Category Archives: Music

A New Dawn Fades into 2023


As 2022 slips into 2023 a new dawn fades, bringing with it that sense of expectation to make one’s life better than it was the previous year. Fresh start and all that malarkey.

It actually had the opposite effect and got me feeling quite nostalgic and, if truth be known, a little melancholy. I was playing a few old tunes on Youtube when a memory washed over me.

It was about when I was selling books in Italy in the 1980s and I ended up jamming Joy Division with a band.

Below is a little anecdote about it if you’re interested.

As 2022 slips into 2023 a New Dawn Fades.

1985. It was a freezing cold February afternoon in the Italian port of Livorno. I was about 21 years old. My overcoat collar pulled up against a flurry of snow, my winkle pickers squelching slush from the holes in the ends of them. I was wandering the docks trying to hawk books door-to-door. I hated the job but I didn’t have enough money for a flight home. I could see an enormous Italian naval frigate in the distance behind a chain link security fence. I headed towards it to get a closer look.

As I was walking past warehouses with my head down, shoulders hunched, I heard the faint hum of a band jamming. I looked up and saw an orange glow from a first floor broken window. I pushed at a paint-peeled door and walked up a flight of rickety wooden stairs, the music getting louder. At the top, the room opened up and, at the far side, a three-piece band was practising. They were playing Disorder, by Joy Division – one of my favourite bands. I watched them for a while from the shadows. Snow melting from my black hair, dripping onto the floorboards.

When they’d finished, the guitarist & vocalist spotted me and said something in Italian which I didn’t understand. (I’d been in the country a short while and had only learnt my sales pitch phonetically.) He spoke again and, this time, offered up his guitar in his palms for me to play. I shook my head then tentatively pointed at the bass. The bassist un-slung his guitar and gestured for me to join them. 

I swallowed hard. I wasn’t a very good guitar player. My fingers trembled as I took the bass from him and slid the strap over my shoulder. The three of them looked at me expectantly. The vocalist nodded encouragingly.

I began playing the bass riff of New Dawn Fades by Joy Division. It was one of the few songs I knew how to play and was confident about. It was also one of my favourites. After a few bars, the guitarist and drummer joined in. They knew what they were doing.

It felt exhilarating. We must have played that song for about 10 minutes straight. When we eventually stopped, I handed the bass gratefully back to its owner. He bowed his head in thanks.

The four of us just stood there looking at each other, smiling. Not talking. We had no need for language. Music had said what we could not.

Eventually, I left without saying a word and stepped out into the snowy night.

I sometimes think back to that experience and wonder what happened to those three guys. Did they make it in music? What are they doing now? Are they still alive? Still friends? Do they ever meet up and say – 

Hey, remember that guy who crashed our practice down by the docks? 

That was really surreal. 

Couldn’t speak a word of Italian.

Yeah, didn’t we play Disorder or something?

Nah, it was New Dawn Fades.

Oh, yeah, I remember.

Wonder what he’s up to now?

Probably dead.

Yeah, probably. He was heading towards the naval base.

.

(The story of my subsequent detention by Italian naval security guards is for another time.)

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Gilberto sings to Cornelia – new poem.


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Gilberto sings to Cornelia.

By David Milligan-Croft.

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Cornelia is 96-years-old,

With skin like crepe paper.

Her chest rattles like a percolator.

Her lungs have more fluid than oxygen.

Her arms are purple

From where they have drawn blood.

She sings between coughs.

.

Gilberto is a nurse

From Sierra Leone;

He loves to sing too.

He has sung in the church choir

Since he was 8-years-old.

.

Gilberto pulls up a chair

Beside Cornelia’s bed

And takes her bruised hand in his.

Softly, he begins to sing

Edelweiss to her.

.

Edelweiss, edelweiss,

Every morning you greet me.

Small and white

Clean and bright

You look happy to meet me.”

.

His voice is how I imagine

An angel might sing.

Gilberto sings

Until Cornelia’s gurgling stops,

And her gnarled fingers

Go limp.

.

.

*Edelweiss by Rodgers & Hammerstein from The Sound of Music.

.

για τη δέκατη μούσα μου

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Wet dreams, wet dishes and Wet Leg.


Who wants to hear music recommendations from an old fogey?

London Grammar; Billie Eilish; Sia; First Aid Kit; 21 Pilots; Caravan Palace and Mother, Mother, are just a few of the artists my young daughters have introduced me to.

One of the (many) benefits of having children late in life is the cultural influences they have that rub off on you.

Wet Leg are the latest musical phenomenon to pique my parental interest.

“Hang on a minute, is she singing about a ‘wet dream’?”

“Yes, dad,” rolls eyes to sister.

“Do you even know what a…”

“Yes, dad,” in unison.

Mumbles to self while washing dishes.

Anyway, much to my daughters’ disappointment, I think Wet Leg are brilliant.

The band was set up by besties Rhian Teasdale and Hesther Chambers on the Isle of Wight. And you can tell they’re best mates by the way they interact with each other on stage. They have a wonderful chemistry together. The other band members comprise of Henry Holmes, Ellis Durand and Josh Omead Mobaraki.

Their music is contemporary and reflects the zeitgeist of growing up in a consumer-driven social media society. (Yes, I really did just type that bullshit.)

They’re sassy and their lyrics don’t take any prisoners, cleverly encapsulating female empowerment (and vulnerability). Perfect role models for young girls and women. Garbed in 19th century American frontier-pioneering frocks, they’re the antithesis of the big-record-label-marketing department.

They seem to be having a hoot, (like they can’t quite believe this is happening either). They don’t take themselves too seriously and come across as pretty humble. They sing about the usual stuff – relationships, drugs and navigating the modern world, but with their quirky indie/pop-punk/rock signature harking back to the likes of The Breeders and surrealism of Talking Heads with a bit of vocal gymnastics reminiscent of Bjork. Rhian Teasdale doesn’t just sing the lyrics, she performs them. She gets into character. They’re playful, nonchalant and emotive.

Their self-titled debut album is absolutely fanatastic. Every song is a hit single. I can’t pick a favourite so here are a few for your delectation. Their videos are pretty cool too.

I’m trying to persuade my daughters to come to a gig with me. If you’re at the one in Manchester, I’ll be down the front in my wheelchair, with a tartan blanket across my knees waving a candle in the air, whilst simultaneously asking them to turn the music down a bit.

Addendum: I made my comparison to Talking Heads before I realised they had covered this.

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Mix Tape


Hands up, who remembers mix tapes?

I found one the other day, while I was emptying boxes, that an old girlfriend had made for me in the 90s. I couldn’t play it, of course, as I don’t have a tape deck anymore. Or a record player. Or a CD player. In fact, I don’t ‘physically’ own any music. It’s all in the ether. Intangible. Owned by Apple, Spotify, Youtube or some other super corporation.

It got me thinking about how I would go about making one now, if I felt the urge to translate my love through the medium of music to my new-found paramour.

So I wrote a poem about it. As you do.

Then I had an epiphany!

Why not go ahead and actually make the mix tape as part of the poem.

For ‘mix tape’, I mean playlist, obviously. So, here you are. 

(The link to the playlist is at the end.)

Mix Tape.

By David Milligan-Croft

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Don’t talk to me about love;

I was making mix tapes before you were born.

Speaking of which, just how old are you?

I may look old, but inside, I feel 33 1/3.

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It was easier to record from vinyl.

That way you could avoid abrupt endings. 

Fade in, fade out, like a Grandmaster Flash.

If you were slick, you might include excerpts

Of dialogue from old movies,

Or from great speeches like- ‘I have a dream!’

…That one day you’ll kiss me!

(Not sure that’s what MLK had in mind.)

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Recording off the radio was an art form.

You’d need the dexterity of a nuclear fission scientist

And a Watergate wiretapper to operate 

Play, pause and record simultaneously,

Before some schmaltzy DJ chimed in with his drivel.

And if your tape got chewed up

From too much stopping and starting,

You’d have to pull it all out until you found the kinks,

.

Straighten it, then stick a pencil in the spool 

And rewind it all back in again.

Praying it doesn’t happen while she’s listening to 

Je t’aime moi non plus.

.

I hope you like it.

It took me a whole weekend to put together.

Quite good fun though. Reminiscing, and all that.

I imagine you listening to it in your bedroom.

.

Lying on your bed, looking up at the ceiling.

Your long, velvet hair cascading over the pillow,

Thinking of me, thinking of you. 

Except we’re not Gainsbourg and Birkin.

.

The lyrics say things I never could,

Would or should. And are more self-indulgent 

Than a box of Thorntons. But what can I do?

I’m just a 20th Century Boy in love with a 21st century girl.

.

για τη δέκατη μούσα μου

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Time to Wise Up


I first became aware of Aimee Mann via her soundtrack for P.T. Anderson’s sensational ensemble movie “Magnolia”.

In fact, Anderson said it was Mann’s lyrics that inspired the screenplay. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to do so. It features an array of fabulous actors, including the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, John C. Riley, Julianne Moore, Melora Walters and a sublime acting masterclass from Tom Cruise. Here’s the trailer:

But it’s Aimee Mann’s classic, ‘literate lyricism’ that I want to revisit. Anderson actually used her lyrics as a dialogue in the movie for Claudia’s character played by Melora Walters:

“Now that I’ve met you,

would you object to,

never seeing each other again?”

Here are three of my favourite songs from the soundtrack, but this time from Live at St. Ann’s Warehouse, which I hadn’t seen before, so I wanted to share them with the class.

Enjoy.

And now, from the movie…

with the entire ensemble.

And here she is doing a cover of The Cars’ classic, ‘Drive’ about self-denial and facing up to alcoholism.

(You can still watch it, just click on the link to YouTube.)

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Japan tsunami – in memoriam


It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami struck Japan on March 11th 2011 claiming the lives of 18,500 people.

Here are some incredible before and after shots capturing the devastation and the rebuilding that’s gone on in the past decade.

At the time, all I could do was write a poem as I, like billions around the globe, bore witness to the calamitous event unfolding before us.

I felt impotent. I tried to sell prints of my poem for $1 online to raise funds, to no avail.

I wished I was something useful like a doctor or a nurse, or a rescue worker that could do something practical to help.

Then I thought of all the creative people I had encountered during my long career as an art director in the advertising industry and I asked them for help. The response was phenomenal. I got donations of works of art from all over the world to be put into an auction to raise money for the Red Cross who were working on the ground over there.

Less than a month later, we held the Japan Art Auction at Jonathan Oakes photography studio in Manchester, hosted by The Smiths drummer Mike Joyce. It was an incredible success and, thanks to a great many people, we raised quite a few grand.

A lot has changed in 10 years. As you can see by the photos in The Guardian link above.

Things have changed for me too. I am now a Nursing Assistant at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport.

And, whilst my poem did not raise a single dollar, it did inspire Austrian composer Albors Pascal Askari to write this hauntingly beautiful piece of music. All the proceeds from which also went to the Japan relief effort.

And, unbeknownst to me, my poem was on the English curriculum at several schools in London for a couple of years.

Who says poetry can’t make a difference?

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Voodoo Rage


Perhaps you know the 1988 classic acid anthem by its proper name – Voodoo Ray by A Guy Called Gerald. AKA: Gerald Simpson of 808 State fame.

I can’t say I was ever into acid house music, but I always loved this track. I heard it on the car radio the other day and it took me right back to my halcyon nights at the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester.

Apparently, Gerald sampled a Derek and Clive radio sketch by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. Cook actually says: “Voodoo rage”, but Simpson’s recording equipment only had enough memory to catch the “Voodoo Ra…” part. Thus, an acid-house legend was born.

Serendipity.

The emphatic “Later!” is sampled from Dudley Moore’s character, Bo Dudley.

The hypnotic, trance-like vocals are by Nicole Collier.

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The Violence of Silence


This is a new poem I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks. It’s not about Black Lives Matter, but it was inspired by it. Or rather, the silence of the white majority to the unfair and unjust treatment of black people and people of colour. The implicit violence that silence can bring.

That is the only connection – silence. And how crushing it can be.

Please be advised that the following poem contains harrowing themes.

The Violence of Silence.

By David Milligan-Croft.

The smirk,

The eyeroll,

The sigh.

The undoing,

The redoing,

The restacking the dishwasher,

The recapping the toothpaste.

The elbow grease on the bath,

The busying of the dishcloth.

The fingertrail in the dust,

The torment,

The subterfuge,

The game.

The song unplayed on the turntable,

The needle stuck in the groove.

The portrait on the wall,

Staring into an unseeable space.

The spent match.

The sheet music on the stand.

The dried paintbrush.

The gagged canvas.

The unwritten manuscript,

Of characters without a story,

Or Motive.

The spoon in the can.

The creeping mould.

The hungry bottle,

The greedy glass.

The torn betting stub.

The baby shoes in their box.

The unworn party dress.

The deflated balloon.

The candle wax on the cake.

The forlorn swing.

The jury’s gaze.

The unwound watch,

Ticking in your head.

The heaving chest,

The eyes cast down,

Searching the floor for an escape route.

The unanswered call.

The empty wardrobe.

The rosary beads on the dresser.

The bulging suitcase.

The silent doorbell.

The ‘closed’ sign on the shop.

Fallen petals on a florist’s floor.

The midnight car lot.

The despondent moon.

The fallen tree in the forest.

The charred embers.

The ripple without a stone.

The starling without a murmuration.

The stalking wolf.

The disused canal.

The stagnant water.

The ghost of a railway line.

The forbidden tunnel.

Fragments of a life unlived;

Or lived.

Who knows?

Or cares.

The drop of the body,

From the bridge.

Falling

Into the darkness.

Silence.

The stoic rocks.

Then violence.

The relevance of the cello piece? I adore the cello and I thought the subject matter of the poem suited the haunting and melancholy sound. If you are familiar with the lyrics of Chandelier by Sia, you’ll see why I chose it as an accompaniment.

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Parr Excellence.


Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Martin Parr would probably groan in pun-staking agony at that headline.

Oh well, you’re here now.

Martin Parr is one of Britain’s greatest photographers. Actually, make that ‘the World’s’.

He manages to capture the zeitgeist of working-class life in all its gaudy technicolour, wherever he goes. Whether that be Barnsley or Brazil.

He’s known for his satirical and ironic documentary-style images that look at our insatiable rapaciousness for consumerism. That, and people eating chips.

Martin Parr

I’m not here to write his biography, just show you some of his brilliant work. If you’d like to know a bit more about him, his life, his work, his foundation and his legacy, click here. But if you just want to see more photos of people eating chips, scroll down.

Ireland.
USA. Kentucky Derby. 2015.
ITALY. Capri. Marina Piccola. 2014.
Sexy Beast, anyone?
Uruguay.
Barry Island. 1996.
WALES. Glamorgan. Tower Colliery. 1993.
Wales. Tenby. 2018.

If you want to have a look at some of his most recent projects, have a look here. You won’t be disappointed.

GB. England. Kent. Margate. 1986.
GB. England. Bristol. Pride. 2019.

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Now, I am not.


index

What with the Coronavirus and all this isolation, it’s given us all a lot of time to think about things. Some positive, some not so much.

I’m not a religious person per se, in that, I don’t subscribe to any particular theism. I guess the closest I would come is Pantheism. Even then, I have my own theories about it. In fact, I wrote my own Creation myth to go with it! (I’ll post that at some point in the future.) Or will I? Because the future doesn’t exist. Or, does it? Is everything predetermined… whoa! You’ve got me off track.

Phew, that was close.

We could’ve been here for hours discussing that particular conundrum.

What I do think about a lot is death. Don’t go! I don’t mean that in a depressing way. More of a philosophical one. What happens when we die? Is there an afterlife? Does such a thing as reincarnation exist?

What’s that got to do with Covid-19?

Well, a lot of people have died from it. And nature seems to be thriving since we’ve isolated ourselves from huge swathes of it. So, what is the point of us? Is there one? Are human beings as insignificant as a dandelion? (Or, significant, if you’re a dandelion.)

I dunno. I don’t have the answers.

What I do know is that human beings are made of energy. We can’t live without it. That’s not my opinion, it’s a scientific fact. Another scientific fact is that energy can never be created nor destroyed. The atoms that created you and I came from the Big Bang. And they will not go anywhere, but back into the universe. That means, the atoms that make up you and I have been pottering about the universe for the past 13.8 billion years! God knows what mine have been up to. It can’t have been good.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the energy that keeps you and me alive maintains its sentience once it leaves our bodies. But it did make me think of a poem.

It’s one I wrote a while ago and came to mind because of what’s going on in the world. How quickly and easily life can be arbitarily snuffed out whilst other life thrives. Perhaps the question is not, does human life have purpose? But, doesn’t all life have purpose?

dynamic-protein-atlas-of-human-cell-division

Now, I am not.

By David Milligan-Croft

 

I am an electron.

I am an atom.

Now, I am not an atom.

I am a star.

I am a white dwarf.

I am primordial gloop.
Now, I am not.

Now, I am molten lava,
Coursing through the juvenile earth.

Now, I am not.

I am a rock.
Marble, to be specific.

From the cliffs of Massa and Carrara.

Now, I am not a rock.

I am an amoeba.
Now, I am two amoeba.

I am sky.

I am cerulean-blue sky.
I am cloud – I am rain – I am river.
I am
w
a
t
e
r
f
a
l
l,

I am ocean.

I am vapour.

I am a droplet of dew on a monkey puzzle tree.
Now, I am not a droplet of dew on a monkey puzzle tree.

I am a puzzled snow monkey in a hot thermal spring.

I am a tiger.

I – am – a – tiger.

Waiting.

Watching.

Padding.

Creeping, slowly through the long grass.

I see you with your spear.

I. Am. Tiger.

Now, I am not.

I am a slave.
Skin flaking from my red-raw back
Like cherry blossom petals.

Now, I am free.

I think I am a Greek.
Therefore, I am not a Greek.

I am a hoplite.
My dory has shivered,
My hoplon is buckling.
Now, I am not.

I am a foetus.
I hear my mother’s muffled weeping
From somewhere close by.
Now, I am not a foetus.

I am the darkness
That envelops you.

I am a judas.
All that have gone before
And all that will come.

Now, I am a magician.
Now, I am not a magician.
Ta-daaaah!

Now, I’m a daddy!
I cradle your delicate life in my trembling palms.

One day, I will be your father no more,

But, for now,

I am.

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