Friday, May 24, 2019


I am never quite sure whether I prefer New Order as a sound or as an idea. If it is the former, it is definitely the spindly treble of the bass that is a major component. If the latter it is the ridiculous posturing of Peter Hook, bass guitar round his knees, legs akimbo, somehow still managing to make contact with his strings.

In the day, I never really got baggy and Mad-chester; I think I was already too old, finding all the druggy Hacienda nonsense outwith my taste. But I liked the idea of Anthony Wilson and the whole Factory Records conceit. And I absolutely loved Fac. 73, otherwise known as 'Blue Monday'. (Factory records famously gave a catalogue number to much more than just their recorded releases, so that the aforementioned Hacienda nightclub was Fac. 51, its resident cat Fac.191 and Wilson's eventual coffin Fac.501.) Blue Monday was the single from the 2nd album by New Order, 1983's 'Power, Corruption and Lies'. I had been vaguely aware of the band, predominantly down to the acclaim and coverage given the earlier Ian Curtis helmed version of the band, 'Joy Division', ahead of his suicide. Much as I tried, I could never find any love for this band, expecting New Order to be the same. Probably through the addition of Gillian Gilbert's keyboards and programming, I found to my delight their electronica/dance influences far easier to swallow than the post-punk agitated spiky guitars and epileptiform (I know) ticcing of JD.

There are apparently abundant reasons why Hook developed his idiosyncratic style of, if you will, lead bass guitar. Firstly it was the allegedly dodgy equipment used, wherein the amplifier and speakers couldn't manage lower registers. However the second reason arose mainly from the sequencer and synthesizer driven patterns underpinning so many of the songs. Add that to the fact the guitar was almost a purely rhythmic instrument and it becomes apparent of the spaces left, crying out for counterpoint. Strangely I find the comparison is with the blues, say with B. B. King, his guitar replying in call and response to the vocal, so too does Hook use his bass to answer both the vocals and the main thrust of the the electronica. A human heart within the machine.

'Blue Monday' apart, I was probably fairly lukewarm about their offerings until the swansong, both  with and of Factory. This was 'Republic', and the run of singles emanating therefrom, notably 'Regret'. I adored this. At which point they split for 8 years. But, in no small part due to the flurry of re-releases and remixes released  in the interim, back they bounced, in 2001, with my 2nd favourite, 'Get Ready'. Even with a slight return to the more guitar driven earlier style, still Hook's bass remained as high in the mix as it sat low on its strap.

I sort of lost interest after that. That line-up seemed to peter out, even as the size of the by now stadium gigs became larger. It is clear there were internal frictions, predominantly between guitarist/ singer and self-appointed leader, Bernard Sumner, and Hook. Each have written about this extensively in the wake of Hook leaving the band, and the subsequent lawsuits as he tried to get some degree of payout for his participation in the sound, before, during and after. Involved in a number of side projects over the years, of late he has concentrated on his own band, Peter Hook and the Light, effectively a New Order tribute and covers band, albeit with his one vital and authentic ingredient. I have never seen New Order live, regretting that point, as, even as they continue to exist, somehow, for me, the focus has been lost. I would love, however, to see Peter Hook and the Light, and I hope I will.

New or newer?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Base/Bass: Ry Cooder's Chavez Ravine

purchase  [Chavez Ravine]

File under: Songs that reference baseball

Ryland P Cooder has always gone out of his way.
Gone out of his way to promote music that most others would not. See his JAZZ album that includes non-traditional instruments such as: cimbalo, tuba ...  See various songs from Into the Purple Valley, Paradise and Lunch, Chicken Skin Music, Bop Till You Drop

Gone out of his way to bring back music that others forgot. Hawaii, Carribean ...

Gone out of his way to speak up for others who had only a small voice. (How's about Down in Hollywood, for that perspective?) Then there's the Buena Vista Social Club project that -  in and of itself  -revived an entire genre of music.

Among the issues he has raised (because raising issues through his music is what he does) is the <Chavez Ravine> story.

Now .. you're about to ask what the relation to the theme is?
<3rd Base, Dodger Stadium> is about BASEball, because the Chavez Ravine area was torn up by eminent domain in order to build the baseball stadium, and its mostly Latino residents were left out in the open - the land eventually ending up as the ball park.

Cooder's song highlights one of the displaced residents who eventually ends up with a job tied to the new ball park venue: parking cars around the stadium. (His house was 3rd base, folks!)  But, at least in Cooder's version he takes it with a grain of salt, without the kind of chip on his shoulders that you and I might have had...                                      

The song relates how his home was located at the spot where 3rd base ended  up. He lost his home, but found work right there all the same.

Muy Fifi from that album: