Category Archives: Listening

Compilation Tapes: And their sociological importance

An old blog post here about something I’ve been keen on for most of my life.

What you may be about to read was written in 2012. Before I returned to vinyl, when our house still contained hundreds of CDs, and various digital things were still in their infancy. Anyway, I was reminded of it, here in November 2017, when I almost wrote it again. Here’s how it happened.

I’m sat in a café reading a Colm Toíbín novel, it’s a hard life, when a friend walks in. Let’s call him Paul, that being his name. Paul’s come in to do some writing about sociology, that being his job. But before he goes off to his own table to settle down with his laptop and latté we naturally, and I can’t remember how, engage in a conversational topic of top sociological importance. Namely ‘Compilation tapes and their role in getting to know girls when we were younger.’

I’m inspired and, this being how blog posts get started, start to compose one that’s more or less a transcript of our conversation on my way home. Until I remember I’ve already written more or less the same thing.

So here it is, fresh from 2012. With loads of Pandora and Spotify links taken out. Because one no longer exists, I’ve long stopped paying for the other, I don’t have a car or a CD player to my name any more and, besides, I’m now longing for the return of cassettes so I can make proper compilation tapes from my LPs again. Enjoy, if you can.

What are you listening to? iTunes, Spotify, Pandora maybe, in the United States? Or mainly CDs? We’ve got hundreds of CDs, and the only place we ever listen to any of them is in the car. Because we mostly listen to music that streams through our computers and iPods. And most of that music is on permanent ‘shuffle’ so we don’t know what’s coming next. It’s like we’re listening to massive compilation tapes. Compiled by me. Because I’ve been making compilation tapes for most of my life.

Our house, in 1995. Cassettes ready for playing in the car.

At first it was done using a hand held microphone plugged in to a cheap little cassette recorder. Later on the machinery got more sophisticated, but the cassettes really didn’t. Continue reading

Love and Happiness: A moment

It’s late on a Saturday afternoon, it’s yesterday, already dark and already shading into evening, now we are in late November, when I witness this moment of the purest love and happiness.

I am walking along Smithdown Road in Liverpool, not long before I’ll be turning left up my own street, when I see them all. Five figures in an undulating line across the pavement, walking towards me. Apart from the Mum figure nearest the road they look like they’re walking in age formation, the youngest holding her hand, then in steadily increasing ages towards the eldest, no more than ten years old I’d say, walking next to the wall, nearest to the shops.

From a distance they all seem to be talking at once. But as we pass, the Mum contracting the line of them slightly to let me through on the outside, the notes of their conversation separate into this moment of the purest love and happiness: Continue reading

The Story of the The Beautiful Parks

Apply here by Saturday 4th November – That’s today!

There is magic all around us. Stories waiting to be told. In every park & street the future is waiting. Listen, while I tell you a story.

“In what would yet come to be looked back on as the early years of the 21st Century the people of Liverpool woke up to the beauty all around them. Gathering first in small groups in Autumn 2017 and telling each other stories of what they might do, in the parks and other places that had been around them for all of their lives, and many lives before but in the huddle and muggle of everyday busyness had been all but forgotten.

Here they began the re-membering and the re-doing of their place.

From early 2018 they started. Small things at first & many. The growing of things, the gatherings and re-gatherings. A litany of possibilities and a story-tellings of dreams. Dreams that got planted, stories that grew. Knowingly and quietly they began the re-growing of their Liverpool.

Listen, I’m telling you a story… Continue reading

In Aigburth: Liverpool’s Magdalene Laundry?

“I hated being sent to collect me mum’s washing from the Kelton laundry. With a kid’s imagination it looked like Dracula’ s castle or maybe Colditz to my young eyes. You would knock on a huge door which was duly opened by a fearsome looking nun in full habit. Peering in as she went to fetch the wash, revealed a scene I thought was what hell must look like. A horrible smell of cleaning and lots of steam. Lines of women in pinafores and covered heads slaving away. A vacant expression of hopelessness on every face. I sensed evil even at my tender age.

The evil that was the Magdalene story”.
Phil Jones, October 2017

This comment turned up in my email early one Saturday in October 2017 about a blog post I’d written nearly four years earlier in December 2013. That post had been about a general walk around Aigburth in South Liverpool that had ended with me finding somewhere I’d almost forgotten from earlier in my life.

“Let me tell you a story, a true story, from half my lifetime ago.

It’s the mid 1980s and I’m delivering my beloved baby daughter to her nursery. It’s called Kelton and is just down the hill from a convent, called Kelton House. This morning I’ve noticed someone watching me as I drive past Kelton House. Someone who doesn’t look much like a nun. I ask one of the women who work in the nursery, an Irish woman as it happens ‘What is that place up there? I thought it was a convent.’ ‘Well it is’ she says ‘But it’s also a mother and baby home. It’s where the girls come to have their babies, off the Irish boats as often as not.’

So hurtful for them. Us bringing our much wanted and much celebrated babies to the nursery each morning, while they watch us from their hidden away lives.

I wasn’t sorry, then, when the nursery had to move to another place a few months later because the nuns, who owned the land, had decided to sell it off for housing.”

Continue reading

Listening to Nick Cave

A record you won’t listen to very often but if you do hear it, and I urge you to, you will never forget it.

“With my voice I am calling you”

Made after one of his children accidentally died and I’d guess he knows we can’t not know that.

“If you want to leave”

Surround yourself with the sound of it, I’d say. It’s an immersion, a sound-well.

“The urge to kill someone was basically overwhelming”

You’re wherever you are. He’s in despair in a supermarket queue. Continue reading

Alone in Silence

Sarah has gone away, sea kayaking this time, and I’m alone again. Not lonely though. I find I rarely get lonely. Which is just as well as I find myself alone a lot.

Usually I’m alone here in this peaceful house. This house where I’ve lived for twenty six years, the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. A typical Liverpool three bedroomed terraced house that I’m appreciating so much while there’s only me here to keep it company. Bay windows top and bottom at the front, no carpets, sparsely furnished, gently coloured and a small yard at the back leading on to the entry, alleygated in recent years.

Sarah moved into the house a couple of years after me, so I never think of it as mine and have few memories left now of the brief time I lived here on my own. Though I do have the feeling that I was lonely here then but for the twice weekly stays of my young daughter Clare. Memories when Clare wasn’t here of cold evenings, with nothing much to do when my dishes were washed up after tea.

It’s been a good house though, and I’ve been happy here. Continue reading

Wake up and love more: Kate Tempest

“The myth of the individual
Has left us disconnected lost and pitiful”

I had no idea when I wrote this post a few days ago that Kate Tempest was up for the Mercury Prize this week, but she was and I’m glad to see it bringing her so much more renown, followers and, I hope, sales.

If you’re listening much to the radio at the moment, well ok if you’re listening much to BBC Radio 6 Music, you might be hearing Kate Tempest’s current single ‘Tunnel Vision’ fairly regularly. It’s the one that starts:

“Indigeonous apocalypse
decimated forests
The winter of our discontent’s upon us”

And continues to take the likes of me, the older generation, to task for a catalogue of ills because:

“This is the future you left us”

At which point you might well think “Give us a break” and turn your ears away until something more positive comes on. Well I’m writing this to suggest that you don’t turn away. To suggest that you listen carefully and perhaps appreciatively to this thoughtful and opinionated woman who might well surprise you. Like she surprised me. Let’s step back a year or two. Continue reading