Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Bedsitting Room

Ever heard of it? It was a movie I saw on YouTube on the weekend.

Unbelievably, this post about a movie produced in 1969 does link to Madness. On the old Madness website, with each song lyrics page, there was a link to a page that talked about what it was all about. Rather, a band member, likely the one who wrote the song, would have written a paragraph on what the song was about and how he or they got the idea for it.

The "What's it all about" paragraph on the song "Keep Moving" (the opening song on their album of the same name) was written by Suggs and said this:

"Carl and I, at my house in Camden mews, were trying to evoke the atmosphere of a film with a post-holocaust setting in which Spike Milligan is hanging out of a hot air balloon berating raggedy people stumbling round in a post nuclear wasteland through a loud hailer with the words "keep moving, keep moving". I identified with that - the ridiculousness of where we were going. There's also a bit in which a family live on a tube train going round on the circle line. The Dad, who is Roy Kinnear, jumps off at various stops to rob chocolate machines to feed them, but sometimes misses the doors and has to wait for the train to come back round. Did you see it? Hmmm... well, anyway, that wasn't what we ended up evoking!"

(The father wasn't played by Roy Kinnear, he was played by Arther Lowe. Roy Kinnear played "Plastic Mac Man").

Much later on, someone made the connection and identified the movie as The Bed-Sitting Room. This past weekend, after watching it in 9 parts on YouTube, I decided it was one of the weirdest, absurd movies I'd ever seen.
Certainly funny.
What I like is that the humor and writing sounds exactly like my type of writing. Those short stories I wrote in high school, those "Crazy Non-sensical Sentences" I called them, use the same kind of style of writing.
Here's the synopsis according to Wikipedia:
The film is set on the third or fourth anniversary of a war which lasted two minutes and twenty-eight seconds, including signing the peace treaty. Three years after the nuclear holocaust, several survivors wander amidst the debris of London. Penelope is 17 months pregnant and lives with her lover, Alan, and her parents in the remains of the London Underground.

Other survivors include Capt. Bules Martin, who holds a "Defeat of England" medal, as he was unable to save Buckingham Palace from disintegration during the war. Lord Fortnum (Richardson) is fearful that he will mutate into the "bed sitting room" of the title. Mate is a fireguard, except that there is nothing left to burn. Shelter Man serves as a regional "head of government" over a decimated population. Similarly, the "National Health Service" is the name of a male nurse, although overwhelmed by the extent of the past war. Finally, there are two policemen who hover overhead in a balloon and shout "keep moving" to offset the 'danger' of becoming a 'target' in the (unlikely) event of another outbreak of hostilities.

Lord Fortnum travels to 29 Cul de Sac Place and does become a bed sitting room. Penelope's mother is provided with a death certificate, after which she turns into a cupboard. Penelope is forced to marry Martin because of his "bright future", despite her love for Alan. Her father is initially selected to become Prime Minister due to his prodigious leg length, but unfortunately, he mutates into a parrot and is cooked and eaten due to the starvation conditions that prevail.

Penelope finally gives birth, but her monstrous mutant progeny dies. It emerges that Martin is impotent, so he yields marriage consummation to Alan. Penelope has a second child, who is normal, and there is an indication of hope for the future amidst the devastation. She, Alan and her child walk off together. A band pays homage to Mrs. Ethel Shroake of 393A High Street, Leytonstone, the late Queen's former charwoman, and thus closest in succession to the throne.

At the beginning, the cast is list in the credits in order of height.

The ridiculousness is also prevailent in the setting, where some scenes have the actors walking on the ground covered in china. The power is fueled by a guy tirelessly pedalling an exercise bike, which is connected to the system.

I won't embed it here, but I will suggest watching the film. The first part unfortunately has sound equalizing problems (it comes out of one speaker) but the rest sound alright. I'd recommend watching and listening using the speakers instead of the headphones.

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9

Weird and crazy indeed.

Justin C.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Finger-picking Crazy!

A while ago, I'd done a bit of digging and rediscovered the old songs I used to listen as a child. Few I still listen to now, but there's one that's hung on to my interest.

It was that old Hanson song "Where's the Love" that I used to like (and still do). I still listen to it now since the "reunion" because it sounds musically interesting, layered, complicated, fast, and just appealing. When I was young I listened more to the general music and the (apparent) female voices that I could barely discipher. You know, it was three younger adolescents (12, 14, and 17 respectively, at that time) that were singing, usually the 14 year old, and sometimes they didn't exactly say the lyrics properly because they were either singing too fast or had gotten briefly tongue-tied during their recording session - for instance "consciousness is fading" sounds to me like "constipated." The middle one (known as Taylor) actually said "constentence-is-pated" that second time.

But other than the slight squeaks they emitted at the end of some of their words, the run-over, bogged up pronunciation at times, and the fact that they seemed overly feminine (I was a young child, I knew no better!),
the music itself is really interesting. For one thing, I don't know where any keyboard comes in - I see Taylor playing one all the time but I can't detect it. Maybe it's a synthesizer and it's making one of the prominent sounds that I'm mistaking for something else. But otherwise, I just hear several guitars, drums, and bass.

It's still very complicated. The music was extremely well done. It's interesting and curious. What really gets me is the bass's pull and rhythm, its fastness. That's what makes the song really interesting and intricate to me, because that's how it sounds. And that's where I get the title for this post: I tried to learn it.

After making it compatible with my video editor, I put the song in, increased the bass, and slowed it down from three minutes to nine minutes (even at six minutes it was too fast). From there on I managed to pick up much of the intricate notes of the instrument, as I'd only figured out the general sound for both the chorus and the verses. Here's the thing:

I managed to lay down the quick little notes around the general ones. I just couldn't find the even more intricate, complicated extra bits of notes and finger movements. Plus, when you bring the song back up to normal speed (I should note that when I slow it down I keep the tone the same) the notes get buried in the super quick transitions and hand movements all over again and I cannot keep up at all.

It was finger-picking crazy.

Whoever came in and recorded the bass for that song was an ultimate master. I knew that it was a session player because the band itself consisted of three brothers, one playing a guitar, another playing drums, and a third playing a (impossible to hear on this song) double keyboards/singing. You know, the kind where there's an upper deck and a lower one. The band had no bassist. It was an amazing session player who could fret and pick with his hands five time faster than I could. Whew.

In time I'll get it down. But this song, along with a song by A Flock of Seagulls, is one of those that I can only learn with a lot of time for practice and patience. It was crazy. I can't keep up right now. In time, I hope I can, but not now. That song really has some accomplished music on it, whether the band played some of it or not.

Truly amazing. Except for the little squeaks emitted sometimes from the vocalist. They make him sound funny.

Update Jan 9: This is my 200th post.

Justin C.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Take it or Leave it!

I decided to, on routine, check up on a particular YouTube channel last night because that channel is amazing in terms of Madness material. I've heard things I'd never heard before such as demos and b-sides and experiments that band had produced. I've also found songs I'd wished I could hear on the computer but had on vinyl instead, and I found them on that channel.
Last night, I'd gotten a kind of Christmas present (well I counted it as that). It was a film, uploaded in nine parts.

In early 1981, the head of Stiff records Dave Robinson, who managed the band, got an idea to create a drama/documentary film of the band's formation. The film covered the band's first days of attempting to play music together, learning their instruments and changing their line-up. 

This was that film I'd located. Wow!

(Comes in 9 parts)

I'd known about the film for a little while. I'd seen snippets of it on YouTube. I'd read a bit about it. I really wanted to see it, because I found that kind of thing about the band fascinating. The problem was my location - it wasn't easy to come across Madness albums or singles here in Ottawa, let alone a low-budget, independent film on that band. We're in a different region. On VHS, we use the NTSC format. In the UK they use the PAL format. This is basically different viewing formats used on TVs. On DVD, the UK would be Region 2 while here we'd be Region 1. To keep the money coming in the film business, they limit the possibilities of getting something easily and free. There's no way I'd be able to see Take it or Leave it here. Wrong region or format. It wasn't a huge film, it was just something the band and the record label produced. It didn't garner a lot of attention and not a lot of people raved about it - only big fans of the band did, and that was a minority in the eighties world of pop idols and music. Everyone was too interested in Michael Jackson, Duran Duran, Madonna, or other big stars of the time to go and see a film about some band forming. Because of that, it wasn't mass produced and so it was unlikely that it would be found in video stores here in Ottawa, back then or now. Especially since North America never took interest in the band until they released their single "Our House."
Even their music is hard to come by, as I've only found it at places like CD Warehouse. The vinyl I managed to find at a record store at Lincoln Fields Mall.

It began in 1976 with Mike Barson (piano/keyboard) Chris Foreman (guitar) and Lee Thompson (sax) getting together one afternoon and playing to records. Throughout the next several years they'd accumulate members and change their line up, with Barson being the dominating authority. Eventually they got gigs in places such as the Dublin Castle and finally, with Chas Smash becoming the final member, they recorded their first album. After that scene, the film skips to the present day (that being 1981) where they're preparing to perform in front of a huge audience. That's where it ends.

It was very interesting to watch, seeing the members of the band doing other things than performing on music videos or on old live footage. I didn't expect to see Lee Thompson start a job as a truck driver, only to tear the roof off the truck due to the poles he'd put in sticking out the front and catching on a bridge. His reaction when they got to the site was hilarious.  "Sorry about that, the traffic. . .aaaahhh!"

I've been wanting to watch this for a long time, and now I've been able to. It was amazing. And very realistic and true.
Something to return to now and then. I'm glad I saw it. Many thanks to the owner of that YouTube channel - you're something special! Madness! Yeah!

Justin C.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Bass + Drums = Samantha Cover

I've managed to record both the drums and bass of that song, "Samantha," and upload it to YouTube:

It's an accomplishment. With my exact bass mentioned earlier, I then proceeded to record the
drums, using the bass cover to follow. After that I matched them up together, increased the
volume of the drums a bit, and the bass (to the drums) and then for good effect, added in
monochromes of my drums and bass.

Not bad?

I'll admit that the hi-hat sounds a bit messy, but it always does in this kind of situation, this kind of recording. It can't be completely perfect. But I'm happy anyways.

Cool? It's the first time I've ever tried this. Maybe I'll do more in the future. 2010 is getting off to a pretty good start.

Note: If the words are a little weird, well, this posting editor isn't working properly. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Justin C.

Perfect Sound

I can't believe it. I'm amazed. It was perfect.

What I'm talking about is a song I did - I covered Madness's 'Samantha' on the bass. Just for fun, I put the song itself under the video of me playing it, matching it up with my bass.

It sounded EXACT.

It was like the song was playing like normal - with a big bass boost.

The notes were perfectly right. The sound was exact. The timing was exact. I played the song exactly. 

I'm quite pleased. Because I learnt it and practiced it all by ear.

This is another example of the use of synesthesia - the tones and colors/textures I read from the music match the ones on my bass when I pluck the right note, right string. And when I've laid it down and practiced it, it almost becomes a substitute for the song - an extra bass boost, like mentioned above. 

Virtually amazing. It's quite exhilarating to be able to watch myself play something exactly right on an instrument.

I'm going to upload this video to YouTube. It's so cool. I really like it. I'm proud of my accomplishment. It didn't take very long for me to learn the song, not at all. That's another thing - it takes a very short time for me to do that. It comes to me very easily.

Expect a YouTube video soon. Wow.

Justin C.

Happy New Year!

Yes, believe the "posted at" time at the bottom. I am writing this at 12:30 am Eastern Standard time, and it is already 2010.

I wanted to write this earlier; preferably before the '00 decade became history. But I had no time - I was finishing my journal, and I didn't even do that in time.

So, I can only take solace in the fact that it is not 2010 yet in places like Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver, so this actually WAS written in 2009. And you thought I couldn't go back in time. Ha ha!

In this post I'm going to offer up my thoughts on this past year and decade. It will not be too long - I've already done this, twice, in my journal and another document, so I'm not really up to being extremely tedious and selective and blah blah blah. I've tired myself out by now. So here we go.

2009 was a pretty good year, better than most for several reasons. . .oh, wait, I have to describe a photo I just uploaded, wait a sec. . .

Alright, there it is. It's a photo of my TV screen, a great monochrome, of what happened elsewhere way more exciting than my basement. Now let's actually get a move on.

Yes, 2009 was a great year, better than others for a few reasons. For one, it was a year in which I was way more active in things. I started a co-op placement in February which turned me into a reporter for my favourite newspaper, a reporter of what went on at school. It was a nice, easy going job (until the deadline came) and the outcome is that I got to pursue my interests in photography and had the opportunity to get in on the action of school events and functions I never otherwise attended. I was at the top in grade 12. In 2008 I was off in some basement somewhere in a government building on Carling for my co-op placement. This year, I was on stage in the thick of it as the photographer for a big Cancer fundraiser event. It happened in 2008 - I just wasn't there at all and hadn't heard of it until I saw it in the yearbook, wishing I'd been there.

This year saw me doing more things, and trying things I'd never done before, such as asking someone out. I'd never asked a girl before. It was the most memorable, happiest day of the year for me. Might have been the happiest of the decade, since it was something I'd been gaining the courage to do since grade seven in 2003. Not for the same person of course but general girls I was interested in over the course of those years.

For the decade in particular, it was really a learning experience - adolescence is always a learning experience - and I met huge amounts of people, some of whom I became friends with. There were good times and bad times, some times being hugely wonderful, like mentioned above. I don't really know what else to say; it's almost 1:30 here in Ottawa. I traveled this past decade, both with my mother and father. I went to places such as Quebec City, Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Toronto, Vancouver, Lake Superior, and San Diego in 2008, my first international flight. I've swam in the salty waters of the Pacific and walked out into the Atlantic when the tide was low. I saw Toronto from high up in the CN Tower and built sand castles on the shores of Lake Superior. I walked down West Pender Street in Vancouver and up Younge Street in Toronto. I took huge amounts of photos of everything and played drums to Madness all the time, eventually playing bass as well. I flew around Ottawa on my 12th birthday and ate with all my teachers at Boston Pizza on my 18th. Two of my relatives were born in this decade, my half-sister and my cousin Nadya. I went camping with my father and family to Algonquin Park and then did it with the outdoor ed. group in grade ten. I finished through all my education. I started driving. I was in the Rideau Canoe Club for a time, kayaking in Mooney's Bay during the summer (very fun). I made a lot of friends and lost a lot of friends. I stayed away from girls due to shyness until high school, and had a friend who was of that gender by grade 10. I started college. 

I got a lot of things done.

Anyway there's too huge an amount of things to list or talk about, so the most I'll say is that it was the decade of my life. The decade in which I'm forever young. Decades of the future see me as an aging adult. Here's the best days of my childhood and adolescence. I can't and won't forget it. I'm putting together a chronology of all things I've done significantly this past ten years, and I've called it a 'Decade Book,' similar to the Yearbook. It's full of dates and photos, some of which were scanned in. I still have a lot to do, but it will be finished soon,  maybe I'll post parts of it on here. For the time being, however, goodbye to that wonderful decade of the '00s. The first decade of the millennium. 

The decade of my life.

Justin C.