Six Songs of Me

On Being an Indie Fan
Quite some time ago, early last decade, the Guardian ran a popular segment on their music blog called Six Songs of Me that was always an enjoyable read. Of course what self-respecting record collector wouldn’t want to share their choices and wax lyrical about the songs that shaped them. So here we are.
 
What was the first song you ever bought?
 
A very early memory of my record buying life is walking around Asda in Coatbridge, trailing after my mum pushing the shopping trolley. In those days, just inside the door was the bakery and next to the bakery, heated shelves with sausage rolls, pies, and other pastries. In some manner, to shut my brother and I up, we would be given a pie each, as we trailed around. This particular day, before my pie, I got to choose a 7″ from the music section. I can’t tell you it was absolutely the first song, but it’s the first I remember. Pepsi and Shirley, Goodbye Stranger. I can still remember, to this day, the cover of the record, which – on getting it home – spent the rest of its existence sporting a perfectly round ring of grease from an Asda scotch pie carelessly sat on top of it. Thankfully prior to this, I had been given a cassette copy of Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys and had been set very much on my way, but I had to get through that inevitable phase most 80s pre-teens had.
 
 
What song always gets you dancing?
 
I’m not much of a dancer, but it’s hard to avoid the kinetic desire to shift from one buttock to the next and back as soon as this recognisable Wurlitzer part picks up but when that snare kicks in and the handclaps start, it’s time to get up out of your seat and hit the dance-floor. Seeing Belle and Sebastian play The Boy with the Arab Strap live is a joyous experience with the inherent audience participation on stage. This song comes on, and I’m dancing, whether it’s in the shower, at my desk, or at the indie disco.
 
 
What song takes you back to your childhood?
 
From birth, my brother and I didn’t stand a chance. Music was an integral, unforgettable part of our lives. Given that Graham and I were named after the 4 members of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, a certain nominative determinism took over, and thankfully the guitar came to the fore, rather than the cocaine. While the first song I remember buying is certainly a forgettable piece of bubble-gum pop, the first album I had for my very own is arguably one of the greatest albums of pop music that exists. Apparently I played Brian Wilson’s Beach Boys’ magnum opus Pet Sounds so often on the record player, that my dad gave me his cassette copy – to which, much to his dismay, I immediately inscribed my name on the front cover. So much was my delight at having it be mine.  There are few songs that transport me back to the living room of my childhood home in Airdrie than this one. That introduction. Those harmonies.
 
 
What is your perfect love song?
 
Brian Wilson is responsible for a lot of music I love, and for a lot of music I love written by people who love Brian Wilson. R.E.M.s Mike Mills clearly wanted to pay homage to Wilson and to the Beach Boys with one of R.E.M.’s few overtly explicit love songs. Of course, the song finds its perfection not only in the piano, or the vocal harmonies, or that my own guitar hero, Peter Buck, playing Hal Blaine-esque drums on the song, but also from Stipe’s earnest and beautiful lyrics. “I save your messages just to hear your voice… you always say your name like I wouldn’t know it’s you”. “I count your eyelashes, secretly. With every one whisper I love you, I let you sleep”. The song feels like a perfect encapsulation of any time I’ve ever been in love. Perfect.
 

 
What song would you want at your funeral?
 
A funeral song is a tricky one to decide upon. Should it be sombre? Celebratory? Do I want rivers of tears? Sunshine smiles? Maybe a little bit of both? A perfect example of that is Mogwai’s New Paths to Helicon Part 1. I don’t think much more needs to be said, except maybe to say… play the whole thing. And play it fucking loud.
 
 
Time for the encore. One last song that makes you, you.
 
To some degree, my early teens were spent in ignorance of the music being created just down the road from Airdrie, in Bellshill, or in Hamilton, or in Motherwell, or in Holytown. The indie music scene in Lanarkshire in the late 80s through to the mid-90s was in astonishing thing indeed. BMX Bandits, The Soup Dragons, The Boy Hairdressers, and many more. Through coincidence more than design, I seemed to come-of-age, musically speaking, just as the first wave of Chemikal Underground bands, The Delgados, Mogwai, Arab Strap et al, were breaking out and from that moment to this, I’ve been rarely as proud of my place of birth as I am with its musical heritage. And around the same time, as a 15 year old, I was introduced to Teenage Fanclub’s Thirteen album by Fraser Simpson, later of Laeto, and knew something had changed forever. Radio is my favourite from this record and a song that really does make me, me.
 
Time for the encore. One last song that makes you, you.
 
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2020/5=404 (error)

Blethering

2020 began at a pace that surprised even me – and I’m someone who uses the new year like a stretched and primed elastic band, ready to ping my plans and me into swift, expeditious action. By the end of the first week of January, I’d clocked up 21 hours of guitar practice, 8 new song ideas, 1 album and 1 e.p. learned, 6 books read, 5 movies watched, and a partridge hoping to escape the pear tree for another year.

And the year has continued at that pace: To date, dozens of song ideas recorded on my phone, or on Logic Pro; several demos and recordings started, continued, finished; 31 books read; 42 movies watched; 222 hours guitar practice; 3 albums and 1 e.p. learned; 1 Rickenbacker purchased; and for my birthday, 1 trip to Scotl… Ah, no, no, no.

You see, as my 41st birthday was approaching like a slow-motion bus crash, the world decided it had had quite enough of my optimistic and productive 2020 thank you very much, and coughed up the rather belligerent Covid-19. I can’t remember, and it would take 30 seconds to check, the exact date Poland was tightened down. (Historians, feel free to exit through the gift shop). It was a couple of weeks post-Italy. Since then though, I’ve been self-isolating the fuck out of this thing.

I could while away the hours (if I only had a brain) playing video games, or watching the multitudinous TV shows and movies on my watchlist, or read the (literally? Literary?) 100s of books on my reading list – and to be fair, as this goes on, I probably will – but for now, I have the strong desire to be as creative and productive as I can.

Of course performing with the band has proven to be impossible in this time, and so we’re on an enforced hiatus, but it’s my intention to be ready with so much music when we get ourselves back together, that we won’t know quite what to do with ourselves. And in addition to that, I’ve begun working on my new solo record also. And then there’s the other thing, but I’m not speaking about the other thing until the other thing is a thing.

So I’m back to this blog. To write (often parenthetically) about my work, my music, my pets, my guitars, my life, my love, and my voracious pop-culture diet – which, as was recently said to me, is somewhat more nutritious than my actual diet. That’s fair.

More soon.

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Radio Kapitał Episode 17 – 19/03/2020

Neil Milton Listens To...

Neil Milton Listens To… on Radio Kapitał

This month, I started reading Holly George-Warren’s excellent biography of Big Star’s Alex Chilton, and it prompted this month’s direction. For March, we’re heading down an avenue of vocal harmonies, chiming guitars, and pounding drums.

Episode 17 of the show is the second and final of a 2-part series of listening to Power Pop.

RADIO KAPITAŁ Episode 17: Neil Milton Listens to… Power Pop: Part 2

1. Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers – Roadrunner
2. The Go-Gos – We Got The Beat
3. Raspberries – Overnight Sensation (Hit Record)
4. R.E.M. – Pop Song ’89
5. Badfinger – If You Want It
6. The Beatles – Paperback Writer
7. Boyfriends – I’m In Love Today
8. We’ve Got A Fuzzbox and We Know How To Use It!! – Pink Sunshine
9. Smudge – Ingrown
10. Babys – If You’ve Got the Time
11. The Heaters – Put on the Heat
12. Cheap Trick – Come on, Come On
13. Shivvers – Teenline
14. Blondie – One Way or Another
15. The Posies – Dream All Day

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Radio Kapitał Episode 16 – 05/03/2020

Neil Milton Listens To...

Neil Milton Listens To… on Radio Kapitał

This month, I started reading Holly George-Warren’s excellent biography of Big Star’s Alex Chilton, and it prompted this month’s direction. For March, we’re heading down an avenue of vocal harmonies, chiming guitars, and pounding drums.

Episode 16 of the show is the first of a 2-part series of listening to Power Pop.

RADIO KAPITAŁ Episode 16: Neil Milton Listens to… Power Pop: Part 1

1. Big Star – In the Street
2. Velvet Crush – Hold Me Up
3. The Bangles – Crash and Burn
4. The Flamin’ Groovies – Shake Some Action
5. The Byrds – Have You Seen Her Face
6. Orange – Judy Over The Rainbow
7. The Pipettes – It Hurts To See You Dance So Well
8. Ash – Burn Baby Burn
9. Records – Starry Eyes
10. The dBs – I’m in Love
11. Bob Mould – Sunshine Rock
12. Nikki and the Corvettes – You’re The One
13. The Wondermints – Ride
14. Let’s Active – Every Word Means No
15. Teenage Fanclub – The concept

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Radio Kapitał Episode 15 – 21/02/2020

Neil Milton Listens To...

Neil Milton Listens To… on Radio Kapitał

Many years ago, I was turned on to an amazing compilation album called “Ohm” The Early Gurus of Electronic Music. It featured many of the composers and artists that you’ll hear this month. Avant garde, musique concrete, tape music. Lots of incredible experiments.

Episode 15 of the show is the second of the 2-part series of listening to the Early Pioneers of Electronic Music.

RADIO KAPITAŁ Episode 15: Neil Milton Listens to… Early Pioneers of Electronic Music: Part 2

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Radio Kapitał Episode 14 – 7/02/2020

Neil Milton Listens To...

Neil Milton Listens To… on Radio Kapitał

Many years ago, I was turned on to an amazing compilation album called “Ohm” The Early Gurus of Electronic Music. It featured many of the composers and artists that you’ll hear this month. Avant garde, musique concrete, tape music. Lots of incredible experiments.

Episode 14 of the show is the first of the 2-part series of listening to the Early Pioneers of Electronic Music.

RADIO KAPITAŁ Episode 14: Neil Milton Listens to… Early Pioneers of Electronic Music: Part 1

1. Olivier Messiaen – Oraison
2. Włodzimierz Kotoński – Etiuda na jedno uderzenie w talerz (Study for one cymbal stroke)
3. Delia Derbyshire & Brian Hodgson – John Peel’s Voice
4. Delia Derbyshire – Planetarium
5. Delia Derbyshire – TARDIS – Doctor Who
6. Pierre Schaeffer – Etude aux Chemises de Fer
7. Alvin Lucier – Music on a Long Thin Wire
8. Karlheinz Stockhausen – Kontakte
9. Bogusław Schaeffer – Symfonia na taśmę
10. Holger Czukay – Boat-Woman-Song
11. Paul Lansky – Mild und Leise

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Radio Kapitał Episode 12 – 09/01/2020

Neil Milton Listens To...

A new year and a new month of Neil Milton Listens To… on Radio Kapitał

It’s Oscars season, so episode 12 of the show is the first of my 2-part series of listening to the film music of John Williams.

So, here it is… part 1, the first of 2 parts of Neil Milton Listens To… The Film Music of John Williams.

RADIO KAPITAŁ Episode 12: Neil Milton Listens to… The Film Music of John Williams: Part 1

1. Star Wars
2. Lost in Space
3. Jurassic Park
4. Towering Inferno
5. Space Camp
6. The BFG
7. Munich
8. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone
9. Saving Private Ryan
10. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

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Radio Kapitał Episode 11 – 21/11/2019

Neil Milton Listens To...

Episode 11 on Radio Kapitał is the second of my 2-part series of listening to songs that inspired the writing and recording of R.E.M.’s album, Monster – which celebrates it’s 25th anniversary this year.

As written about earlier in this blog, this album is incredibly important to me – even life-changing – so I wanted to dig a bit deeper into it.

So, here it is… part 2, the final of 2 parts of Neil Milton Listens To… Songs That Inspired R.E.M.’s Monster.

RADIO KAPITAŁ Episode 11: Neil Milton Listens to… Songs That Inspired R.E.M.’s Monster: Part 2

1. R.E.M. – I took your name
2. Patti Smith – Gloria
3. The Ramones – Blitzkrieg Bop
4. Pulp – Common People
5. Velvet underground – Pale Blue Eyes
6. The Cranberries – Zombie
7. Veruca Salt – Seether
8. David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust
9. Suede – Animal Nitrate
10. Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box
11. R.E.M. – Let Me In

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Radio Kapitał Episode 10 – 14/11/2019

Neil Milton Listens To...

Well now, it’s November already, and because of the “every 2 weeks” schedule  of my show, and the 5 shows last month, we’re now onto a 2nd and 4th Thursday of the month schedule until another 5 week month might flip us back to 1st and 3rd Thursdays again.

Episode 10 of my show on Radio Kapitał is the first in a 2-part series of listening to songs that inspired the writing and recording of R.E.M.’s album, Monster – which celebrates it’s 25th anniversary this year.

As written about earlier in this blog, this album is incredibly important to me – even life-changing – so I wanted to dig a bit deeper into it.

So, we begin, as logic dictates, at the beginning.

Here it is… part 1, the first of 2 parts of Neil Milton Listens To… Songs That Inspired R.E.M.’s Monster.

RADIO KAPITAŁ Episode 10: Neil Milton Listens to… Songs That Inspired R.E.M.’s Monster: Part 1

1. R.E.M. – What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?
2. T. rex – Metal Guru (The Slider, EMI, 1972)
3. The Stooges – No Fun (The Stooges, Elektra, 1969)
4. Elastica – Connection (Deceptive, 1995)
5. Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl (Kill Rock Stars, 1993)
6. Roxy Music – 2HB
7. Television – See No Evil
8. Sonic Youth – Washing Machine
9. Mudhoney – Touch Me I’m Sick
10. Blur – This Is A Low
11. R.E.M. – Tongue

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