ‘80s. And really, you know, when Bob Stanley says he is making a film about C86 and is looking for film footage, I really do not think he has in mind the likes of the twee shite that populated the ‘scene’ post-1986. I suspect (and I don’t want to pretend to have any kind of insider knowledge on this) that it’s more groups like, say, McCarthy, Wolfhounds, East Village (though I suspect that the Kelly lads will have some of that already perhaps), Laugh, The Claim, Emily, Felt, Jasmine Minks, Hurrah! June Brides… and maybe The Field Mice and Orchids. I don’t think we are talking Mighty Mighty (even though I did rather like ‘Throwaway’ and I was a Sha-La-La junkie).

In hindsight too I really do think that the most overlooked aspect of what the early ‘twee’ groups were doing was the political angle. You simply cannot divorce the music and style from the political context. It’s hard to imagine (and even to remember) that in the mid ‘80s there was still a dominant mediated culture; one that was soaked in the hyper-capitalist style of Thatcher’s Britain. It really was a time of clearly defined battle lines, and for some, the ‘twee’ thing was certainly a way of very obviously stating where you stood in relation to those lines. I don’t know how it was in the big cities, but in small towns it was quite scary. Wearing an anorak and sipping lemonade from a bottle with a straw was a big cultural leap from the Red Stripe swigging oiks and was tantamount to saying ‘please beat me up’. Musically, well, it was a similar thing. Incompetence was a political act, a way of refusing to engage with the insistence on professionalism and polish. And you can bleat all you like about how that reeks of indie underachieving, but at the time and in the context of the times, it wasn’t about that at all. If you told any indiekid in 1985 that things would turn out how they have they would have laughed you out of town.

In other news, I really liked what DLT said about the demise of TOTP. Methinks though he should have read Young and Foolish and swiped my line about everything being fractured to the point of fluidity. Might have made him sound smart. Or like a pretentious twat… either is good.

Robert A. Swipe said...

"But if the indie thing comes off, how'd you like to come on board as my assistant? "

Christ on a bike! Is this the Timster/Spinster love in or what? I think I prefered John & Bloody Yoko!

(btw - you'll ruin her blog, Tim. It'll be like hearing about those kegs between Mozzer's legs when The Spinster starts blogging about how they're turning the Asda Superstore, Bangkok into a bloody cresh and you can't get a decent bit of tattie bread in this Godforsaken country and how the humidity's scrunched her perm into even more of a Jimmy Scott afro than it was back in Bris'ol...Why can't people just let things be, eh?)

Tim Footman said...

Alistair: Well that told 'em. Penman is trying to rehabilitate Ian McShane (including Lovejoy, not just Deadwood); are you doing the same for DLT? Is bad hair no longer a garrotable offence? Young and Foolish is Alistair's book, btw, people. Sublime stuff.

Bob: It's purely professional. She'd just need to chew a biro in a alluring manner now and again. And do you really mean Jimmy Scott? Surely it's Jimmy Castor who had the boss 'fro?

Robert A. Swipe said...

Oh yeah?????

Tim Footman said...

But that's like saying this guy was in the Beatles because he's on the cover of Sgt. Pepper.

Jem said...

spin et others...

Pedants corner: The wikipedia entry doesn't say that C86 was the "beginnings of indie". It quotes the Bob Stanley piece from January's Uncut magazine where Uncut claimed he claimed that C86 represented the "beginning of indie" when in fact he actually said "It's hard to remember how underground guitar music and fanzines were in the mid 80s; DIY ethics and any residual punk attitudes were in isolated pockets around the country and the C86 comp and gigs brought them together in an explosion of new groups".

thought i'd clear that up.

Robert A. Swipe said...

"But that's like saying this guy was in the Beatles because he's on the cover of Sgt. Pepper."

Christ on a moped - Lennon's looking rough - so they WERE wigs all along....

Anyway, how did you manage to nab The Spinster? What have you got that I haven't? (Apart a cock that isn't falling off in huge clumpy pustules, of course - and two fully functioning thumbs.)

It's the afro, isn't it?

I knew it.

I wish I'd never had it permed now.

Tim Footman said...

Thank you, Jem, for that rare diversion into the realms of truth, common sense and reality. Now, can we have your views of the hairstyles of singers called Jimmy?

Bob, I told you, it was purely a business arrangement. I give her 25 thou plus luncheon vouchers: she has to wear short skirts, blush in a demure manner when I say the word "dictation" and every Friday afternoon she has to remove her Olive-from-On-The-Buses glasses and shake her hair while I say "But Miss Spinster... you're beautiful..."

Jem, I bet you're sorry you ever came here. Jem works for the BBC, people. Do you think if I asked nicely he could get me a job? Nothing too stressful. I quite fancy being a regular on Late Review. I like the idea of pinching Germaine Greer's bottom, and when she turns round, pointing silently to Mark Lawson.

Spinsterella said...

It's not a fucking perm!

*tosses head of natural curls contemptuously*

Can I have a job at the beeb too, while you're at it Jem? The Late Review's a bit late for me though. I'd like to be a regular on Front Row. Same same, but still time to go to the pub afterwards.

Tim Footman said...

Yeah, but on Review you get to sniff Tom Paulin, and that's like being in the Dog & Duck all weekend.

WV: oqimwj. An Irish snack that looks like female genitalia.

Robert A. Swipe said...

Shove your job up your arse Jem - I wouldn't work for the Beeb if you paid me!!!

[Bob stalks off to his lair, convinced his *playing hard to get with the BBC act* will secure him the much coveted host of Points of View slot so he can yell abuse at readers of the Grauniad from the safety of a position within the Corporation's light entertainment/customer services wing]

[Bob (reflective:}Is it too late to point Jem in the direction of my podcasts in the hope that he'll turn me into the next John Peel??]

Anonymous said...

Name of original singer of MBV was David.I loved c86 and the whole scene that went with it......Let's fall in love..it's exciting...!!