Tag Archives: music

I’m surely not alone when I say that music has got me through these crazy times. Old constants have been called upon just that little bit more during lockdown, to the extent that I’ve started to worry if the neighbours hate hearing the same songs over and over. Not that it’s enough to make me actually stop, mind you.

Of course, there are new – and ‘old new’ – earworms popping up all the time. I happened to catch a classic Top of the Pops on BBC Four – they’ve been showing them for about a decade now, starting from 1976 and running from there. They’re now up to late 1990. On said episode, the number one was The Beautiful South with A Little Time and, well, it’s been hard to escape since. I’m not surprised it did well at the time. Anyway, this is why we have this pixel portrait of Briana Corrigan. What a voice! And a feisty lyric, which might explain my colour choices.

Now maybe I’ve done this, I’ll be able to move on. But I doubt it.

I thought the scanlines and EGA palette would give it a suitably 1990 feel. I had been looking for an excuse to use the palette for a while now, and you can probably see why, but nothing has been happening at all lately on the productivity front, until Briana. So, thanks Briana.

Yes, what the title says. But this Halloween was a bumper night of retro thrills for me. I watched The Shining for the second time ever (and I still have so many questions, but we shan’t address those as I don’t want to spoil a forty year old film for you). Later, the early hours were spent watching a livestreamer play through the original Doom on the highest difficulty, and with fast monsters enabled. Even if you’ve never seen or played Doom, that should be self-explanatory. Anybody who has played Doom will know that the enemies move and attack pretty darn fast to begin with, and that fast monsters is very close to reaching bullshit territory. But it was oh so entertaining to watch.

It’s a game that I’ve written about several times over the years I’ve kept this blog, and will probably come to again at some point in the future. The legacy it holds is on a scale rarely seen, and the  development and its deceptively simple mechanics continue to fascinate me. Over twenty years since my first playthrough on the much-maligned 32-X port, there are still phases where I play it regularly.

One of those phases occurred recently, hence the ZX Spectrum treatment. Of course, Doom began its life on the PC in 1993 and was ported to just about everything, but – and who would have thought? – the ZX Spectrum was not on that list. And not just because the system was discontinued a year earlier. Had things been different, I suppose a 2D, Robocop style game might have been an option, but it wouldn’t have been Doom. Doom is all about the bleak atmosphere and the desperate exploration; the intimidation of dark halls and the sound of demons getting louder as they close in on you. A platformer version adorned in cyan and magenta probably wouldn’t have pulled that off particularly well.

This being said, a port did arrive on the Spectrum, kind of: an unofficial, fan-made project surfaced in the late nineties, comprising a few levels and a selection of the monsters. And it did try to mimic the original’s visual. Impressive though it is, I’ve never been able to watch a playthrough for more than a couple of minutes, and I defy anybody to navigate the searing maze with their eyesight intact. Such are the dear Speccy’s limitations. I feel that more or less sums up what an official Spectrum Doom would have been like; ‘hellish’ seems a fitting descriptor.

As a bonus treat, I thought I’d try and convert the legendary At Doom’s Gate, Bobby Prince’s soundtrack to the very first level, into something that might have been doable even on the Spectrum 48K. I emphasise the ‘might’, as I’m far from an expert on sound and feel there are probably too many channels running at one time (four). Either way, my thanks to shiru8bit on Reddit for compiling the soundfont used here to rip and tear through such an iconic tune. Mmm… strident.

nellyfurtado-6The product of another earworm, after our last encounter with Darren Hayes of Savage Garden. I think there’s something to be said for turning this into a regular thing, especially if they’re new or nostalgic; it seems a productive and worthy use of a sometimes irritating thing!

This time, we have Nelly Furtado – hopefully if you know the woman you’ve already sussed that. It’s actually the fifth or sixth attempt with Ms. F – the previous lot, each attempting to be wittily faithful to Loose, are not for the faint-hearted, certainly not especially flattering. So, it was back to a more detailed approach – for now, anyway. Having started to become a little jaded with the portraiture as is, it’d really be nice to step back and try and mix things up a little next year… we’ll see.

Anyway, back to Nelly. I can’t claim to be an uber-fan, so I’ll just witter on and see where this goes (as if that’s in any way different to the usual!) I’ve been aware of her for a long time now, mainly because of the widely-played I’m Like A Bird which speaks very much of 2000, but it wasn’t until Loose arrived in 2006 that I took real notice. I’d like to thank Nelly for keeping me company around that time, when I was at home for a fortnight with labyrinthitis; I played Say It Right and All Good Things whenever my head was going to let me enjoy them. As a bit of a hashtag born-in-the-wrong-decade throwback before it was cool, my playing something from the charts was telling in itself.

There’s lots of hip-hop punch, but there are also moments of sensitivity which made an attractive, moody cocktail to teenage me. It’s probably one of my favourite albums of the 2000s (though, admittedly, that is a small pool in which to swim – again, hashtag supercool throwback). Having happened across her again recently, the hits from back remain lively and fresh, belying the fact that they’re now over a decade old. They are said right, if you want to be really clever. Go Nelly.

darrenhayes-3The term ‘earworm’ emerged in the late seventies and refers to music so memorable that it becomes something of a fixture. I’m sure we’ve all encountered them: the tunes and lyrics dancing in your mind and refusing to stop.

It’s good to talk, and so here’s a little about my latest episode. I was in the car recently when To The Moon & Back by Savage Garden played on the radio. I’m sure I haven’t heard this song since the late nineties, where I remember it being ubiquitous, and quite enjoying it; well, it seems determined to make up for lost time. I’ve given up trying to shake it!

Perhaps an indication of how serious an affliction this is, we have a portrait of lead singer Darren Hayes. A pretty quick one, I hasten to add. He looks a little sterner than I set out – sorry, Darren – perhaps he’s irked I haven’t been listening to him for twenty years – sorry, Darren. Of course, I opted for sunglasses to hide the features and emphasise the aural impact of our subject’s song… and if you’ll buy that, you’ll buy anything! It was a combination of wanting to include shades and not being in the mood for eyes.

This isn’t really a bad thing, of course. I’m so glad that such magnetic melodies exist. Darren has a great voice, one I’m finding both refreshing and headily nostalgic, and I’ll quite happily take this as defence against an impending deluge of Slade, John Lennon and the usual ‘festive’ suspects ad finitum. They’re the ones you need be wary of. No, I’ll stick with Savage Garden, thanks Noddy.

rhcpflea-2c“No matter what level you’re doing it on, playing music is an opportunity to give something to the world.”

While there have been several artists that have been with me since childhood, I think the Red Hot Chili Peppers were one of the first that I discovered myself, with a hunger to learn more and track down new material – the eclectic mix of hard rock, funk and soul makes them a truly alternative act, and one with proven longevity. Being that first major stop in the pursuit of musical discovery, finding my way back to their material is always a tremendous nostalgia trip.

Though all are hard to ignore, it was always the bassist, Flea, that grabbed me the most. The origin of the nickname is clear to see, for he bounds around the stage – typically wearing next to nothing and/or doused in neon paint – with such enigmatic vigour, all while slapping the guitar and making it sing. He’s a skilled multi-instrumentalist, but his work on the bass is quite rightly acclaimed as some of the best ever. A proper rock star.

All of that surely explains the rather pedestrian portrait of our man dressed up in a snazzy shirt. I just found this particular reference quite cute, and wanted to focus on that. Perhaps I’d better do another, more animated attempt which can do justice to the showman…


morten-1bIf I were around in the eighties, I’m sure I’d have been swooning all over the place whenever the gorgeous Mr. Harket made an appearance. Not that it’s any different today. He’s even more stunning now; the boyish beauty now elevated with experience, character and the lack of mullet-esque bouffant. Hence, the inspiration to use him for a quickie.

Well, I’m only human.

Relative quickie, at least – a couple of hours. Something about the facial structure is off, but there are elements of the man I can see coming through, so I suppose that’s good. Mostly, I was just happy it came together, and faster than normal; with all that’s been going on lately, I’m just drained. I guess that’s for another time.

Anyway, it’d be remiss to post Morten without sharing the best music video ever created. Pop perfection.

Hmm, I can see an encore before too long!


katebush-5How mesmerising is Kate Bush? Incredibly so. That’s something I’ve been meaning to get off my chest for quite some time. Now I’ve said it, and hopefully my painting does those feelings some justice! I did have to pull myself away, ones hopes before veering into ‘overworked’ territory.

A pretty mesmerising talent, too! A voice so full of energy, and an artistic eye like no other. Great stuff.

babyfreddie-0This beaming little boy had no idea that he would one day connect with so many. No idea of the rock-and-roll lifestyle that lie ahead – and with all that it entailed  – en route to recognition as the supreme showman.

No idea that he’d become Freddie Mercury.

As we reach twenty-five years without Freddie, it seems to me that the best way to counter any sadness is to just watch him perform. What a legacy this little boy would leave.

scaryspice-2As I’m sure has become clear, this blog has morphed into one big nostalgia trip. In the pursuit of completion, we can’t really go without giving The Spice Girls a mention, especially as it’s now twenty years since Wannabe was released and GIRLLLL POWWWER! became a thing.

Yo I’ll tell ya what I want what I really really want / SO TELL ME WHAT YA WANT WHAT YA REALLY REALLY WANT!

Twenty years – how can it be? This makes me feel old. I was four at the time and found the song inexplicably wonderful – well, perhaps in hindsight it could be explained! – and also quite hilarious. I danced to it and knew all the words, much to my grandparents’ horror; indeed, summer car journeys were a whole new level of testing with my sisters and I singing this on a loop. Well, at least it wasn’t Oasis. As for my favourite, it was always a toss-up between Scary and Baby Spice, though to be honest I think I just found Scary’s big hair amusing, such was (still is) the simplicity of my mind. It was that which convinced me to draw her, and accidentally make Mel B look not so much ‘Scary’ as ‘Ruddy Terrifying’. It was fun to be so liberal with bold colours, though.

I confess that, on revisiting Spice Girls tracks as research for this blog post, I actually knew the complete lyrics to almost every find. I knew I loved this song, but had no idea I was quite so obsessed. It’s amazing how much the tracks of our youth stick in the mind. Alas, as times change, so do tastes; I’d like to think that this brief return was more than enough to keep me going for the next couple of decades.