Wednesday, 1 December 2010
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Thursday, 13 May 2010
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Saturday, 8 May 2010
Tuesday, 13 April 2010
Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Monday, 15 March 2010
John Sicolo was a local legend and much, much more. He was an international treasure.
The tributes pouring in on social network sites (more than 3,000 people signed up to his Facebook memorial page in less than 24 hours - and his passing was recorded as the most ‘tweeted’ about subject yesterday) pay testament to a man who was loved, respected and admired by thousands.
Newport TJs might not have been a particularly unusual place compared to the rest of the UK live music circuit, but the huge character that was John Sicolo made it unique in many ways. His legendary hospitality (he would frequently put visiting bands up for the night in his own house and he would always cook them a hearty dinner) is still talked about across the globe. Therapy?, Green Day, The Lemonheads and thousands more have all benefitted from his genial hospitality. And they don’t forget. Laurie Lindeen, singer with Minneapolis band Zuzu’s Petals, wrote on his tribute page on Facebook today: “Such a lovely, generous authentic human being. In his home was my first conscious lesson of seeing what a family could be. Now he’s joined back with his beloved, may he rest in peace.”
When more and more local bands started to form around the influence of so many American, Canadian, Japanese and European punk and alternative groups, John was right there supporting in every way possible. I promoted several band nights in TJs and John never charged me a penny for hire of the club or its facilities. And when I set up a fanzine (Frug!) and record label, John was right there with encouragement, practical help and a financial buffer. The compilation LP I released in 1994, ‘I Was A Teenage Gwent Boy’, was dedicated to him and his late partner Trilby Tucker (the T in TJs). Right now, I’m thankful that John turned up at the photo session for that record. His face is on the sleeve, in record collections the world over, for ever.
John was a great friend, a fantastic raconteur, a really excellent cook and just the kind of inspiration that a young ambitious buck could wish for. He was much loved by all the bands he saw along the way and helped propel to success: 60ft Dolls, Catatonia, Skindred, Rocket From The Crypt and many, many more. He was much more than a club owner: he was a kindred spirit, a guiding light in many respects and a willing participant in the still largely unheralded artform that was our rock’n’roll. He was very quick to recognise the value of our uncompromised ambitions and dreams, and he dived in with as much help as he could offer.
Personally, I will never forget his welcoming call whenever I would walk into TJs (“Andy Bastard!”), or the frequent dead arms (John liked to greet regular visitors with a playful punch). There are so many good times associated with John locked away in my memory that I am guaranteed many happy future years of recollection and remembrance.
When the work that we young folk of Newport did in the early to mid 1990s is finally given the recognition it deserves, John’s part in that process will truly be recognised. For now, the world will have to catch up with the 3,000+ (and growing) participants to his tribute page. We know. We know.
Whatever happens to TJs in the future, it’s what went on inside the walls that counts the most. I sincerely hope that John’s legendary frame will one day be commemorated with a big, big bronze statue and placed somewhere prominent in the city. Great writer though WH Davies might have been, I think it’s time Newport celebrated a more modern cultural icon.
I really did think he would outlive us all. This is a devastating time and my heart goes out to John’s family.
Tara John. You rock!
Sunday, 7 March 2010
Friday, 5 February 2010
Thursday, 28 January 2010
Thursday, 21 January 2010
Saturday, 16 January 2010
Thursday, 14 January 2010
I've worked my way through a good number of this kind of collection before and, to a man, they've always been a bit on the disappointing side. Publisher and reader alike harbour the same impossible dream: a deeper insight into their author's psyche through the examination of his/her obscurer bits and pieces. But it doesn't often work like that. (Oh, of course the publishers also want to make a few quid* on the side.)
For one thing, my earlier stuff really isn't all that good - as you're about to find out. Sorry! Included in this collection are a number of blogs written for my "Letters from Claptonia" project, back in the good old days of the Internet. Sometimes I miss the separation of being able to sit down at a computer and write these things. But times change. Certain essays, such as the eulogies to my father, are worth keeping, for sure. But my clumsy attempts at fiction seem listless and pale compared to later efforts.
At least, looking back through these things (the whole collection is available to view at OLMIS - the Old London Museum of Internet Studies - by the way), it is clear that I did have a grip on what lay around the corner for us humans in terms of mind-melds. I was picking symbolism, synchronicity and metaphor apart for a bloody past-time. And this, dear friends, was pre-2012.
I am indebted to Simon Badgee and Phil Tayling of the Bardboys i-group for their contribution of old print journalism that I had mercifully forgotten about. Where these two herberts found this stuff, I hate to think. I long since gave up hoarding my clippings. Some of these are too terrible to share, but I still stand by my review of the dreadful Huggy Bear and my lambasting of some of the lamer music acts of the late 1990s. The news journalism, from my very early days as a scribbler, is not up to much at all. Though from a historical perspective my coverage of the Newport Siege is maybe worth dipping into at least once.
Towards the end of this anthology is a short story entitled 'Flappy' which might ring some bells with readers already familiar with my best-known novels, 'I Saw A Bird' and 'Pie-Eater' (published 2042 and 2043 respectively). To call 'Flappy' a prototype is perhaps over-stretching things, but I certainly kept some of the themes and characters explored in that original story. Though the name and description of the news editor character in 'I Saw A Bird' is rather different to "Waldo" in 'Flappy', it's not that difficult to see that both are based on the same seedy culprit.
I suppose this collection has one or two alright-ish bits. It has a fair sprinkling of stinkers and a few unforgivable warts but way back then - like everybody - I wasn't expecting to live forever.
This is not a summing up, by the way. It's not a curtain call. A new novel is under construction and according to my i-physician I have a good few years in me yet.
This book is dedicated, as usual, to all of the cats in the old place.
Enjoy. And thanks for all the cheese.
Andrew J Barding, New Chicago April 2056.
* Quid. Slang for £s. The currency of the former United Kingdom.
Monday, 11 January 2010
Cued up for the silver screen was a missing (presumed wiped) clip from a July 1967 "Top of the Pops" show. The BBC had long since junked this programme - along with many others from its archive - but this off-air recording had festered for nearly 43 years in the collection of an unspecified 'eminent rock musician'.
The clip was on one-inch video tape, an abandoned format, and in a deeply sorry state. Technicians at the BFI's lab in Berkhamstead struggled to transfer what footage they could as the fragile reel shedded its dusty oxide with each rotation. Their painstaking project was archaeology in action.
Pints in hand, Neil and I settled in our plush black cinema seats and waited. Our fact sheets warned: "The picture quality is poor and sometimes non-existent. The picture rolls and sometimes disappears altogether, the sound fades in and out and rolls when the picture does. Virtually not one single minute was unscathed and yet... and yet...."
The BFI's Dick Fiddy was similarly pragmatic as he took the stage for his introduction. "The best way to watch this," he suggested, "is to imagine that we've discovered an amazing machine that gives us a tiny peephole through time."
We leaned forward as the lights dimmed. At once, a beaming Alan Freeman filled the screen, beseeching pop pickers to welcome that week's number three hit parade disc - from Pink Floyd.
The picture flickered, the sound dropped out, then Syd Barrett's face broke suddenly through a digital dropout to sing the opening line to 'See Emily Play'. After a few seconds, the music stopped. It rolled monstrously to a slowed-down growl, like a terrible death machine going into spasm. There was another flash of rolling picture, a drumkit, a flash of guitar, then a small explosive pop followed by a monochrome snowscreen. A flatline hiss roared through the speakers and we stared through the dots on the blank screen, willing the image to return. Another 30 seconds of black and white clarity followed and we once more saw Syd, resplendent in a tailored psychedelic jacket, sweating from the cheeks downwards: his chin glistening across a 20-foot screen. His eyes seemed full of excitement, nerves and worry. He looked, to borrow a 1990s vernacular, 4REAL. The BBC cameras turned to Roger Waters, his hair cropped savagely short, like a pageboy in blue velvet at a David Lynch wedding. He looked sinister and distant; uncomfortably numb.
By pop TV standards, this had to be special. These creatures were surely sent from space. Unlike the (actually very good) Turtles clip that followed it, this was more than kitsch 1960s nostalgia. Pink Floyd had re-emerged through this digital blackout like resurrected monsters from a different time and planet. They had come back for us. It was like that scene in Quatermass and the Pit, when the scientists in the Hobbs End tube station get their first view of the locusts from Mars...
It was a thrilling, voyeuristic, exhilirating experience, and Neil and I went off to drink wine and talk about it. Did the tape damage add to the experience? Did it make this clip more of a relic than it was? Is it just funny old telly? Or were Pink Floyd in 1967 really something to get excited about?
Perhaps a little of all these things. We had born witness to an extraordinary performance. And as we battled through the ice and arctic winds that whipped through the South Bank, we agreed that the archiving of pop culture by the BFI had to be a good thing. Pop culture has finally become more culture than pop.