Two years ago was meant to be The Bleeding Obvious’ breakout year. We all know what happened so there’s no point going over it, but I’m pleased to say 2022 was the year of performance and (aside from the day job) very little else. 15,000 miles and a lot of new experiences later, here we are…
Around 1:30am early this morning I fell through the door after touring the show Rainbow Heart around the UK, a self-booked and self-promoted series of gigs which sought to relate the whole coming-out thing and the search for gender and sexual identity.
Yesterday afternoon the news rolled across our local media that Unity Works (formerly Unity House), one of the larger venues in Wakefield had been placed into administration resulting in all future gigs being cancelled and events and weddings left without a venue. The reasons for the collapse will be speculated upon for years to come as it’s all unpicked and analysed but I’d like to share some personal memories of the story.
Last March I wrote about a project which had been a rework of a direction that didn’t sit right post-Debut. A lot has happened since then, and tomorrow (31st July) my new album Rainbow Heart hits online stores, with the show premiere on Saturday 12th August in Wakefield. It’s a coming-out album, yet not specifically my coming-out album.
Three weeks to go until the album launch gig (got your tickets yet?) and a little pile of press coverage has come in – mostly positive, the odd bit of “yeah she dropped the ball at that point”, but generally damn fine. Colour me pleased!
It is done, sent off, completed. The studio is once again quiet and tidy – I’ve even managed to hoover the rug. Even so, it’s littered with soldered makeshift instruments and lyrics scribbled, printed and sellotaped to random surfaces: they adorn the shelves, the mic stands, even the back of my chair. But my first solo album is finished and out of the door – it’s a wrap!
Those of you who are regular readers will know of my love of all things Eurovision: the song contest which, despite being about us all getting on and loving each other is quite the global battleground. I threw Eurovision parties alongside my ex for around ten years, then in more recent times hosted small intimate get-togethers while friends watched the show. Last year I said I wouldn’t host another one, so throwing caution to the wind I booked myself a ticket to Stockholm for the Eurovision Song Contest 2016.
Having a bit of spare time on my hands over Christmas last year I started writing music again, all leading up to an album release on 17th November 2016, a year after the first song was written. It’s a bit of a mix of genres and styles, but I play most things on there, involving talented pals when it feels right.
Last weekend Simon and I revisited our Eurovision Song Contest 2015 submission “Mirrorball” (which didn’t get picked, obviously – that laudation going to Electro Velvet). We did however decide it needed to be released properly, and when better to do it than Eurovision season itself?
Similar to last year, I contributed an article for Leeds independent Jumbo Records‘ fanzine to commemorate Record Store Day 2015, carefully put together by my lovely pals Reb and Antonia – given lots of people won’t have managed to get a copy, I’ve reproduced the article here…
Yeah, I know, it definitely wasn’t on the plan, but here we are… I’m part of an all-female act called Unity from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, UK, who are hoping to represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015 with our song Mirrorball.
A rollercoaster of a year and, frankly, a bloody awful one. Major things happened this year in my life and although I’m not going into them publicly, it’s left me a shattered wreck of the person I was. 2014 doesn’t hold much promise either. I left my New Year’s Day entry for 2013 hoping friendships wouldn’t change and in actual fact nothing could have been further from reality.
So instead of going into it, here’s 12 music videos and a brief note why each one.
January’s choice happened at about 3am on 1st January 2013 in the aftermath of our (then annual) New Year’s Eve party, with a friend in a Freddie Mercury outfit dancing with a hoover.
I photographed Spizz Energi at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. Wasn’t too bad, but the reviewer was a bit confused as to why I’d shown up there.
Space singing Burn Down The School. They were being supported by a friend’s band and this one turned out to be a fantastic gig to photograph as well. Bern did a review with pics by moi.
I discovered Adam Buxton’s BUG and went to the National Media Museum for a lecture on the evolution of music video. This is one of the more brilliant ones.
One of the highlights of Live At Leeds 2013 for me was Darwin Deez. This video was actually also part of the BUG lecture but deserves to be here in its own right.
All hell breaks loose and I make some serious life decisions. This was playing on the dancefloor on my first night ‘out’.
Dutch Uncles performing Bellio. A highlight of Tramlines 2013. I spent a lot of time this Summer talking to Joe Sheerin of Leeds-List who tolerated me talking a lot of stuff at him. We sat sidestage and watched Dutch Uncles groove as it got colder on The Green.
By August, I was photographing festivals almost every weekend and gradually coming out of my shell. This one reminds me of Beacons 2013 – my first camping festival in years – not because John Grant was there but because it was playing in the car both to the festival and back from it.
The final festival of the year was Bingley Music Live. I ended up talking with Nile Rodgers backstage for a short while; I was in a bad place psychologically, and he helped. So it can be claimed that 1st September 2013 was the day Nile Rodgers saved my life.
The last time I went to a gig and ‘maled-up’ for it. I was a wreck. I tried though, I did honestly try and get through it, but it was very difficult.
A song from a friend’s band who don’t perform any more, and this was one of the last songs they wrote a few years ago. For some reason I latched onto it again in December, and danced to it in the kitchen on Christmas Eve. You should always dance in the kitchen – it’s law. If you watch the video carefully, you can see my head bobbing up and down in front of the stage – I was photographing it.
There came a flurry of news just before bedtime last night that high-street chain HMV was going into administration. It’s been on the cards since at least 2007 and while it’s extremely unfortunate that mismanagement of the administration led to staff finding out via the media (accompanied by scuttlebutt and faux-sadness on Twitter) I can’t say I’m surprised in the slightest.
This morning there’s a lot of punditry flying around regarding HMV’s business model, competitors, the inevitable comparisons with online vendors (and HMV’s own failed foray into online sales some years ago), the links to piracy, MP3s, iTunes, and tons more. Yet however you look at it HMV’s business model is completely and utterly flawed: the chart CDs stocked are sold cheaper in bulk to Asda so margins are nonexistent, racks are full of ‘classic’ albums you can find chucked out in Oxfam, there’s very little (if any) stock of local music, and when you want something out-of-the-ordinary you’re bang out of luck unless you want to order it in and wait a week. Just like Jessops before them, they’re box-shifters with stock even Del Boy would find hard to pass on.
It hasn’t always been so. Contrast it with the mid-90s when HMV stocked dance vinyl and had entire racks of ‘interesting stuff the staff found’ complete with a small sticker telling you what it was like – comments like ‘big farty bass and a synth line your mum will hate‘. That was brilliant – it’s how I discovered artists such as A Tribe Called Quest and labels such as FFRR, but that disappeared at the turn of the century and I found other outlets.
(Exception to the rule: the last CD I bought from HMV was This Sporting Life by Skint & Demoralised. I bought it there because I knew one of the lads worked at the Wakefield shop and if anywhere would have a copy, they would…)
I’ll admit I’m a marginal case: I like physical media. I browse CDs, I play vinyl, I buy from small shops such as Crash and Jumbo, I order from independent online stores such as HTFR or Norman Records where possible, and I pester local record labels for CDs rather than downloads. I love exploring liner notes and artwork just as much as listening to the music. The local independent record shop in Cottingham made a fortune out of me in my Uni days, and when we lived in London my wife used to curse because I’d go to Tower Records (RIP), browse the bargain bins and return at 11:30pm with two carrier bags full of stuff I quite liked the look of. Controversially nowadays I also use Amazon – most commonly at music festivals and gigs where I’ll 1-click order a load of the support act’s CDs (well, when they’re not on the merch stand anyway) – but it’s still physical media. I guess I’m in a minority now; not ‘down with the kids’.
The folks who have the bargain-bin physical media philosophy bang-on are That’s Entertainment, which is where your Music Magpie CDs end up (it tickles me that they spotted an opportunity to have a pop at HMV in Manchester). There’s one in the Ridings Centre in Wakefield where I can spend a happy (but costly) hour digging and finding CDs I didn’t even know I wanted, sometimes at five for a fiver. They participated in a small way in Record Store Day last year and it’s somewhere even my kids with their limited pocket money can buy a computer game or a bit of music. Winner.
Will I miss HMV if it does completely disappear? Nah, I can’t even think of a company who might want to pick the chain up other than for the HMV.com domain name. Perhaps it’ll leave a void which can be filled once again by the small shops it killed in the late 80s and early 90s, and although I doubt Wakefield would provide enough business to support it it’d be nice to see a JAT or EGS return to Wakefield’s streets. While browsing Twitter I came across @charlottegore who hit the nail on the head in one sentence: “HMV are a company that wasted lots of money paying rent to keep unsold CDs and DVDs on public display in prime locations.”