The Sodom & Gamorrah Show

We all have our favourite bands. Most come and go, replaced by others as musical trends – and our tastes – change over time. I’ve lost count of the number I’ve stumbled across, only for them to break up or vanish from the face of the planet after a second or, if lucky, third album. It’s rare to be able to say that you’ve grown up with a band. Maybe I’m one of the lucky ones who can say I have…

Those who know me might be surprised that it’s taken this long to give a mention to the Pet Shop Boys on my Blog, a pop duo who emerged in the mid-80’s who, in the words of one of their own songs, have “both made such a little go a very long way”.

There’s a Pet Shop Boys song representing almost every phase of my teenage life (well, late teens, anyway) up to the present. I’ve played them on every one of my numerous Sony Walkman’s, portable CD players and more recently iPod in every African country I’ve had the fortune to visit. The recent release of their highly acclaimed ‘Fundamental‘ album has thrust them back into the public eye, and the BBC’s use of their ‘Numb’ track to summarise the disappointment of England’s recent exit from the football World Cup gave the track a surprising iTunes chart hit.

The recent revamp of their website (pictured) has been long overdue. Best of all, however, has to be the ‘Jukebox’ where you get a random stream of classic PSB tunes, and the ‘Product’ section where tracks from all twenty-eight albums can be played online, in full. This includes the fantastic Battleship Potemkin, a soundtrack to the 1925 silent Russian revolutionary film of the same name. Give the site a visit, and check out ‘Fundamental’.

Like an old friend, it’s hard to imagine the musical world without our Neil and Chris. For now, I’ll try not to.

“I want to to be numb…”

Time for specialisation?

If you cast your mind back a few years you’d remember whole batches of small IT start-ups developing and marketing bunches of IT-based tools and diagnostics utilities. Looking back now some of these seem a little silly – a utility to compress data or defrag your system, another to help undelete files, others to search for files across your hard drives. Now, of course, pretty much all of these have been swallowed up into Windows. The lucky companies got bought out. Others just went under.

The PC market is certainly big enough to support many, many companies of different shapes and sizes. It’s sad to think, then, that so many of these pioneers have fallen by the wayside (although replaced, naturally, by newer outfits). If Microsoft hadn’t liked their products so much and hadn’t either made them an offer they couldn’t refuse, or integrated their ideas into the continuing evolvement of Windows, then quite possibly many more would still be around today. It would make for a healthier environment, I’m sure.

Now we hear that Apple may be under pressure (again) from the Seattle giant. Picture it. A couple of decades or so ago you develop a home computer, and the operating system, only for someone else to come in and steal your thunder (I won’t go into any of the legal issues or court cases here). So, after a period of great uncertainty you decide to move into a new area – portable music devices – and make a huge success of that. Then what happens? Another giant – the same one as before, as a matter of fact – comes in and announces that they will also be entering the market.

Dubbed the “iPod killer” by some, Microsoft’s ‘Zune‘ portable media player will certainly be one to watch. But why does a company with the biggest pile of money ever assembled need to go and enter another market like this? Isn’t the PC market enough to be getting on with?

Competition may be healthy, sure. Survival of the fittest, sure. But let’s be careful how we go forward. I, for one, would rather see companies specialise and stick to what they do best. And leave the others to do the same.