Prune-flavoured yogurt and other cultures
Life is slowly returning to normal. We have enjoyed the sunniest day of the year so far and the first test match of the summer started at Lords. Did you know that the cricketer's box to protect the batsman's family jewels was invented and first used in 1874, but it took another hundred years before it occurred to them that a helmet to protect the brain might be a good idea as well.
Remember the dates (no, not the sort you can eat)
It is the first Friday of June, and in better years we could have enjoyed a steamy Klub Kakofanney. Not this year though. We will not be resuming our monthly gigs until Friday 6th August when we will be featuring Mark Atherton and Friends, Puppet Mechanic, and The Mighty Redox. The gig will be at the Hubble & Home on Abingdon Road, 8pm to 11pm, admission free. Meanwhile, to keep you in the mood for music, here is a compilation from some past Klub Kakofanneys.
This collection features four Oxford bands which all last appeared at Klub Kakofanney back in 2015: The Illuminati, These Are Our Demands, Cosmosis, and Phyal. As far as I know, none of these bands are still active, but are a good reminder that there is a rich abundance of talent and artistic creativity in local music.
The culture in Coventry (no, not a probiotic yogurt)
Did you know Coventry is the UK City Of Culture 2021? I'll be honest, I don't think I've never used "culture" and "Coventry" in the same sentence before, but there it is. One interesting aspect of this year-long event is that the city's Herbert Gallery & Museum has opened an exhibition about Two Tone, the record label and music genre which was founded in Coventry in the late seventies. The first two-tone name that people usually think of is The Specials, but let's not forget The Selecter, and their vocalist, Pauline Black, who has donated her trademark trilby to the exhibition.
The gallery advertises this as "the first-ever major exhibition in the UK devoted to the 2 Tone music sensation" which probably came as a surprise to the nearby Coventry Music Museum which opened in 2013, is run by volunteers, and specialises in two-tone memorabilia. Regardless of that, it is good to see pop music being recognised as part of our cultural history.
The song that starts with a siren (no, not Blockbuster)
Two-tone was one of the ways that music challenged prejudices. I realise that many of you reading this are going to be too young to remember the rise in racism and facism during the 70s and 80s, the emergence of the British Nationalist Party winning council elections in England, and the rise of the National Front. Neither will you remember the formation back then of the movements against these extremists in the form of the Anti Nazi League, and the hugely important Rock Against Racism, spearheaded by punk bands, with The Clash amongst its most important voices. Music can communicate powerful ideas. One of the most political bands in Germany in later years was Berlin's ZSK (Civilian Strife Komando). Their song, "Antifascista", became the rallying cry of Germany's demonstrators against racism and xenophobia.
The lyrics roughly translate as: "This is our city, remember that. There is no place here for you. We are stopping your marches and your hate propaganda. Wherever you show up, we are there first. In our thousands, we stand in your way".
Too much to dream (no more electric prunes before bedtime)
For no particular reason, other than it sounds great and chances are you've never heard it before, here is an all-female retro-surf band from Toronto, Canada, the Surfrajettes, sporting some stylish sunglasses and beehives, and playing a cover of "I had too much to dream last night", originally by The Electric Prunes. As far as I know, this was filmed in San Diego, in the centre of an apartment complex.
Whenever I hear their reverb-drenched instrumentals, I am always reminded of the sound of our local band, The Pink Diamond Revue. Do you hear the similarity?
Make mine a half (no, not that half)
More gigs are being announced around Oxford from July onwards, and the vaccine is working incredibly well and taking us to a safer place each day. According to the latest figures, three quarters of all adults in the UK have now had at least one jab, and more than half of all adults are now fully vaccinated, but the picture in Oxford is less encouraging. Within Oxford, less than half of all adults have had a first dose, and less than 30% are fully vaccinated. And yes, I did double check those figures.
I really don't know why Oxford looks to be so far behind in the vaccine rollout. It may be that the city has a very high proportion of younger adults who have not yet been offered the vaccine, it may be that we have disproportionately high numbers of people declining to be jabbed, or it might be an illusion caused by the way the official stats have counted the transient student population. Whatever the reason, please don't be complacent, please accept the vaccine when your turn comes around. There are still people out there who haven't been vaccinated at all yet, so do keep up with the safe practices. Remember that you can get lateral flow test kits free of charge from pharmacies so you can do quick self-tests at home twice a week. If you test positive or have any covid symptoms, please do the responsible thing, self-isolate, and contact the NHS.