Living with…Frank Ocean…for a week

Turns Out…Things That We Never Really Needed

Earlier this week I joined in one of those nostalgia fests where a group of people of a certain age are all together and start reminiscing about those things of their childhood that they hold precious.  You know the sort of thing.  The Clangers.  Cabbage patch kids.  Teasmades.  The Banana Splits.  The Clangers. The list goes on and on.

Some are a loss and some less so.  I never got Teasmades, I can’t think of anything worse then waking up to the smell and taste of stewed tea in the morning but I guess for a lot of people that was and probably still is their thing.

Of course on that nostalgia list is the picture doing the rounds which defines the world in to two halves – those who know the connection and those who never will.

pencil and tape

Which got me to thinking of things in the world of music that turns out…we never really needed.  So here’s five from me for starters:

5. Coloured vinyl

I never bought coloured vinyl.  I never saw the point then and I still don’t now.  You put the record on to the turntable.  It goes round and the needle connects and a sound comes out until it reaches the end at which point the needle withdraws from the record.  It doesn’t really matter what the colour is.  But, I guess I’m not the one making a fortune on eBay now reselling them.

80shair4. Eighties musical haircuts on fans

I never went the full post-punk hog but will admit to a little bit of growing out in the style of, if not quite a mullet.  In a moment of misguided self delusion, lack of a mirror and anyone around to correct me I may have felt I could have been in U2.  But I wasn’t and I never did.  And frankly it all looked a bit stupid, even the ones who tried really hard.  U2 only looked cool when they were posed against a Joshua Tree in black and white and a hair artist to hand.  The rest of us just looked stupid.  But would we do it again?  Yes we would!

3. Air guitar in public

See Eighties musical haircuts on fans above for the point about looking stupid.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Led Zeppelin, AC/DC or Bryan Adams.  Keep the air guitar in your house equidistant between the speakers to gain the maximum airophonic stereo effect.  The only time when air guitars may be slightly acceptable is with a busker, as it is an obvious improvement on the accordion player further down the street.

Now, air drumming in public.  THAT is totally acceptable in all situations.



2.  Celine Dion Ultimate Essential Collection

You may have noticed I’m not a massive fan of our Celine.  It’s nothing personal, I just don’t like her music.  Her ultimate essential collection I would suggest is something we never really needed – why bring all that pain together in one place?  She misses out on the Number One spot because it costs a lot less and of course, it can be used as a coffee mat.  Which is useful.

Ooooh, and I get to put this picture up again!

1. Graphic Equalisers

And this is the one that got to me, when I thought about it.  Sitting in the corner of the room was one of those good old stack hifi units with all it’s individual components.  I remembered with pride my Technics beast of the late 80’s, early 90’s.  I couldn’t quite afford the full unit initially so had gone out and spent a good chunk to add the graphics equaliser a few months later.  What exactly did that add to my music listening?  I would suggest just a few sub-standard options.  Concert Hall?  That would be slightly distant and echoey.  Classical ?  That would be turn down the bass a bit.  Rock?  That would be turn the bass up a bit.  Pop?  That would be turn up the treble a bit.

Sound affciandos will correct me I’m sure, but I would suggest that the graphic equaliser (pointless I would add with the advent of digital music in modern sound systems) was the thing we never really needed.  That WAS a waste of money.


Channel Orange – Frank Ocean

channel orangeOn first listen Channel Orange nearly joined the list above, although clearly not in competition with Celine Dion for the esteemed positon of coffee mat!  Fortunately the philosophy of no81bob’s world is to stick with the album for a week and that has been well worth it.  No longer in the things that we never really needed category.

Frank Ocean, a modern soul/ R&B star, could be as well known for his self-outing last year as he is for his music.  In July he told the world he had feelings for another young man, a brave decision in the world of hip hop, not famed for it’s tolerance and political correctness.

So on to Channel Orange, supposedly one of THE albums of last year.  I’ll get the gripe out of the way first – why does he have to fill the space in between every track with people’s background mutterings from films, street noises, jet engines and car hazard warnings?  I’m probably missing something, but they don’t really add to the generally great music in between…maybe someone can explain!

Inter-track annoyances out of the way, the album is an updating for me of the sounds of soul pioneers such as Stevie Wonder and Prince.  Several tracks (noticeably  Sweet Life and Lost) could be straight out of the Wonder catalogue, while Bad Religion is definitely a Prince moment redefined.  It holds together well as a whole, and builds on soul traditions while merging in traces of hip hop.

Also love Super Rich Kids, lyrically for the mantra that opens and repeats

Too many bottles of this wine we can’t pronounce
Too many bowls of that green, no Lucky Charms
The maids come around too much
Parents ain’t around enough
Too many joy rides in daddy’s Jaguar
Too many white lies and white lines
Super rich kids with nothing but loose ends
Super rich kids with nothing but fake friends

and musically for the stilted piano, bass and percussion driving it along.  Dare I say it, echoes of Elton John’s Bennie and the Jets (?), but that is probably way too uncool a comparison.

By the end of the week then, definitely not a coffee mat.  Drop the annoying utterances in between Mr Ocean and you’ve got yourself a classic.  Oh, I think you already have according to the rest of the wold.  It’s just me then.

Probably his best known number is Thinking About You, which should be a straightforward love song if it weren’t for the zombies in the video.  And for that reason I’m going for a lovely rendition by Gabe Bondoc on the ukelele including the cords on screen if you want to join in on your air ukeleles…