Friday, May 15, 2015

Football - bloomin' heck!

[image from Wikipedia]

Please, this glorious morning, let’s all take a moment to appreciate & celebrate the momentous achievement of Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in reaching the 2014-15 Europa League Final, prevailing 1 – 0 in last night’s semi-final, second leg against Napoli to secure a 2 – 1 aggregate victory.

In these days of Champions’ League homogeneity (even allowing for the results of the semis of that competition this season at least producing the only acceptable final possible, & we’ve certainly never been fans of Juventus here at TOoT), the Europa, following on from the UEFA Cup, continues to allow some of the continent’s less-fashionable & unheralded, unfancied clubs at shot at glory, with an unlikely name emerging blinking into the Final spotlight (dimmed though that might be in comparison to the glare of the CL) with relative regularity (think, only since the turn of the millennium, of the likes of Deportivo Alaves, Middlesbrough, Fulham, Sporting Braga, for instance), claiming a few notable scalps along the way – Dnipro, lest we forget, qualified from a group featuring InternazionaleSaint-Etienne, & then overcame Olympiakos, Ajax, Club Brugge (3 of which favourite teams would happily be amongst TOoT’s semi-finalists in either competition, of course) & now most latterly & notably, not least given their manager Rafael Benitez’s career record in winning European tournaments with numerous clubs, Napoli -  &, for that, should be fondly clasped to our football-loving bosoms for the variety & colour it provides, the upsetting of the ‘massive clubs’ narrative.

Dnipro, of course, are a team that have held a place in our hearts since the early-1980s when they were known to the world by their Soviet-era Russian name, Dnepr Dnepropetrovsk, which, ineffably, impossibly romantic as it is, we still prefer in our habitual ‘Ostalgic’ fashion, & it really is fabulous to see them reach such a pinnacle, which allows us to dream on that they might actually win the trophy, stacked though the odds would seem to be against them – bring it on!

In a clear case of life imitating art, it's interesting to note that, over at the idealised football universe of 'Delusions of Randomness', Dnepr Dnepropetrovsk reached the final of last season's European Champions' Cup, there to lose narrowly to RWD Molenbeek, the third time in history they've alas fallen at the ultimate hurdle of that competition: one day, maybe.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Recently-Acquired Panini Sticker Album of the Day #4; 'Euro 2012'

Another ‘interactive’ investment, on this occasion in a box of the complete set of stickers comprising Panini’s ‘Euro 2012’ collection, with which to populate an empty copy of the album designed for such purpose, itself found abandoned on the ground during a walk around the lanes nearby our then home, almost exactly three years ago, shortly before the tournament itself kicked-off – interesting to note, in relation to the series of flattened ‘roadkill’ aluminium cans I’d been photographing, collecting, drawing & blogging during 2009 – 2011, that the front cover of the album itself bears evidence of having been driven over, for, face-down as it was discovered, it is peppered by small indentations caused by gravel being pressed into it from the force of pressure applied from above, thus being an intriguing ‘historical object’.
For no more than an extra fiver the opportunity was available to acquire a completed album & thus partake of the effort-free passive enjoyment of its contents, but the prospect of some more sticking-as-creative-endeavour, of taking that hands-on active role in ‘making’ the object proved the greater attraction, & so here are the component parts, all ready to go, with a couple hovering in their proper places, just waiting to be stuck... 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Recently-Acquired Panini Sticker Album of the Day #3: 'Football 81'

Today featuring Panini’s English/Scottish Football ’81, a couple of years down the line from the previous entry, with slight changes to the design of the player stickers & the club crests back to being set on a shiny gold ground.
Less perms this time around, the heyday having obviously passed, &, even with changes in personnel, it’s noticeable that many teams are still sporting the same shirt/kit designs as two years ago, a now-unheard-of state of affairs (although one might appreciate West Ham United’s return to a more restrained & classic claret with sky blue sleeves shirt from the earlier Admiral yoked ‘cowboy’ design, striking though that might have been), & before the days when sponsors’ & other logos started blighting the shirts’ appearance (nostalgic sigh).
Note how the Scots have been downgraded to half-sized stickers for each of the players, although the squads get a decent teams'-worth eleven-player representation.

Again, it’s a valuable aesthetic record & another essential investment for the collection.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Recently-Acquired Panini Sticker Album of the Day #2: 'Football 79'

Another recent purchase in the interests of establishing a small but perfectly-formed collection, Panini’s Football 79 is not an album I recall from its day – following on from the original Euro Football 76/77, I remember the domestic Football 78 collection too, had the album & acquired a fair few stickers (including the gold club crest ones), but by the 78/79 season we’d moved on from football to music as our true obsession, so were probably in post-Shoot! mode – but, with the benefit of hindsight & suffused with nostalgia for the styles of those more innocent times, it seemed an essential acquisition now & so came to pass, via ebay, as these things have a habit of doing.

And what a thoroughly sensible decision to invest it has been, for this album features for the first & only occasion fabric club badge stickers to go alongside the player images, which themselves, in terms of primary stylistic feature, are a veritable paean to the power of the perm, however incongruous & hopelessly unsuited to the wearer/victim this hairstyle might have proved to be. Soon, of course, the perm-moustache combination would become particularly closely identified with Liverpool FC & Liverpudlians, as a stereotype, but, prior to this focussing of attentiom, the entire UK, with its football fraternity to the fore, followed the lead established by Kevin Keegan (who had set the trend then quickly decamped to Germany, there to spread the gospel already introduced by Paul Breitner – think of the likes of, e.g, Harald Schumacher & Rudi Voller, keeping the torch burning across the football pitches of the globe through the Eighties) & hair literally exploded into the available space, so many examples of which grace the pages of Football 79, an orgy of delight for anyone with an eye for the socio-history of style.

Yes, & going beyond the first inside page with its rather lovely multi-sticker map of the UK & its primary football locations, it’s not just Liverpool &, referring back to the front cover, Everton’s Bob Latchford for example, but the likes of Middlesbrough (featuring, amongst others, former fearsome icon of the mighty Wrexham, Billy Ashcroft), Norwich City, Southampton &, north of the border, Hibernian & Partick Thistle too (just look at Alan Rough, fresh as he was from Scotland’s World Cup ’78 debacle, having to cope with yet more ignominy!) – indeed, the whole album as a gallery of portraits is a parade of hair-as-topiary, a crucial addition to the history of illustrated football publications &, as such, an absolutely necessary acquisition, to serve as both celebration of the time & caution against a return to its frothy excesses.

Also included is a spread of the Football League Second Division teams, featuring Wrexham, then at their zenith in the pyramid, making the Panini albums for the first time, & only few subsequent occasions, in their history.


Top article in The Guardian today - this is what football is about, the kits.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Recently-Acquired Panini Sticker Album of the Day #1: Belgian Football '88

As might have become apparent from the recently-completed ‘World Cup ’74 Portraits’ drawing project (see the March 2014 – March 2015 archives), we’re pretty keen on old (& not so old) Panini (& similar) sticker albums here at TOoT, enjoying what we already own, considering their contents as raw material for future art projects, & by no means from an obsessive collector’s point of view but nonetheless keeping an eye out for what might be the occasional suitable addition to a small but perfectly-formed collection, aesthetically, historically & nostalgically.

Thus did a recent potter around ebay bring to attention a few choice items, not least this Euro-gem from the Eighties (the Seventies are best, of course, but this such vintage isn’t to be sniffed at by any means) &, delightfully Belgium, one of our favourite footballing places for its teams’ & players’ names, which seductively proved impossible to resist, especially with an injunction to ‘Buy it Now’, & was accordingly invested-in without further ado.

Here it is then, Panini’s Belgian publication ‘Football 88’, as it arrived, the unfilled album together with the complete set of stickers, nine packets of which were sellotaped to a square of cardboard, in grid form (which arrangement never fails to tickle our fancy, of course), just waiting to be joined together in their proper, intended fashion: oh, the prospect of those joyful hours of precise sticking-as-artistic-endeavour, the consumer as maker of the finished aesthetic object, rather than mere passive recipient.

Opening the first package of stickers revealed a consecutive run of numbers (this particular one being, apparently, the second batch of the album’s contents ordered in such form), that we enthusiastically set about assigning & applying to their appropriate places in the book, as might be appreciated by this evidence of the completed Beveren pages. Note, for itself & future reference, the bilingual Walloon & Flemish legends that relate to each player’s sticker, another delightful feature of the album’s heady contents. How nice also to become reacquainted with one David Fairclough, of Seventies’ Liverpool ‘Supersub’ fame (even as he sank our beloved St Etienne in that legendary European Cup quarter-final), popping up in something of an unlikely place.

However, it occurred that a yet more enjoyable creative experience might be had by encountering the stickers in random fashion, in the manner of one acquiring the individual packets of 5 or 6 stickers, as sold & bought with one’s necessarily limited pocket money funds, &, indeed, as the subjects for the World Cup ’74 drawing project had been selected.

To this end, all the stickers were unpacked & decanted into a suitable receptacle, most appropriately in this case an old ‘Belgian selection’ biscuit tin (it was just here, waiting for such an occasion), now ready to be picked as they come, almost, as it must be admitted that the two-sticker composite First Division team group pictures were removed in order that they be applied in & as their pairs, that the two halves could be placed together & compared in order to establish their proper/best fit within the allocated space(s).
This having been achieved, we have proceeded accordingly… least until such point as the first pair of half-sized stickers representing the Second Division clubs & players was encountered, & the paralysing discovery made that they were, in a significant way, too large to fit the available space, that they would, rather than fit snugly between the upper Walloon & lower Flemish text, instead have to obscure one or other of the languages! There ensued, of course, an identity crisis brought on by this discovery – in Belgian mode, are we one or the other, which side of the linguistic & cultural divide to we favour? After much conscience-wrestling & consideration (& laughter from the observing A), aesthetics came to our aid & the decision was taken, in terms of appearances, that the Flemish legend, occurring below the stuck image, should take precedence but, so as not to consign the Walloon to history, the stickers should not be unpeeled but, rather, retain their backing in order that they can be glued to the page(s) in a manner that allows the sticker to be curled forward from the top so that the Walloon text can be seen behind: it’s not ideal, of course, but it is a solution, of sorts.

On the subject of these Second Division stickers, admire the style as sported here by the legendary Hungarian Laszlo Fazekas, featured now as manager of Eendracht Aalst but previously a recurring star in such Panini albums as the Euro Footballs of ’77 & ’79 & the World Cup ’78 edition, & also FKS’s Argentina ’78 publication.

Anyhoo, we hope soon to have completed this marvellous addition to the football sticker album collection.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Recently-Acquired Vinyl LP of the Day #17: The Mighty Wah! 'A Word to the Wise Guy'

Having originally owned the LP back in the day, it became imperative, when opportunity presented itself, to re-invest in a vinyl copy of The Mighty Wah!’s masterpiece, an album so of its time & place (the political powderkeg of economically-battered & abandoned early-Eighties Liverpool), yet that has transcended & endured - ultimately, defiantly offering a vision of hope amongst the frustration & helplessness of a situation so far beyond individuals’ control, today frighteningly topical again (in fact, let’s all take 40 minutes to weep along to ‘A Word to the Wise Guy’ for what, dismayingly, has just happened) – courtesy of its wonderful tunes, anthems for its & all time(s), infused with the soul of Mr Pete Wylie (Sir – we salute you, then, now & always), juxtaposed with Eugene Lange’s justifiably scathing, bilious rant-rap ‘Yuh Learn’ which, segmented, is interspersed throughout the album & also features in full on the bonus 12” single that, along with a lyric booklet, was generously included with the LP
From ‘Weekends’ through to the shining optimism of ‘Come Back’, it’s a fabulous widescreen rollercoaster journey of styles & emotions, & a magnificent testimony to the power of music, an absolute must for the discerning record collection.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Recently-Acquired Vinyl LP of the Day #16: The Icicle Works' eponymous debut

Today featuring The Icicle Works’ maiden LP, another veritable classic from Liverpool’s musical conveyor belt of the times, standing up there along with ‘Ocean Rain’, ‘Kilimanjaro’ & others, having weathered the test of time to sound as wonderful & affecting now as it did back in 1984, age having not tarnished its young man's dreams & passions, all the way through from the mighty ‘Chop the Tree’ (what an introduction to an album) to ‘Nirvana’, with many highlights during its course, including the perennial particular favourite ‘Out of Season’.  Obviously another essential addition to the collection...

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Recently-Acquired Vinyl LP of the Day #15: The Teardrop Explodes 'Kilimanjaro.'

Today we present the fruit of a most welcome investment, not for the first time, in The Teardrop Explodes’ mighty & magnificent ‘Kilimanjaro’, as majestic as the mountain whose name it takes, an enduring masterpiece from the cusp of the 70s-80s, of its time yet transcending, whose charms never fail to work their magic, an LP chock-full of fabulous surreal psychedelic pop that on numerous occasions does indeed ‘go crazy’ (that bonkers, battering reading of ‘Books’, for instance), transporting the listener (or this one, anyway) to a better place & more semi-detached headspace, as comforting as it can be mildly unhinging, which can never be a bad thing.
As it has proved to be once again for yours truly, this should be an essential addition to any record collection.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Recently-Acquired Vinyl LP of the Day #14: Belle & Sebastian 'Push Barman to Open Old Wounds'

As with the recent acquisition blogged but yesterday, the decision to invest in the triple(!) vinyl pressing of Belle & Sebastian’s ‘Push Barman to Open Old Wounds’ was motivated in the main by a desire to hear songs so familiar from their digital form on CD in the analogue context that, romantically, somehow seems to be the most appropriate for the fullest appreciation of their charms, manifest as they already are in other formats. The widescreen artwork might have been a contributory factor too, as can be appreciated.

It’s disappointing to report, however, that the sound issuing forth from the vinyl doesn’t quite cut the mustard in the manner one had anticipated, especially as the stylus follows its course over a side of the platter, towards the centre, where the quality seems to deteriorate quite noticeably and badly, rendering the subtleties of the music almost unlistenable – an unsatisfactory transfer to vinyl &, all in all, product, which is a shame indeed (not least considering the £30-plus price tag). I would consider this a fault of my playing system, but it seems common to at least some of the few current pressings in which I’ve invested, & the old, original records (not these ‘heavyweight’ 180gram examples, although I can’t tell/feel the difference anyway) from the Seventies & Eighties don’t suffer the same problem for all that they might be a bit scratchy in places (as to be expected).
Perhaps, indeed, my hardware is of a vintage that won’t do new LPs justice, but it’s a shame all  the same, & in this particular instance we’ll be returning to our double CD housed within its ‘bound book’ packaging (a lovely object in itself) for a proper appreciation of what remains fabulous music, a good deal of the cream of B&S.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Recently-Acquired Vinyl LP of the Day #13: Tricky 'Maxinquaye'

As something of a departure from (re-)investing in original LPs from the late Seventies – mid Eighties, that personal golden period of vinyl-buying, this purchase was made with a desire to hear what an album so familiar from CD – for the better part of 20 years now, too, blimey – would sound like on vinyl, and also to sample the artwork on a larger scale, of course.
Happy to report that no loss of quality or enjoyment has been experienced across the change in formats, & that the vinyl pressing of ‘Maxinquaye’ is even mightier than before, an album of rare, dark wonders indeed.