Sunday, 11 January 2015

I was looking for a job and then I found a job

I'm still not sure while writing this that I should be as I don't want this to piss off any of my good friends stuck in unemployment hell.

So back at the tail end of summer I got a job with a huge tech firm of Japanese origin. It isn't massively paid and sometimes it isn't that mentally straining but after a long period of not working it was far better than I could hope for.

So I find myself now with a company vehicle, equipment, security passes galore, fuel card, company credit card, branded polo shirt and a Tesco's loyalty card full of points earned from fuel bought travelling the country. Yes I know The Man now has all my details and can track everything I do but I could care less.

Thing is now I have something more important, that a job shouldn't give you as you should be more self assured but I'm not that fortunate. It's a sense of being appreciated and needed by society or fuck it, just anyone.

Long periods of unemployment just suck the life out of you. You are treated like a worthless scrounger by the media, the authorities and random people who see you walking into the Job Centre. Every time you turn on the TV or talk radio they are talking about

a) how people who can't get jobs aren't trying
b) that we're all fucking minted & pissing it away on flat screen TVs
c) that employers ask people to turn up to interviews and they never show up
d) it's the easy option being unemployed

It's like when you break up with someone and every song on the radio is about heartbreak and everywhere you look people are snogging each others faces off. It's just an infection.

OK in my journey through the IDS ghost train of fuckery I have encountered a minority of people who could be described as playing the system and genuinely actively not willing to do what it takes to get a job. Yet the employers themselves can be equally as blasé.

The amount of times I've been told "We'll let you know, won't leave you hanging" after an interview and never hearing anything, not even a mass email. "You did a brilliant interview, we think you'd be great but we think you'll leave once you find a better option as this isn't exactly taxing" - they have no concept of what it's like out there these days. Yet you also think "well if that's how you treat people then...."

We've all read the horror stories of people being left at the mercy of faceless bureaucratic  decisions that leave them penniless and desperate at the click of a mouse. How government agencies with little to no knowledge of personal circumstances can plunge unemployed people into an Orwellian abyss. Tragic deaths happen when a society at its core is run by people who have little grip on the reality that 99% of the population experience 24/7

Russell Brand's "Don't vote" manifesto is student arse-gravy but when you look at the choices we'll have come May 2015 don't you just shake your head in disbelief. No wonder the politics of fear and division peddled by UKIP are so attractive to some people as at least you know what they stand for - even if it is bullshit.

The work is really varied from helping set up new systems in whole office buildings, install whole shops worth of equipment, patch networks, strip out whole shops full of equipment, help people solve IT problems, customer service and all that. So many different environments, new challenges and things to learn and apply. I get to see the rest of the country a bit more and visit a few more record shops, natch.

That's me at the moment. I'm more level and happy than I have been in a long time - anxiety and depression at an all time low. I have great support from my friends and family who helped me get this far through their love and belief that I could do it.

And I'm setting myself up for a fall writing this as I could be back in the cesspool at any point, none of us know what's round the corner. However I'm enjoying what I'm doing, the people I'm working with and for (mostly, there are always idiots) and also sort of know what I'm doing most of the time.

So I say to anyone who is struggling through the government's attempts to strip you of any dignity - hold on, it will come good soon and don't let the bastards grind you down.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Queen: 'The Rock Snob Tour'

I suspect that we all saw the New Year in watching Queen and Adam Lambert rocking in the shadow of Big Ben then?

No me neither

Cards on the table, big Queen fan in my teens, went to the Mercury Tribute gig and think there is much to love in their work. Went to the first gig at Brixton with Paul Rodgers out front and although the rock stuff worked well anything with any lightness or humour just didn't fit. Proving if there was  any need that Freddie Mercury's voice and talent was indispensable. I've seen that Lambert chap with em and he does a good job, bit X Factor in parts but a good set of pipes.

However you can't imagine the rock snob, even if they could see their way to accepting Queen as a fantastic rock band, going anywhere near their greatest hit live shows.

With Queen there seems to a be a clear dividing line - pre and post moustache. So pre 'The Game' which was the first not to contain the credit "no synthesisers" they were a serious rock band, after they were disco nancies with their pop music and silly videos.

It occurred to me that the recent Status Quo wheeze (cough, splutter, hack etc) of getting the classic no nonsense head down boogie lines up of 1970-6 seemed to appeal to a different and more 'rock snob' audience that wouldn't be seen dead at the more familiar Quo annual Xmas shows. The setlists were drawn purely from that period and 'Caroline' the only "hit" that would show up in their regular sets.

So I would wager that a Queen: Rock Snob Deep Cuts tour would do quite well and off the back of the rather spiffing 'Live At The Rainbow' set from 1974 remind people what a versatile songwriting unit they were.

So here's my suggested setlis
tDeath On Two Legs

Stone Cold Crazy
The Prophet Song
Lily Of the Valley
You And I
I'm In Love With My Car
Sail Away Sweet Sister *
Spread Your Wings
Coming Soon
Teo Torriate

Long Away
Doin' Alright
Queen II Suite:
Ogre Battle
The Fairy Feller's Masterstroke

The March Of the Black Queen
Funny How Love Is

Seven Seas Of Rhye

Brighton Rock \ Bring Back That Leroy Brown

See What A Fool I've Been
Dreamers Ball
Sheer Heart Attack
Rock N Roll Medley incl. Big Spender \ Shake Rattle & Roll \ Jailhouse Rock
We Will Rock You (fast version)
My Melancholy Blues

* - yes it's from 'The Game', well spotted

Yet the thing that has been missing from Queen as much as Freddie's voice, showmanship and so on is his sense of humour. The silly, camp and faintly ridiculous were all part of the fun. That what po faced rock fans missed just like the people who accuse Morrissey of being miserable despite writing extremely witty words. Or rather the sense of fun was something that they couldn't relate to or believe belonged in rock music.

Perhaps John Deacon has the right idea in letting sleeping dogs lie. Yet he wrote more than a few crackers including this which would be my highlight from that set.


Thursday, 1 January 2015

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot?

Well that was 2014 apparently. Quite a busy time for me offline as the lack of blog entries may have indicated. Well, like a teenager with his new diary he got for Xmas from his gran, I intend to be a more regular blogger (Doctor's orders)

April 10th : Auntie Maggie's Birthday

I found myself at the year's end surrounded by the usual space filling lists online, in the papers and magazines - best films, best TV, best gigs, best books and of course, best albums.

I could make a fair fist of identifying runners and riders in many of those categories but the last one, the one which should be a walk in the park for a music obsessive like me was a struggle. I couldn't share the enthusiasm for the self indulgent wibble of The War On Drugs, the further adventures of white boys with guitars and the latest dubstep pioneers.

The only really outstanding new album by an artist I bought this year was Beck's immersive 'Morning Phase' which in itself is part two of 2002's 'Sea Change' - no bad thing. Yet Beck is someone who has rarely made a duff album so that's no great surprise.

This year I didn't really dig the new breed but found much to love in days gone by.

Over the festive period the album I have been playing to death is 'Brother Brother Brother' by The Isley Brothers from 1971. I bought it mainly for the 10 minute plus cover of Carole King's 'It's Too Late' that smokes and unfurls in its own sweet time. But I found the rest a complete joy from start to finish - brooding, pained, longing and soulfully rueful.

The remastering of the Boss' early albums made me appreciate and fall for the previously unloveable 'Greetings From Asbury Park' with the mud and dirt removed from its chrome fenders revealing a shining beauty. The Zeppelin and Beatles vinyl reissues made me dive back in, lots of dusty old soul shellac and so on.

I just didn't want to hear anything from now, today, and that was fine.

It's not that I'm wallowing in familiar sounds and old favourites (although I have the same binges of Costello that I always have) it's just I'm still so busy investigating the back roads of pop, soul, rock n roots from days gone by. Perhaps its age, lack of a real source of "new music" to sip from or just a boredom of trying to keep up.

Bottom line is should I be worried about it? I never have been hip (more "hip replacement" as the line goes), never followed fashions or trends so why start now? I love what I love regardless of time and place. New old stuff or old new stuff - it's all been the same. It either grabs you or it doesn't. 

Perhaps a world which makes everything available to you at the click of a link makes it harder for the good stuff to be heard. Recommendations from friends can only go so far and often end in disappointment.

I have a poster which is the London tube map with bands and artists in place of stations. Music interconnects, leads you down different paths and ending in new destinations. Sometimes they build fresh tunnels and lay down new tracks but there are plenty of disused stations and fascinating adventures to be had lying undiscovered in the darkness.

Anyway, here's to 2015 - let's make it a good un!