Six Damn Fine Degrees #112: String Quartet Kraftwerk

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

Robots It was their cover of Robots I first heard. I can’t exactly remember on what radio show. An evening show in 1992, no doubt, as I sat in my teenage bedroom pretending to do homework. I was fascinated by this reimagining and resolved to wait till the end to learn the name of the artist – The Balanescu Quartet.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #111: Plays Metallica by Four Cellos

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

I’ve always liked music. From an early age onwards, I played various instruments: pretty much anything with keys and anything that you had to hit with a stick or a mallet. But, as a kid and as a teenager, my musical tastes – and, really, my musical experience – were weird, and not necessarily in interesting ways. I liked big orchestral stuff, I liked film music, mostly of the Elmer Bernstein and John Williams variety, I enjoyed music that I’d heard in movies and TV series. Obviously I also listened to the pop and rock of the time, whatever was on Sky Channel first and later on MTV (which means that I associate much pop and rock first and foremost with the music videos), but I didn’t own a single album pre-CD, and even once I started buying CDs, it was almost exclusively film and TV music. My first, and for a long time my only, pop/rock album was Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell.

Which also means that as a male teenager growing up in the ’80s and ’90s I never had a heavy metal phase, and not only because I never had the hair for it.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #110: A Heavy Metal Christmas with Christopher Lee

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

I’m sure we all have it: That odd Christmas album we unearth whenever the Holiday Season comes along, even though we know it’s atrociously kitschy and truly awful by any musical standards. For our family, Roger Whittaker single-handedly put us in a terribly festive mood with his German (!) carols. These days – besides certified classics by Leontyne Price, Joan Baez and Mahalia Jackson – I sneak in the occasional Julio Iglesias or Ivan Rebroff schmaltz onto my turntable.

My Christmas music collection, however, is bound to become a little bigger in the wake of a completely new discovery by one of the actors lending his voice to the Neverwhere audiobook (mentioned in last week’s post by Julie): Sir Christopher Lee’s three incredible Heavy Metal Christmas albums released between 2012 and 2014!

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Into the night: Angelo Badalamenti (1937 – 2022)

I fell for Twin Peaks before I’d even seen a single scene of the series. I was fifteen and we were visiting with my uncle in the UK. Twin Peaks had just come out, and I was curious, but my parents weren’t watching it, and I didn’t think of recording it at the time, probably because I didn’t have any VHS tapes of my own. Anyway, there I was at my uncle’s, it was getting dark, and I discovered this CD on a shelf. Foggy mountains, some trees, a road curving to the left, and a sign: Welcome to Twin Peaks. I asked whether I could listen to it, they gave me some headphones, and I plonked down on a bean bag next to the stereo system.

And the night enveloped me.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #108: Stealing Sheep

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

I’ve seen a lot of bands live. It’s a perk of living in London. There’s a vast range of venues, from the small and beautiful to the vast and, well, not-so-beautiful. It’s also a pretty essential location whenever artists want to tour. At some point on their schedule, they’ll get a gig in at the capital. This also means that I can see the bands and performers I like multiple times, seeing how they grow and develop.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #107: Late Remedy for The Cure

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

There must be something sad and desperate running after your own twenty year-old success. The Cure had their last real hit in 1992 with “Friday I’m in Love”; since then, only hardcore fans might have followed their music for the last 30 years. Curiously, their concert in Basel was sold out, hinting that maybe their show might be a greatest hits show with their new, lesser known music mixed in.

But no. Except for “Lovesong”, Robert Smith et al. insisted on playing their more recent, lesser known stuff so that there was not a flicker of delight among the audience. Granted, we didn’t come to the concert to find party-time cheer and a frightful mosh-pit, but their first 90 minutes were too melancholy and funereal to allow for any kind of musical quality to be remembered.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #102: The Carpenters in Nixon’s White House (and other sweet and horrible stories)

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

US presidents have had an often particular relationship to music, some more political than others. When Mege touched upon Dave Grohl’s performance at the Obama White House in last week’s post, I immediately thought of the 44th President’s curated playlists and the many high-profile artists (indeed from Aretha Franklin to Beyoncé) who were happy to grace what still is by far the most musical and literary modern presidency. Contrast this with the difficulties Obama’s successor had in finding A-list musicians to perform at his functions, let alone use their music at his rallies: anyone from Bon Jovi, Neil Young, Brian May, The Rolling Stones, R.E.M. and Adele flat out declined being politicised by Trump. The former president himself apparently considers Peggy Lee’s disillusioned “Is That All There Is” his favourite song. Go figure!

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #100: celebrating connections

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

Everything is connected: somehow it seems like we only got started on our weekly exercise in free-fall association yesterday – but no, we’ve already arrived at the hundredth instalment of Six Damn Fine Degrees – and what better occasion than this to reflect on the feature and on cultural links of all sorts?

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #97: The Divine Comedy, Liberation and Promenade

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness!

In 1993, The Divine Comedy released their album Liberation. While, technically speaking, not the first Divine Comedy album, it marked the first release where musician Neil Hannon effectively operated as the band. He wrote, arranged and performed all the songs, with the help of a handful of musicians providing percussion and strings, and William Wordsworth providing a lyrical assist on the album’s final track “Lucy”.

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