Robin Ince is co-presenter of Radio 4's Sony Gold winning Infinite Monkey Cage with Brian Cox. He is currently touring the UK and is off to the USA and Australia in the spring with his shows about science, music and fury. He also presents a weekly music podcast called Vitriola Music with Michael Legge. He has recently written and presented documentaries on comedians and melancholy, the history of self-help, Schrodinger's cat, and Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds.
All that sort of stuff about him can be found at www.robinince.com
Charles Bukowski Reads his Poetry
The beat generation and gonzo journalism hung over my generation; I was too late to love any of it, which was probably a good thing. As the decades have gone on, many seemed to be a miserable, sodden bunch. Bukowski was someone who hung over my NME generation, at a time when the NME would cover politics and literature too. You might not have read any of his work, but you knew of him as some alluring, alcoholic lothario. The older I have become, the more I have enjoyed his work. His voice is delightful too; thin, sometimes arch, sometimes seemingly happily, boozily surprised by it all. A perfect listen for an uptight Englishman like me who’d rather be a tourist of this sort of life than live it.
Love - Out There
When I first heard “Forever Changes”, I wondered what all the fuss was about. I am shoddy like that. My first impressions are frequently dull and wrong. Sometimes they don’t improve. By about the third listening, I adored it. Eager to see Arthur Lee, I was disturbed to find he was incarcerated, his life having been blighted by his mercurial nature. I was giddy when he was released andUKdates were announced. Due to an accident with a door and some superglue, I could not attend the gig I had tickets for. Worried that a ticket should go to waste for this sold-out show, I put a lot of effort into finding someone who could use it. A record shop helped me out and I found an overjoyed taker.
“How much do you want?” he gibbered.
“Nothing, just have it. I am glad someone else will enjoy it while I am embroiled with glues and a hot oven”.
“Really!? Are you sure?”
“Tell you what, why not send me a compilation of music you like”
“Sure, the least I can do”
He never did.
Each new-found bootleg, poorly recorded live show, or compilation released, still has something of worth on it. Something that infuriates because of so much potential squandered, but I am then reminded that this sort of squandering personality also led to the beauty too. When I did finally see him live, he was great. Though I wasn’t totally convinced when he said. “I am writing the best music I have ever written now” and then that bagpipe player came out. Mind you, that was my first impression, so I was probably wrong.
Leslie Gore - Magic Colors
“Where are all those magic colors that you used to light my way?” - who wouldn’t want to listen to a classic lost Leslie Gore album? If it’s you, well, you are missing out, you fool. Her 4th single, ‘You Don’t Own Me’, is one of my favourite songs of all time, and also thehigh pointif the otherwise disappointing Adrienne Barbeau film, The Convent.
Before The Fall
I think this is my favourite Ace compilation in their “You Heard it Here First” series. These are a frequent reminder of the shortfall in my musical knowledge. Oh yes, I may have sneered haughtily, and haughty sneering is a tricky confusion of twisted lips and mouth noises, when X Factor fans thought ‘Hallelujah’ was an Alexandra Burke original. When I found out that ‘Mr Pharmacist’ is not a Mark E Smith original, oh the shame in Levenshulme that night. I love The Searchers’ ‘Popcorn Double Feature’ and I love that Mark E Smith knows exactly how to mangle it right.
Gil Scott-Heron - The Revolution Begins: The Flying Dutchman Masters
I was disturbingly late to Gil Scott-Heron. I knew the classics, but had spent too much time with those milksop 90s NME bands that were producing music for milksop 90s individuals like me.
“The Revolution Begins: The Flying Dutchman Masters” is an astonishing collection, a young mind where beauty, poetry and social criticism come tumbling out. You don’t need to be some sort of completist to require this, it is startling. Another of those infuriating artists who you think, “did he need to be as fucked up as he was to create what he did?” - sadly, it is too late to do anything about that now. For a life with so much waste in it, the body of work left behind, even if it was just what is on the three discs here, is incredible. In some ways, I am glad that my music taste was frequently so sloppy and slapdash, because it meant finding stuff like this as I approached middle age, so I am safe in the knowledge that, even if every piece of music written from now on is dismal and fills my ears with sap and gravel, behind me is an immensity. I have left some Gil Scott-Heron untouched, just as I have never read all of Kurt Vonnegut’s books, because i want to know there is still something left to come.
I missed Gil Scott-Heron, not due to glue and oven doors, but because he failed to get on the plane that the rest of his band got on. They turned up atCheltenhamracecourse, and he, sadly, never did.
Françoise Hardy - Midnight Blues Paris London 1968-1972
Brian Cox would probably not be keen at me picking someone described as “a keen astrologer”, especially as his books are often accidentally put in that section in the charity shops. I went off late 60s continental pop after a 30-second excerpt of Serge Gainsbourg got stuck in my head and triggered six months of insomnia, but Françoise Hardy reminded me what I was missing. That precision and aloofness that makes it quite clear, “I Just want to be alone”.
The Nightcrawlers - The Little Black Egg
Being so obsessed with the contemporary from an early age, it took me ages to look back, so it took me even longer to find a reasonably obscure band like the Nightcrawlers. Any album that starts with a single about finding an egg in a nest - is it allegory, metaphor, or just a story about looking in a nest and finding an egg? Is it an illegal egg? Will the feds be onto this ornithologist?
The Cramps - A Date With Elvis
I haven’t listened to The Cramps for a long time, and it was digging through the Ace site that triggered a marathon listening to a band that were frighteningly lurid when I was a young thing. Oh that fear of taking this album to the counter, with that cover, and those images, what will the people in my small town think? Will I be marked now?
Kinky Friedman - Sold American
‘We Reserve the Right to Refuse You’ - the jauntiest album opener about bigotry.
Phil Ochs - Live At Newport
Another on the list whose life went awry, disillusioned by politics, falling into alcohol and mental health problems, and being attacked while travelling that led to him losing his vocal range, but this recording is before all that. It was a long time after hearing Billy Bragg mentioning him before I finally heard him. Not disappointed. “Is there anybody here who wouldn’t mind a murder by another name”. ‘Is There Anybody Here’ is one of his many songs which offer a hearty kick to the easy cynicism and disillusionment that so much media politics has now.
So much left unmentioned, the vast voice of Sheila Reid as heard on the Exciters’ “Soul Motion: The Complete Bang, Shout & RCA Recordings 1966-69”, Link Wray’s “Pathway Sessions” starts blindingly and is the soundtrack to whatever your last David Lynch-directed dream was. ‘Hotel Loneliness’ was used on the soundtrack of the underrated Johnny Suede - what a lovely turn by the bloodlessly paleNickCaveas Freak Storm. Ah heck, I forgot Terry Callier too, and Judy Collins and and and and...
Can they stop making music, just so I can try and catch up?