Old school: an interview with International Teachers Of Pop

By Lee Gale

Sheffield is a city of pioneers. The first football club in the world were Sheffield FC, formed in 1857 and still in existence today. They beat Stocksbridge Park Steels last week 3-1. Hallam FC are the second-oldest club in the world, founded in 1860 to give Sheffield FC an opponent. Hallam’s Sandygate Road base in Crosspool is the oldest football ground in the world. They thumped Harworth Colliery 5-1 on Saturday in front of 204 people.

We also have Sheffield to thank for stainless steel, which was invented by Harry Brearley at Brown-Firth Research Laboratories just before the First World War. Brearly left in a huff due to a disagreement about patent rights but his successor, WH Hatfield, ran with the idea and in 1924 presented the world with 18/8 stainless steel, 18 per cent chromium, eight per cent nickel – the most common stainless steel used today. Unless you’re Lord Fauntleroy or Lady Docker, your cutlery will be made of this, as are those drippy teapots at motorway services.

Britain’s first astronaut was Sheffield’s Helen Sharman, who hitched a ride aboard the Soviet Soyuz TM-12 mission in May 1991, spending a few days growing protein crystals on the Mir space station. Sharman may have been adjusting to Earth’s gravity two months later when she famously went ass ovver tip at the 1991 World Student Games at the newly opened Don Valley Stadium. During the opening ceremony she tripped while holding the games torch and completely extinguished the flame. Thankfully on Worksop Road there were enough newsagents nearby that sold boxes of matches. Incredibly, Don Valley Stadium was demolished in 2013.

Sheffield’s Phil Oakey sang that he was the first man in space on his street on All Seeing I’s Jarvis Cocker-written “1st Man In Space”, which reached No.28 on the hit parade in 1999. He was also the first man on his street with a symmetry-defying hairstyle. More than space travel or metallurgical breakthroughs, the city is perhaps best known for its influential musicians; Sheffield, as you’ll be aware, is synonymous with synthpop and electronic trickery. Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, ABC, Pulp, Heaven 17, Clock DVA, Warp Records, the Bleep scene and Fat Truckers (who?! Check out “Teenage Daughter”) have all helped place Sheffield firmly on the global musical map. Slow Club are pretty good, too.

Now, on the strength of two singles, we can add International Teachers Of Pop to the long list of Sheffield greats. “Age Of The Train” and “After Dark”, both released this year, carry the baton for Sheffield synthpop in a way that Oakey, Cocker and Martin Fry would appreciate. Prior to a UK tour, we catch up with International Teachers Of Pop’s Adrian Flanagan to discuss wonky electronic music and the state of Britain’s railways.

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Happy soul with a hook: an interview with Moss from Craig Charles favourites Daytoner

By Lee Gale

Some of us have a love/hate relationship with BBC 6 Music. For instance, you get the feeling that Cerys Catatonia’s eclecticism on Sundays is simply the result of her entering the BBC’s vaults, selecting 20 or so CDs at random with her eyes closed, then playing track 6 on all of them. When a 1911 sea shanty recorded on the Outer Hebrides to celebrate the construction of a jetty is followed by mid-Fifties Alaskan swing jazz, you have to wonder.

Then you’ve got the Craig Charles Funk And Soul Show. The longest-running programme on 6 Music – it started in 2002, in the first week of the station’s existence – has become an essential element of Saturdays. Craig Charles’ soul weekly is where you’ll most likely have come across Daytoner’s northern soul-injected beats. In fact, Charles stated via Twitter, “Daytoner are my new favourite band – fact.” For a man with his track record, this is some claim.

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‘I really like to get bovine’: an interview with Julian Cope

By Kevin Quinn

Polymath pioneer of “frazzle rock” and bovine lover of cows Julian Cope waxes lyrical and cynical, pulling no punches in a rousting, jousting chat in the margins. He recounts his role within the history of drinking and back-to-nature thinking, and throws himself into an aggro-cultural exchange covering the meaning of meaning, the historicity of “things”, the stagecraft of the ancients, just who would beat the skins for the reformed Crucial Three, life on and offline and why standing still is anathema – still. Being on the periphery is “the place to be” and where the journey perennially trumps the destination. Hop along for the ride.

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What a wonderful Wold: an interview with artist Peter Watson

By Lee Gale

The power of Rotherham. In the Seventies, young Beverley-born artist Peter Watson was a frequent visitor to the industrial heartland of South Yorkshire and found himself enthused. All around him stood steelworks, slag heaps and cooling towers but instead of revulsion, Watson liked what he saw and set about recording the scenery with oil on canvas.

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A 2003 interview with Tony Iveson, Lancaster pilot with 617 Squadron

By Lee Gale

A long time ago, I used to work for Jack magazine which, at the time, was by far the finest men’s title money could buy. Sadly, not many people agreed with that statement and Jack closed in 2004. Nevertheless, each issue would have articles that were lovingly crafted by writers with massive interests in male culture – namely football, World War II, decent comedy, obscure music and old-men’s pubs. You’d come in with an idea and it would be given the green light without question. It was an incredible environment to work in. I loved the Avro Lancaster and set about writing a long-form magazine article about its history as soon as I’d got my feet under the desk. This inevitably led to interviews with wartime RAF bomber crews.

I visited squadron leader Tony Iveson of 617 Squadron at his home in Tunbridge Wells in summer 2003. On the walls of his spotless home were paintings of Lancasters on various missions, and I seem to recall one was of 617 Squadron’s successful raid sinking the Tirpitz in 1944. Iveson was involved in three missions to sink the bothersome German battleship. I’ll put a few of my other interviews on British Ideas Corporation over the next few weeks. I’ve just read that Iveson died in November 2013 at the age of 94, so he would have been 83 when I interviewed him. He was perfectly lucid and a riveting storyteller.

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Automatic transmission: is Britain ready for driverless cars?

By Lee Gale

Do you claim to be the best driver on the road? Well, your crown might be slipping. In last year’s budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond proclaimed that driverless vehicles will be seen on UK roads from 2021 – and that we’d better be prepared for it.

There are clear advantages of self-driving cars. For a start, the road would be opened up to people who previously were unable to get behind the wheel. The blind, disabled and elderly would find themselves with an independence that previous generations could only have dreamed about. And Friday nights at countryside pubs would be back on the agenda.

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And the band played on and on and on: an appreciation of very long records

By Alan Gregson

For many years I’ve had a love of long songs, not just your five minute 12 seconds extended versions with an extra middle eight and chorus, I’m talking epic storytelling songs or lengthy and complex instrumentals. Songs that need at least seven or eight minutes to tell their story, tunes with plenty of room for the musicians to stretch their legs, show off their new effects pedals and generally do some fancy noodling.

So here’s my journey into epic tracks, enjoy the ride.

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Home-made Jam: the very English poetry of Paul Weller

By Lee Gale

Writer and musician Simon Wells knows a thing or two about cool British culture. His previous books have covered The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and homegrown cult films, and he’s also co-curated a Sixties film season at London’s National Film Theatre. Perhaps, though, his latest project falls closest to his heart. His new book, In Echoed Steps: The Jam And A Vision Of The Albion, is an investigation into the poetry and literary influences of Jam frontman Paul Weller.

To Wells, the Modfather is more than mere pop legend. He’s on a par with Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats and Lord Byron, albeit with a distinct talent for distilling his thoughts into three-minute psychedelic compositions. So take off your green parka, dust down a copy of Geoffrey Ashe’s 1971 tome Camelot And The Vision Of Albion and butter some crumpets using the blade of Excalibur. As you are about to discover, Weller’s words have a lineage that can be traced back to King Arthur.

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For the record: why we love vinyl

By Alan Gregson

As a teenager in the Eighties, I grew up with records. I started buying music just before the invention of CDs and long before CDs became the dominant music format. My first love was cassettes. I’ve previously written about this for British Ideas Corporation but records are my enduring passion.

There’s many a learned article been written about which music format sounds the best but listening to music isn’t a scientific exercise. Yes, digital audio straight from the mixing desk is probably the purest sound and when pumped through a pair of high-end studio monitors, it will blow your socks clean into the next room. The thing is, music isn’t pure. A piano, for instance, generates undertones and overtones as the strings either side vibrate with each note. These are known as harmonics. Even though harmonics are almost impossible to hear, they give warmth and context to the actual notes, so we are used to hearing imperfections in music. When these are removed, either from digital mastering or from mp3 compression, there is something lost from the overall sound.

I like the sound from vinyl. It may be a placebo effect but being able to see the media, read the sleeve notes without a magnifying glass and physically place the needle on the record, it provides a greater connection with the music.

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Be kind, rewind: life in an Eighties video store

By Alan Gregson

My one link to Quentin Tarantino is that we both spent five years in the Eighties working in a video store, although mine wasn’t in California, rather it was in Bury, a town a few miles north of Manchester.

I started there in May 1985, and on my first night I was shown the ropes by a nice lady who was promptly sacked when one of the owners arrived. The co-owner then gave me the keys, showed me how to set the alarm, told me how to cash-up the till and where to drop the cash through the floor into the safe. Then she disappeared.

Great first night on the job. Luckily it wasn’t busy so I coped well enough until it was time to lock up at 10pm.

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