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Posts Tagged ‘Northern Soul’

The Intrigant praises Chris Grayling for his bold plan to increase illiteracy among prisoners by banning them from reading books:

Tough on literacy, tough on the causes of literacy: congratulations on your ban on sending books into prison under the newly written rules. You and I don’t need to read books so why should people who have committed a crime be allowed to receive them?

I know that books can be sent to the inmates of Guantanamo Bay and that books were sent to British POWs imprisoned in Nazi Germany and Dostoevsky received books in the Peter-and-Paul Fortress during his incarceration in 1850. Remember: the George W. Bush-era USA, the German High Command of the 1940s and an autocratic Tsar have no lessons to teach you. They are all a bunch of pinko-lefties.

It does seem a remarkably stupid and vindictive decision. Grayling is obviously not a student of Dostoevsky.

(It’s a little-known fact that Wasting Police Time was the most popular book in English prisons from 2007 to 2011.)

The New York Times says rent increases are forcing bookshops out of Manhattan.

When Sarah McNally, the owner of McNally Jackson bookstore in Lower Manhattan, set out to open a second location, she went to a neighborhood with a sterling literary reputation, the home turf of writers from Edgar Allan Poe to Nora Ephron: the Upper West Side.

She was stopped by the skyscraper-high rents.

“They were unsustainable,” Ms. McNally said. “Small spaces for $40,000 or more each month. It was so disheartening.”

Passive Aggression in libraries.

And an interesting book about a subject close to our hearts, northern soul.

As ever, the Amazon reviews are very interesting. I particularly enjoyed this three-star review from ‘Rian Arren':

This review is from: Northern Soul: An Illustrated History (Hardcover)

The book was purchased as a gift and has not been read by me. However, I am sure the recipient will be extremely pleased with it.
In case you’re wondering what this ‘northern soul’ is, allow Mr Lou Pride to explain:

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He’s written a piece on the BBC website, all about ‘the sound that defined his youth‘.

It seems to me that he’s a bit of a dilettante.

The piece is wrong in lots of ways. For instance, there is no such thing, as far as I know, as a northern soul ‘revival night’. There are just northern soul nights. You only revive something which is dead or dying, and northern soul has been going strong since the late 1960s. The 100 Club all-nighters, which I attended quasi-religiously as a teenager, are still packed, 35 years later.

But most egregiously, it is wrong in the list of records which he would ‘play if they gave me control of the decks for an hour’ at one of these ‘Northern Soul revival nights’.

It’s hard to put it in book terms, but it’s like writing a piece – a serious piece – for the BBC about your top 20 authors, and including Lee Child and Dan Brown.

Sure, you may have read them once, on holiday, along with 90% of the population – but you aren’t going to admit it publicly, and you certainly don’t want to re-read them in case you missed something first time around.

The main raison d’être for northern soul’s existence was and remains the discovery (and playing) of previously unheard records. Some people are still doing this – amazingly, there are still tracks out there which were recorded in 1965 but have yet to be unearthed.

But every single one of the records Paul Mason chooses was played in the 1970s, and is now what is known in the trade as ‘played out’ – DJs have played them a million times before, literally, and no-one wants to hear them again, ever*.

Not that I go to northern soul all-nighters any more, but I would be astonished if Chuck Wood’s Seven Days Too Long (Paul Mason manages to get the title wrong – as he does with others) was even allowed into the building.

I don’t exclude the possibility that some canny promoter somewhere will invite Paul Mason along to play a set, based on this list, but I wouldn’t think he’ll get a very positive reaction.

The annoying thing is that if they had allowed someone like Adrian Croasdell – promoter of the long-running 6Ts all-nighters at the 100 Club London – to write this piece, it could have been interesting. As it is, it’s as though they had asked Croasdell to write their economics coverage. (He might be better at that, too.)

UPDATE 1:

A chum emails me with this piece from VICE Magazine, in which Paul Mason reveals how ‘I left the original scene in around 1979 because the music – and the fashion – seemed stuck in a timewarp even then.’

And then he gives us his favourite 21 records… which would have been big in 1979. He doesn’t seem to do irony!

Okeh, Ric-Tic, Mala and Cameo Parkway are not ‘obscure labels’. Mala was owned by Columbia Pictures. CamPark were a major. Ric-Tic was big enough for Berry Gordy to pay a million dollars in 1967/68 to buy out their artists. Okeh had been around since 1918 and was a subsidiary of Columbia Records, whose artists included such obscure names as The Byrds, Barbara Streisand and Simon and Garfunkel. (Okeh’s own roster included unknowns including Louis Armstrong, Burl Ives and Duke Ellington.)

And Bronchipax was not ‘poor man’s speed’. Bronchipax was pharmaceutically pure; poor man’s speed was powder cooked up in some bloke’s garage and was swallowed wrapped in a piece of loo roll to avoid mouth ulcers.

UPDATE 2:

MP Tom Watson is apparently now an expert, too, advising journalists (incorrectly) that it’s the ‘Manchester Twisted Wheel’, as opposed to merely The Twisted Wheel, and retweeting Paul Mason’s spotify playlist for all he’s worth. When MPs start proclaiming their love for something, it’s time to get out.

tom_watson (tom_watson) on Twitter - 2013-09-27_11.58.08tom_watson (tom_watson) on Twitter - 2013-09-27_11.58.46

 

Here’s one, specially for Tom:

*OK, to be fair Mel Britt, Yvonne Baker and The Seven Souls are timeless.

I Still Love You remains a very good tune:

But if you’re looking for well-known but still rare records, it’s just not as good as Johnny Rodgers and the Nu Tones’ Make A Change…

…or Magnetics’ Count The Days…

…or The Prophets’ If I Had (One Gold Piece):

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The fall in crime in England and Wales ‘may be exaggerated’, says the BBC.

What? Crime figures being manipulated to meet targets set by the idiots in government?

Who knew?

PC David Copperfield in Wasting Police Time:

The country seems to be divided between those who think that things are getting worse, and those who think that things are getting better and that it’s all in our heads.

The latter includes most politicians, the liberal left, and ACPO. Many of these people earn quite impressive salaries and can afford to live in areas where crime is, for the time being, relatively low. This may explain their optimism.

The former includes: everyone else, many of whom live in areas where crime happens, and are people to whom crime happens.

The UK population has risen steadily over the last century or so, from 38 million in 1901 to around 60 million today (note, it hasn’t doubled).

In the same period, the total number of police officers employed by the State has risen from around 40,000 to close to 130,000 now (ie it has more than trebled).

What about crime? Well, the number of indictable offences known to the police in 1900 was 2.4 for every 1,000 of the population. In 1997, the figure was 89.1. I’d put my house on the fact that it’s gone up since then.

I suppose some cynics might interpret these figures as to show that the police are actually causing crime. I wouldn’t go that far. But I do wonder this: where are all these new police officers and what are they doing?

Inspector Gadget in Perverting the Course of Justice:

I don’t trust official crime figures… I know the Home Secretary says we have more police than ever, but how many of them are working Response? I know, too, that we have PCSOs now, and that they look a bit like police, but very few of them work beyond 9pm because it’s too dangerous (it’s not too dangerous for the public, note, but it is too dangerous for PCSOs, despite their stab vests and their radios). In the first few months of 24 hour licensing, we were given enormous amounts of centrally-funded extra money to put more bodies on the street – the overtime was great for the Sergeants and PCs. As a result, everywhere you turned there were police. Once that dried up, we were back to normal – and we really don’t have the numbers to do much more than control things to a just-about acceptable level.

So, what if we could do something to the figures, to make it look like things are better? If it’s not within our gift to stop the nations’ youth getting drunk and fighting, and it’s not, the only place left for us to go to, to get the reductions we need, is our bureaucrats.

If we arrest lots of people for relatively minor things, so we get lots of ‘detections’, we at least have some ammunition to use in our defence when people start squealing about NTE ['night time economy'] crime. Or if police statisticians start to look at definitions of crime, maybe we can shift things that would have been counted into areas that wouldn’t be?

For instance, someone is being aggressive and drunk in the street. We have two options. We can arrest him for being ‘drunk and disorderly’ or for one of the offences under the Public Order Act 1986 – sections 3, 4 and 5 of which are more commonly known as ‘Affray’, ‘Threatening Behaviour’ and ‘Disorderly Conduct’.

What’s the difference? The difference is that ‘drunk and disorderly’ is not a recordable crime. You are found in that state by a police officer, arrested and bound over to keep the peace at court the next day (or, more often, given a Penalty Notice for Disorder and sent on your way). It doesn’t show up on our figures. S5 POA is recordable, and does.

There is widespread anecdotal evidence of PCs being put under pressure to arrest for drunk and disorderly. Even if they arrest for S5 POA, it can later be changed to d&d – this is perfectly legitimate, no-one is doing anything technically wrong or illegal, but it does have the added benefit of making the NTE figures look a lot better than they actually are, doesn’t it?

PC Bloggs in Diary of an On-Call Girl:

(M)y mobile rings. It is the Scrutineer Herself.

‘Hello, PC Bloggs? About this racist incident?’

‘Yes?’

‘We can’t just reclassify it.’

‘Why not?’

‘Well, how do you know it wasn’t racist?’

‘The victim doesn’t think it was.’

‘Well, how does she know it wasn’t?’

She’s got me there. I mean, just because Mrs Patel doesn’t think it was racist doesn’t mean it wasn’t, I suppose. But I recover like lightning. ‘Um… well, how do you know it was?’

There’s a momentary silence, and it sounds like an irritated one. Then she replies. ‘I will change it to a criminal damage, but unless you can provide verifiable evidence that it was not racist, the classification will have to stand.’

Will is now watching me with his head on one side, looking thoroughly amused. That’s the problem with more experienced officers: they treat all this Crime Managing stuff as a joke and just go along with what the Scrutineer wants.

I swivel my chair to face away from him and refuse to succumb. ‘Verifiable evidence that it was not racist? Like what?’

‘Perhaps if we knew the motives of the offender?’ She says this as though she is talking to a small child, or an idiot.

‘Perhaps if we knew who the offender was,’ I say, ‘I could arrest him or her and find out. Do you know who the offender was?’

‘Now, now, PC Bloggs, I know it seems pernickety, but we have to abide by ethical crime recording rules.’

‘But if it’s racist, I have to do a report to the Hate Crime Unit. I can’t do that because the victim doesn’t think it’s racist. So the report will just say that it isn’t racist, in which case why am I sending it to them?’

‘Well, I’m afraid that’s just the way it is.’

‘But…’ I am starting to doubt my sanity. ‘How did it become a racist incident in the first place? The victim doesn’t think it is, for goodness’ sake.’

‘If someone perceives it to be racist, then it is.’

‘It looks like the only person who perceives it to be racist is the Crime Centre.’

‘Well, that is ‘someone’.’

‘Look, this is just some kids chucking stuff at a door. It’s antisocial, it’s annoying and I’d love to arrest the little blighters if I knew who they were, but it isn’t racist.’

‘That’s your view.’

‘Fine… can we just file it then?’

‘Not without the report to the Hate Crime Unit. It won’t get through Crime Compliance.’

‘Fine, I’ll do the report.’ The call ends.

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We’re reprinting a short digital run of A Paramedic’s Diary – there’s no economic sense in it, really, but I hate to see it slide out of print.

We’re also reprinting Wasting Police Time and It’s Your Time You’re Wasting: perennial sellers that just chug on, year in, year out.

Frank Chalk is still dividing readers nicely up into people who think he ‘hates kids’ and people with kids in rough schools (there are some) who hate the way they are being ‘taught’. Here are two contrasting Amazon reviews from the last week or two, the first by ‘JEM':

I have never been so incensed by any book that I have read as I was by this one. This man is a disgrace to the profession… I work in a school in a very deprived area and, in contrast to Mr. Chalk’s opinion, the children I teach are exciting, interested and enthusiastic…when they have a decent teacher. These children crave positive and consistent role models, from what I have read, Mr. Chalk is neither. His teaching strategies seem to revolve around humiliation, degradation and insults – who is the adult? Everyone deserves the most to be expected from them and the very best teaching on offer. I, thankfully, don’t know any teachers like this man, however I am concerned that some people (with no current experience or interaction with schools) will take this to be a common reflection of what goes on – it most certainly is not! I endured this book and would definitely not recommend it. (I gave this book one star, but only because Amazon made me and wouldn’t let me put none).

That thud is the sound of the point bypassing JEM.

And:

I read this book out of interest to see if my daughter’s experience of teaching in an inner London school was general. Actually it would appear she put a good spin on it! This book should be compulsory reading for education ministers and so-called experts… If anything will persuade grandparents to try to provide private eduction for their grandchildren, this book is it.

It’s about time we published a new teacher, and I may have news on that soon. Likewise, another copper. (By the way, Gadget’s latest mug is amusing.)

I’ve just ordered Gravity’s Engines, which looks like a very interesting read, but will probably end up being another in the long list of books which I buy because they look very interesting but end up being just a bit too dense and complicated for my tiny mind, and are thus abandoned about halfway through. This amuses my rather smug wife no end: she gets through a proper classic novel or something about synaesthesia roughly twice a week.

Robert McCrum, in The Guardian, says ‘the fog is lifting’, and that eBooks will (possibly) save hardbacks, but kill paperbacks. I think he’s right; he’s said it before, and we said it before that. (Someone probably said it before us, mind you.)

Finally, Betty Lavette:

Betty Swann:

Betty Moorer:

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We’ve run out of stock on a number of older titles, and are wrestling, Mick McManus-like, with the difficult decision as to whether to reprint or not.

A 2,000 print run of the average b-format paperback costs in the order of £1,500. That gives a unit cost of £0.75.

Assuming an £8.99 jacket price (some are still priced at £7.99), and an average discount of 60% (discount being the price off the jacket price that the shops pay to us), we are receiving £3.33 a copy. Take away our sales and distribution costs (approx 25% – £0.83) and the print cost, we are recouping £1.75 per sale.

From that we must first pay the authors; if we assume a royalty of 10% of jacket price, but declining to 70% of the prevailing royalty in light of the higher-than-50% discount (this is standard in the trade), we are paying an author £0.63 per sale.

So on each sale, we are clearing £1.12.

We could push the button on six reprints of 2,000 copies apiece, and we would eventually make a profit of £13,440 on that expenditure. That is not to be sneezed at, but the key word is ‘eventually’. In order to make that £13k, we’d need to tie up £9,000 for an unspecified time – probably 18 months. Cash flow is what kills most small businesses, and, while cashflow is fortunately not a problem for us, it is something which needs to be borne in mind at all times.

In the meantime, of course, we would also be incurring storage charges.

The next question is, is there any way of reducing the print costs? I’d quite like a business trip to China or Singapore to have a look at the printing available there, but the fact is that the collapse in the value of the pound rules out what was once a good option for low-cost print runs, as long as you could cope with long lead times for delivery.

So what about digital? On Friday we were quoted £497.20 for a 200-copy run, giving a unit cost of £2.48. You don’t need an MBA or a degree in economics to see the problem here. However, one way around the obvious issue is to cut out the shops and just sell direct from our website. At £8.99, minus the cost of postage and packing (£1.30) and the author royalty, we actually make considerably more per sale, albeit that we make it more slowly. But we don’t have so much cash tied up for so long, and it does mean we can fulfil what is still, in some cases, a 50-copies-a-month demand on titles that would otherwise lie fallow.

So we’re going to have a look at this. Now, how to drive more traffic to our website?

Meanwhile, memories of Lambretta days:

And the original version. The one above is merely a speeded-up bootleg of the Originals’ original to appeal to the scooter boy market, not some mysterious other unreleased version, but it’s a great example of how a few extra RPM can change the entire character of a song, including the apparent sex of the singer:

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Currently editing. Here are a few things which have caught my eye during coffee breaks.

Password advice.

Can we abolish pain?

The worst football team in Britain.

Dalrymple vs Orr.

10 False Facts Everyone ‘Knows’.

Finally, The Tomangoes, an obscure Detroit group from the 1960s. I bought a copy of this record in the Motorcity in 1987-ish from a man called James Winson, as part of a large haul of records. From memory, I paid him 75c apiece for the records. James was an early stages crack addict who later went full-blown, and was murdered by a Yardie dealer in the early 1990s. Sadly, I rolled over the record in my office chair one day, and broke it in two. Despite all of this, the song still brings back happy memories!

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Google director of strategic partnerships Tom Turvey, talking at the Book Industry Study Group AGM in New York, says eBooks have made it harder to sell older titles. According to a piece in The Bookseller, he believes that

in this new world, discovery is one of the biggest—if not the biggest—problem. As Turvey put it: “The head gets more and more important, while midlist and backlist go down. Hand-selling is very hard in a digital world. There’s no authoritative voice of reliable market advice.”

[Sourcebooks founder Dominique] Raccah agreed: “Overwhelming choice pushes you back to the tried and true. The ‘light’ reader will read what everybody reads, so the big get even bigger, which is very dangerous.”

I’m not sure I agree. We can now draw the attention of readers all over the world to our backlist titles, and sell to them direct, too. When it was a Waterstone’s/bookshops-only world, that was a lot harder. This week, we have sold the first Monday Books titles in India (via Kindle). We consistently sell hundreds of titles each week in (for example) Australia, using Amazon and iTunes. I have just checked the number of actual hard copy ‘pBooks’ shipped by us (as opposed to by our distributors) to Australia in the last five years, and the number is under 100.

Things are changing, but for the better.

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