you cannot really get any more chickfactory than tracey thorn. back when the early ebtg records came out, I think I even wrote her a fan letter. when some of you kids were in nappies, I was watching them at the 930 club in dc (their love not money album helped me through my summer of measles). when I worked at spin, I tried to get a tracey interview, but it wasn’t meant to be (I was not digging their early ’90s style anyway, truth be told). then! when I worked at timeout new york I did finally get to interview ms tracey (she: poolside; me: at my desk in the noisiest, penitentiary-chic office ever, with a failing phone-taping gizmo in my hand), and it was like one of the worst interviews ever. perhaps because it was 15 years after the time when I was a really big fan of her music. tracey has an amazing voice and that will likely never change. the choices that she and ben watt make (drum n bass springs to mind) don’t always make sense to me but sometimes they make sense to other people. the songs that they choose or write are not always up to snuff, if only because those first albums and singles were so damn good (even if my fellow college radio mates made serious fun of me for liking it!). so now, 24 years after her first solo lp, a distant shore, tracey has a new solo album, but you people may be even more interested to hear her magnetic fields covers. she has always been aces at covers (her “night and day” and “femme fatale” trump a lot of others). hey trace, why not just do a whole album of merrittunes? (I am sure there was a 6th-ing attempt way back when anyway…)
photography: stephin merritt by gail o’hara
my father was a prescient man. he bought me an edith piaf album years before I was smart enough to realize that I was going to be a fan of edith piaf. how did he know? perhaps he knew me better than I knew… he did bring in a lot of those albums that went on to form my wimpy musical taste (roberta flack, barbra streisand, the fifth dimension, don mclean). anyway, it took a while, but now who reading this site does not like mlle edith? (okay, some of you…) the ladies and I went to see the new film la môme at the barbican the other night and what a sad tale! I would not have constructed it in that way if I had been the filmmaker, but it held our interest and made us weep. she sang so hard her eyebrows popped out! she could put some serious lungpower into any room. she looked so damn old at the end and she was only supposed to be 47! hard living lady, she was. anyway, the guardian went and got an interview with ginou richer, the woman who hung out with the little sparrow back in the day, in case you are interested. we are going to try to sing “non, je ne regrette rien” the next time we do karaoke (ah, but we won’t be able to do it as convincingly as she, because we do have regrets!), meanwhile, head to youtube and watch some lovely old footage of the voice of paris.
I do realize that liking gilbert o’sullivan is painfully uncool, but I do! especially that hit song from 1972 called “alone again (naturally),” which is like my personal theme song, but “clair” is also pretty great. of course actually scraping together the many pounds required to see him live at the barbican is another matter entirely, that is like a week’s worth of prosecco. but I like the idea of going for free, because I have such a large sense of entitlement when it comes to live music! looks like he goes to phil spector’s former hairdresser too! he must be gay, right? I adored gay singer-songwriters in my youth.
we have to admit we love the southbank. especially since our pals in saint etienne took over as artists in residence, it’s been an even nicer place to hang out. the st e boys bob and pete, along with their filmmaker pals paul (birdie) kelly and andrew hinton, are finally ready to unveil their new film about the royal festival hall, at the royal festival hall on 29 june, and they’ll be there playing along with it. a few weeks ago we went to southbank’s overture, which kicked off the re-opened rfh building with a weekend of free events for the kids (or the 70-year-olds), and apart from some small complaints (please don’t leave the bright, flickering fluorescent lights on during the performance! please tune the piano! damn it’s hot in here!), it seemed to go down a smash. we cannot report on the southbank’s meltdown, sorry. we wanted to go to melanie, the jesus and mary chain, lost ladies of folk, john barry, iggy, and of course roky (no thanks to pete doherty singing disney songs though), but we were at a funeral when the tickets went on sale. we are just grateful that it isn’t always so crowded as it was that weekend.
who knew there were metal bands in iraq? it’s a damn fine gimmick/tag line/etc. wish we’d thought of it.
we cannot get behind the doors reunion or the police reunion or the hot tuna reunion, but for some reason it’s okay if it’s squeeze.
the fact that this poll only has five answers per Q means I didn’t circulate it very well, but I do want your answers so please put them in the comment box below (and please don’t be anonymous, it’s no fun). today’s questions are all about whether you can be too old to rock.
1 is there a particular age when someone should stop playing pop music?
lupe pipas: probably between the age of reason and l’age d’or – ie, 40 and 60. take chantal goya as an example.
gerard matador: shortly after conception
stephen the real tuesday weld: 18
daniel handler: no. I wish there were folks in their 80s and 90s playing pop.
gail cf: I don’t think they should be allowed to start playing until they’re 25.
2 who is an example of someone who should really stop because they are too old to, uh, rock?
lupe pipas: johnny marr. he may not be old looking but I think he’s old in a deeper sense. elton john. he should just be sampled into a piano and let the kids make their own elton.
gerard matador: jascha heifetz
stephen the real tuesday weld: joss stone
daniel handler: sting, I guess. he mortifies me. I’m not sure that has anything to do with age, but he didn’t mortify me when he was young.
gail cf: anyone who signs a record deal with starbucks is clearly too out of it to rock.
3 who has flourished in “old age”? who is your “old” idol?
lupe pipas: morrissey, who will never be too old, saggy as he may get. bjork, considering she was a child star, she’s aged pretty well. vashti!
gerard matador: I’m hesistant to say. regardless of how well adjusted they might be, I don’t know anyone, old or young, who likes being called old.
stephen the real tuesday weld: john cale
daniel handler: tom waits.
gail cf: vashti.
4 which towns/artists/scenes have “old” indie audiences and which ones have “young” audiences?
lupe pipas: old: london. where are the youngsters? don’t tell me, they’re in myspace. stockholm/gothenburg young towns par excellence. they’re born with an earmarked encyclopedia of pop under both arms.
gerard matador: I really have no idea. I mean, I see young people and old people all over the place. I’m sure there’s a more interesting demographic breakdown, but I’ve never really thought about it.
stephen the real tuesday weld: guildford/the fall. dunno
daniel handler: I was just at a metric show in my hometown of san francisco and was told very sternly by two women in their 20s that my friend andy and I should stop dancing because they couldn’t see. we pointed out it was dance music and a rock club. they scowled. this made me feel old and young at the same time.
5 who is the best looking oldster in pop? the least attractive?
lupe pipas: ok, here I go repeating myself: vashti/morrissey/nana mouskouri/celia cruz (to some the ugliest woman in music, but getting to 80 is beautiful!)/john cale/bob marley. ugly: mick jagger. needs more beef, blubber would actually be nice for a change. he looks like he doesn’t eat enough. mick makes keith look like a cherub.
gerard matador: ha! see my answer to number 3. being called the best looking oldster in pop is the kinda faint praise I’m not gonna lavish on anyone I actually like.
stephen the real tuesday weld: roger waters / van morrison
gail cf: ira kaplan = pretty cute. lou reed = not. (people so full of themselves they may burst tend to look unattractive)
6 can you think of any “aging” popstars who are not mentally ill and yet are still relevant / interesting?
lupe pipas: many – let’s just think of cher for a moment…
gerard matador: depends on how you define popstar, I guess. does bob dylan count?
stephen the real tuesday weld: beck, bjork, damon albarn, cher.
daniel handler: tom waits, john fahey (oh – he’s dead), peter jefferies (is he old? I’m not sure.)
gail cf: graeme downes, where are you hiding? I know loads of relevant old people but like me they are in denial that they are old. wearing converse sneakers shaves off about a decade!
7 should 42 year olds be allowed on american idol?
lupe pipas: yeah!
gerard matador: I don’t see why not, though I’m not sure why they’d want to be.
stephen the real tuesday weld: definitely not
daniel handler: american idol should be strictly 90 and older.
gail cf: only if they’re in the aluminum group!
8 should 16 year olds be allowed inside venues?
lupe pipas: all ages!
gerard matador: as long as they promise not to fuck shit up, I don’t see why not.
stephen the real tuesday weld: I thought they were – but if they aren’t, they shouldn’t be
daniel handler: sure, but they should be required to stand in line at the bar for any 35 year old who requests it.
gail cf: only if they keep quiet!
9 how old are the youngest people with vinyl records these days?
lupe pipas: like i said above, they are swedish kids just beginning to teeth.
gerard matador: I have no idea. you might well ask how old are the youngest people who actually buy CDs.
stephen the real tuesday weld: my neice is 6 – she has a ‘pinky and perky’ record – I gave it to her
daniel handler: I believe the youth of america have switched to reel-to-reel tapes.
gail cf: toddlers whose parents ran indie labels.
10 why can’t the young write their own new songs?
lupe pipas: they’re effin lazy! and they don’t teach them how to write any more, just curse.
gerard matador: who says they can’t?
stephen the real tuesday weld: there is nothing left to say
daniel handler: who’s writing these questions, andy rooney?
gail cf: the girls from magnolia can certainly rock.
post your own answers in the comment box please!
it is a bit out of our price range at £3500 per day, but chickfactor would like to have its next big fancy event at wiltons music hall, a gem of a venue just steps away from the lovely tower bridge. this recent news item stated that it is also on the list of the top 100 most endangered places, so you rich people should send a cheque to them pronto to ensure restoration begins immediately.