heard on the wire

There’s still this appeal


Yet there’s still this appeal
That we’ve kept through our lives.

If you could have grown up in any musical era, which would you choose? A fatuous question, perhaps, but now which begs another: what was the greatest era of popular music?

I’ve mentioned the recent, excellent BBC4 three-part documentary on rock ’n’ roll, tracing its story from its origins in 1950s black America to its huge commercial success across white America in the sixties. It’s hard to argue with anyone who says that those early years are non pareil, the years of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly. Likewise, who can contradict those who point to the years covered in the third part of the documentary, when the Beatles defined pop music, the Rolling Stones were still good and the Beach Boys breathed fresh life into rock ’n’ roll?

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Turn it around, turn it upside down


I used to write news reports when Apple released new iPods. Hell, I’d write a news report when they updated the software from 1.2.5 to 1.2.6. It was significant in those days.

Now, just a few years later when Apple updates its iPod range, still comprising three models, scarcely anyone notices. The device that helped to transform the way we listen to music is almost a curiosity. What do you mean, the next generation will ask, you had to have a special device just to listen to music?

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Don’t feel guilty, don’t go crazy

SPC eCurveO

The recent launch of Apple Music has got me thinking about the nature of music discovery. Just a few weeks ago I’d have said that the days of human curation, of finding music via primarily the radio, were numbered. The digital age had brought digital curation, machines telling us what we might like, algorithms interpreting our collective buying habits to suggest our next purchase.

Apple has decided that’s not enough. Human DJs are back, which is fine if those DJs are in tune with you. For me that hasn’t been the case since, first, the immense John Peel died, 11 years ago now, and his spiritual successor in many ways, Rob da Bank, was ghettoised by Radio One’s emphasis on genre programming. It’s not going to change with the names on Apple’s Beats payroll.

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Great like expectations

Frankie Machine

“Looking back it was romantic but at the time I was suffering” sounds like the opening line from a novel, not the title of a charming debut LP from Denver, Colorado.

The Kissing Party are five men and women with guitars and tunes, which in this part of the world counts for a lot. As, on occasion, does brevity.

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We are history and I’ve heard it all before


My teenage self would be horrified, but it’s occurred to me that a lot of the music I listen to these days is made by old rockers. Just this week I’ve been entertained by Costello, New Order, the Jam, Modern Lovers and David Bowie. It’s as if the 20th century never ended.

Such listening certainly puts paid to the notion that rock ’n’ roll, or pop music, or whatever you want to call it, is somehow ephemeral, a notion occasionally put forward in counterposition to the “timelessness” of classical forms. That just seems vainglorious now. It’s nearly 70 years since Fats Domino kicked off the rock ’n’ roll era and popular music; old rockers are now just another part of its rich history.

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As dead as diamonds


Regular readers will know that I’m not a great fan of music streaming. While I can certainly see the appeal of being able to listen to all the music in the world, whenever and wherever you like, I baulk at the prospect of paying record labels £10 a month for music that’s ethereal, that I don’t own.

For £10 I can buy a stack of “name your price” records from Bandcamp, knowing that 70% of that money goes directly to the artist. I can choose the format my music comes in — 
anything from tin-can MP3 to uncompressed ALAC — and it arrives unencumbered by restrictions.

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I miss the bees, I miss the honey

The  Beehive of Rungis

There isn’t enough apiculture in rock ’n’ roll. Sure, there’s plenty of metaphorical honey and in some parts records are still referred to as wax, despite that material not having been used to record music since the days of Edison’s wax cylinder, but the art of beekeeping has rarely been celebrated.

Bad Beekeeping’s list of famous beekeepers doesn’t mention any musicians, not even Sting, while finding space for quite a few people who just liked honey — and Winnie the Pooh.

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I’m really talking to myself


Every band should have a toilet song, that one moment in the live set when you say to yourself, “I don’t really like this one”, and toddle off to the loo.

After several pints, what else can you do?

Until recently this was my pattern. Sink some decent pints before the gig, a few bad ones inside then wait, increasingly uncomfortably for the toilet song, a track from the disappointing last LP perhaps.

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I’m not used up, not yet


A couple of posts ago I mentioned that over the past 12 months I’ve struggled to find music that has truly astonished me. But then, looking back, that’s been the case for a few years now. Maybe I’m just getting weary; hopefully it’s merely a lull.

Nonetheless, I’d be mistaken if I thought that the past 12 months have largely been forgettable. There has still been much to love, whether soaring post-rock from Motherwell, revived, perky 90s pop from Brighton, or vegan-fuelled indie from just down the road in County Durham.

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Ancient tales from distant lands

Heard on the Wire

When I first started this blog, back in February 2011, the plan was for it to be a repository for all sorts of musings, on technology — the field I’d been working in, food, living abroad, maybe even politics.

Thus the title was deliberately non-committal, taken simply from my twitter username, which itself had initially been adopted as something of a joke — I didn’t really expect to use twitter that much.

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heard on the wire is a blog about music old and new, but mostly new. It occasionally uses 21st century file formats that may not be supported by 20th century web browsers. For best results use Safari or Chrome. And If you like the music posted here, please think of the effort and expense that has gone into making it and consider buying a copy of your own.


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All the music on this site is posted to encourage listeners to enjoy it and then rush out and buy as many songs by the artist as they possibly can. Any artist, record label boss, publisher or other rightsholder who doesn't want their works featured here only needs to get in touch and the offending file(s) will be removed at the earliest opportunity.