1. So what on earth is this blog about, then?

"Left and to the Back" is a blog exploring the dark and dusty world of flop singles and albums, the kind you may find lingering near the stock room of your local second hand record store (if you still have one), or perhaps going for extortionate sums on ebay.

All styles from all eras get a look in here - the only qualifying factor should be that the artist under discussion either failed to reach the top 40, or else released interesting material which fell by the wayside at some point in their careers.  Odd minor one-hit wonders and early flop singles by known stars may also sometimes feature.

I don't have wads of cash to throw around, so most of the singles I feature aren't hardcore collector's items - but then, most of those have been re-released and featured on compilations many times over and wouldn't expose you to anything you don't already know. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. 

2. Do you write all the content yourself?

Yes - there is no "us", there is only me. It also generates no revenue (in fact, this blog actually loses money on server costs for the mp3s) so please do bear that in mind if you're considering leaving a comment complaining about files being down or things not being quite as you'd wish. I'm OK with people asking for favours so long as they're polite. Impolite, snappy requests get ignored.

If you see identical content anywhere else, there's only one explanation - I've been plagiarised. Seriously. This has happened in the past, and I'd be really grateful if you brought these incidents to my attention.

3. I can play the tracks in the Box net folder in your entries, but how do I download them?

Move the pointer over the down arrow next to the filename and click, then click on "download" on the right hand side (Don't click on "Log in" or "Sign Up" - that's irrelevant).  Hey presto... the mp3 is yours.  If this doesn't work, then check the security settings of the web-browser you're currently using - in every case so far where someone has reported a problem, this has been the cause.

If you still can't download your mp3, of course, leave a comment.  I might have screwed up the settings somehow, or Box might need a fault bringing to their attention.

(Actually, I can't preview the tracks, and that's damn annoying!)

Ah yes, Box. God bless them. I pay them a monthly subscription fee, but their motto is "everything's fine, we don't know what you mean!" - even though it obviously isn't fine for everyone, otherwise I wouldn't be getting complaints.

There are two possible issues I'm personally aware of here:

  • One file previews but the other one doesn't. The solution to this is really simple - just refresh the page and give it another chance to load. This applies to loading glitches on any site, not just my own. No, I've no idea why Box is particularly susceptible to this, though they deny they are. 
  • The previews just don't work at all. This is almost always down to the individual's personal security settings. If you're using a Mac with Safari, enabling cookie blocking means my site (and others) can't work properly - go to this link to put that right. I'm afraid I'm not an IT expert, so I can't give a solution to every single configuration of every shiny, spanking new or decrepit old steam-powered laptop there is, but please do look at your settings and check your security settings aren't ramped up to the maximum. 
4. Why do so many of your blog entries use Sharebee for file storage?  I can't get it to work. You should use another file sharing service!  Haven't you heard of other file sharing services?  This is ridiculous, I shall write to my parliamentary representative!  Other angry words and phrases with exclamation marks on the end!  Goddamit! 

I can only apologise - the Sharebee links from 2008 and 2009 presently aren't working, and aren't likely to reactivate any time soon.  I'm sorry you missed the boat downloading this material (which, in Sharebee's defence, was available for the best part of four years) but slowly reuploading stuff here and there is on my list of things to do.  It has to be said, however, that getting the lot back online again is going to be a long job, and this blog is far from being the only thing in my life.  If it happens at all, it's likely to be a slow and gradual process rather than an overnight task - however, if you want to help getting some of the old mp3s rehoused somewhere safer, please do drop me a line. 

I actually stopped using Sharebee from February 2010, but failed to update the whole blog to shift the existing mp3s to another service because it had accumulated hundreds of entries by that time, and it would have taken a whole week of my life to do so (this might be an exaggeration, or actually it might not).

Please don't be offended if I direct you to this FAQ via a link when you raise an issue about Sharebee. It just saves me time.

5. Sure, I get it, you've had problems. But reupload the thing I'm desperate to own, please?

I might, if I've time (I have other requests from other people in my queue) if I can still locate the record/ mp3 you want (I do periodically sell off bits of my record collection) and if I feel it's still OK to do so - for instance, if the missing mp3 has since become available online through iTunes, Amazon or any of the other usual marketplaces, I'd be keen for you to provide the artists with an income by buying the work there.

6.  How can I get hold of you to talk about my band/ point out a mistake/ offer you some work?

Your best bet is to either leave a comment, drop me an email or go to the Facebook group and contact me there (I'm the moderator of the group, logically enough).

7.  Can you upload X, Y or Z next?  

Maybe, assuming I'm interested enough to write about the bands you're mentioning in the first place, and own the material.  The latter is normally a sticking point even if the former isn't.  I do have a very simple rule, though - I will not upload anything which presently appears to be commercially available.  If it's already available to legally download,  I consider it to be "off limits", however obscure it is.  I will, however, sometimes upload forty second excerpts of tracks I think are worthy of people's time and direct them to iTunes or Amazon to buy.  YouTube clips may also be used to this end.  This is done in the vain hope that it might generate a bit of extra revenue for the artist in question.

Please don't hassle me to upload something if it's clearly available for 79p on iTunes. More than U2, Radiohead or Pink Floyd, the musicians I write about here probably would appreciate your money. 

8. The blog doesn't seem to have much focus, does it?  Novelty pop, cult indie, sixties psychedelia, easy listening... why don't you upload more of a, b or c?

Yep. The lack of focus of this blog was entirely my decision when it was launched, and may be the most misguided approach ever in terms of finding an audience.  However, enough people regularly read this for me to think that it probably wasn't a complete mistake. Record collectors, and 45 collectors in particular, are fascinated by music from all kinds of genres.

The philosophy behind the blog is quite simple - interesting recorded music has been falling by the wayside or otherwise forgotten about since the dawn of the music industry.  To argue that the sixties was the only era where "nuggets" of pop goodness were washed down the backpipe is a bit misguided.  The weekly release schedules have always been saturated to the point where at least a few records worthy of attention have slipped away unnoticed, and to my ears, whilst Animals That Swim may sound completely different to The Eyes, both have brilliance in common.

The blog is usually updated twice a week, so my advice to anyone who doesn't like one particular era or genre of music is to wait patiently on the platform... another update will be along shortly.  Feel free to "follow" the blog using the Google tool or our Facebook group and ignore what you don't want to read about or hear - dip in and out as you see fit.  Use the tags at the bottom of the page to read about certain types of material.  If you're new here, there are hundreds of entries waiting to be read.

9. What is it with all the novelty records?  I like proper, serious music/ I don't understand who these celebrities you're talking about are, I'm not from Britain.

Might I drop the gentle hint that you're probably reading the wrong blog if "stuff you've heard of" is the only material in your comfort zone?

Sarcasm aside, I find a lot of novelty records amusing, or curios which highlight certain passing crazes which dominated for a brief period of time, only to be discarded or forgotten.  The "Novelty" compilation blog entry contains a longer explanation of why I find these singles fascinating.  Also, I refer the honourable gentleman to the last answer I gave.

10. What is the title "Left and to the Back" referring to?  I have a theory...

And you may be wrong.  In the Australian comedy show "John Safran's Music Jamboree", the opening sequence always involved somebody entering Safran's record store and asking if he had some oddment or other - examples included New Kids on the Block singles from when they repositioned themselves as gangster-rappers, and albums by Def Leppard from when their drummer had two arms.  Safran's response would always be a sneery, disinterested "Yeah... Left and to the back".  So the title of this blog refers to the dusty, messy, budget-price corner of the store where the discarded and unloved items can normally be found.

Of course, outside of Australia "John Safran's Music Jamboree" is arguably a more obscure reference point than anything actually found on this blog.

11.  I'd quite like to just cut and paste an entire entry of yours and put it on my blog/ my YouTube station/ my ebay sale, I hope that's OK with you?

This might surprise you, but I'm not much bothered about you replicating my work elsewhere.  However - and here's the catch - only if you credit me and link back to this blog!  Passing my work off as your own will unsurprisingly leave me feeling a bit cheated. This has only happened a few times in this blog's long history, but on no occasion did I feel chuffed.  Just tell your readers where you got the work from and link back - it's the polite thing to do.

Actually, please just link to this blog if you like it anyway, all support will always be welcomed.

12. Whatever happened to the ongoing "Second Hand Record Dip" feature where you reviewed a low cost obscure find from the racks of a second hand or charity shop? They ran from 2008 to winter 2013 then just… stopped. 

What's this doing on the frequently asked questions page? Literally nobody has ever asked me this question. And that's why I stopped writing those entries - no sod seemed to care about them, although I got 84 entries deep in the category before I began to realise. I'm sometimes a bit slow on the uptake.

13. I don't like this blog. Do you think you seem in some way intelligent and cool by uploading loads of obscure things nobody's ever heard of? You just come across as a raging fartstack.  

a. Don't read it, then. I don't charge an admission fee.
b. No, I just think it's fun.
c. Really? Oh.

Or, to put it another way, if you're one of those crazed nostalgia freaks who argues with everyone incessantly and unpleasantly and writes racist, sexist and homophobic comments under old videos on YouTube, please just don't read this blog. Your failures in life have nothing to do with me, and I have no wish to engage you in an argument. Your comments will almost certainly be either deleted or ignored, or if you're lucky I'll send you a link to a "Women who need loving husbands and immigration visas" website.

14. Who are you, what else do you do, and is there anything else of yours I can read?

I do wish people would ask me the last question frequently, but it tends to only crop up now and then!

Anyway, I'm a Government worker who lives in suburban East London in a tiny newly-built house where someone's garage used to be (seriously. It's a narrow little nook which the postman sometimes misses, but it's surprising what you can achieve with the space, even with a record collection to consider. It's also surprising how much money people can make out of tiny bits of land in London).

I'm also a qualified journalist, writer and spoken word artist, and have had short stories and poetry published in several anthologies, as well as bits of music journalism and literary journalism/ criticism in newspapers and magazines. Writing isn't my bread and butter these days, but I will still take on some commissions in my own time, so don't be afraid to contact me.

My writing blog can be found here. I also have a short-term blog about all the artists featured on the "Indie Top 20" series here.

That's it for now, but I might add to this FAQ over time depending on what else crops up on a regular basis...  but for now, it's done.  Jeez..... This is never really fascinating stuff, is it?  Either to write or to read.

1 comment:

Peter Beaven said...

I really like your blog. Keep up the good work - it's fascinating. Well done.