1985 Back to the Future

Emusic now has the Pogues catalog, which is cause for celebration and for me cause for a rather vivid flashback to 1985, the year of Rum, sodomy and the lash.

I found the wiki on the year fascinating and foreign, yet strangely familiar. (And yes, the original Back to the Future was based in that year.)

Herewith, the brilliant Pogues classic, “A pair of brown eyes,” and an entertaining, not particularly linear video by Alex Cox (police state! Thatcher!), along with a few other carefully culled selections from that year. Presented without further comment.






Kate McGarrigle’s family remembers her

These tributes from Kate’s children, Rufus and Martha, and her sister and musical partner Anna were frank, touching and funny.


She was a magical woman, one foot in another world, a great songwriter, performer and bohemian, and she was surrounded, as she was dying, by family and friends. My father was there. Emmylou Harris was there. We sang to her as she lay there, in fact that certainly might have made her go that little bit faster.

As we were having this jamboree, her breathing became more laboured and she made a moaning noise. One of the nurses said this could go on for four days and we had already exhausted the back catalogue! Then Kate breathed a little differently, it was like she was saying, “Hold on, I’m going to end this show” and she died. I was looking right into her face, her eyes were open, and my aunt Jane was holding her hand. It was an amazing experience.


I’m very shaken from losing my sister and closest friend, although last week we had a little spat. She loved fresh fruit and we had bought her some grapes, which I called “those little sacks of fluid”. Maybe it’s the way I said it, because she snapped at me: “Why do you always see the bad in things?” Maybe she associated it with the state of her lungs. I lost it, we had words, and I left and then apologised the next day. It was all fine again.

… Kate was one of the finest songwriters: her soul told her hands what to do. The song she wrote for Martha, which she performed at the Albert Hall, Proserpina, makes me cry. It’s amazing. For me, she’ll always be a contradiction: the widely read sophisticate who loved mixing with the high-end crowd with Rufus, and the rustic character, never happier than when riding an old bike, or cross-country skiing or knitting Scandinavian sweaters.

More tributes at the Montreal Gazette.  And here is that final, moving performance of “Proserpina“:

Kate McGarrigle “departs in a haze of song and love”

So sad. This one hurts, and I’ve only ever seen Kate McGarrigle in concert once, with her sister of course, and daughter Martha and Emmylou Harris, who flew from Nashville to New York just for that show. It was an intimate and ever so tuneful evening (actually, afternoon), with much wry banter. I felt like I had been invited into the parlor of  an eccentric, funny family of musical geniuses (which they were). Kate was just 63.

The site has this simple announcement:

Sadly our sweet Kate had to leave us last night. She departed in a haze of song and love surrounded by family and good friends. She is irreplaceable and we are broken-hearted. Til we meet again dear sister. ♡

The CBC has an excellent retrospective here with numerous video clips, including two from her final appearance at the Royal Albert Hall last year:

The descriptors “Canadian icon” and “national treasure” are often used as lazy shorthand to refer to those artists who’ve made some sort of impact on our country’s music scene. But Kate McGarrigle was one of the awe-inspiring few who truly deserved those epithets — and then some. McGarrigle, who passed away Monday after a drawn-out battle with clear cell sarcoma (she was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer in 2006), was one of Canada’s legendary voices, a woman who celebrated and elevated the rich history of our country’s musical traditions throughout a career that spanned more than three decades.

Vanity Fair has Songs in the Key of Lacerating, a lengthy piece on the many twists and turns of the McGarrigle/Wainwright family saga.

And there is this priceless mockumentary by Rufus and Martha about their mothers’ scheme for world domination via folk music.

Way too soon. What a tragedy, but departing in a haze of song and love surrounded by family and good friends. That’s a good thing. We should all be so lucky when the time comes.

Anxiety of influence

Truly a terrific scene from Chuck Berry: Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, Taylor Hackford’s amazing 1987 documentary. The master shows the  student, better compensated by several orders of magnitude, who’s the boss. Priceless interaction. What can I say? I’m a fan of both of ’em.

more about “Agony of influence“, posted with vodpod

Camera Obscura: More lush, orchestral melancholia …

… and it adds up to the sweetest thing.

Not to mention the fact that this video is absolutely wonderful. Attending  a costume do at a country house as Simon & Garfunkel, and meeting friends there dressed as the cover art from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors?!  Someone please invite me to these parties!


Annie – Pure pop for now people

Norwegian DJ/singer Annie Berge Strand has finally officially released Don’t Stop, her second album, after five years of record company drama and dithering. It’s great.

Anniemal was a ridiculously great collection of pure pop confections, including the unforgettably hooky Chewing Gum. Annie’s personal tragedy, losing her boyfriend/collaborator to a freak illness at the age of 23, gave her first album an undertone of melancholy that carries over to Don’t Stop, and elevates her musical/lyrical wit and cleverness to something above and beyond pop music.

But it is terrific pop music, about as good as it gets…. Annie calls it “pop music with strange edges.” There are reviews out there by people who know the electro/dance/pop genre far better than I, including this one from Pitchfork.  I’ve read her genre described as unpopular pop music, but I hope that will change. Actually, I’m pretty sure it will.

The dust that Pancho bit

Just stumbled across this footage of  Townes Van Zandt And Guy Clark, when they were just kids. Described as “1970’s film clips which were part of a motion picture homage to West Texas troubadours titled ‘Heartworn Highways.'”

Loved the old guy’s tears during ‘Waitin’ around to die.’

Also available on the Internets from the same film, Van Zandt performing his scary great Pancho and Lefty and a sloppy session with Rodney Crowell and a skinny Steve Earle from Christmas Eve, 1975.

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