Happy birthday Vince Clarke (Erasure, Depeche Mode, Yazoo & VCMG)

English Synthpop pioneer Vince Clarke, as well as singer-songwriter, musician, and producer (Depeche Mode, Yazoo, The Assembly, Erasure, and VCMG) was Born 3 July 1960. Inthe late-1970s, Clarke and schoolmate Andy Fletcher formed the short-lived band No Romance in China. In 1979, he teamed up with Marlow & Gore to form French Look. Another band, named Composition of Sound, followed in 1980 with another addition of Martin Gore and also, Fletcher. Clarke provided vocals until singer Dave Gahan joined the band, which was renamed Depeche Mode. At that time, he adopted the stage-name by which he is currently known: Vince Clarke. The band initially adopted a slick synthesisedelectropop sound, which produced the album Speak and Spell and the Clarke-penned singles “Dreaming of Me”, “New Life” and “Just Can’t Get Enough” in 1981.Clarke left Depeche Mode shortly after. Clarke then teamed up with singer Alison Moyet (at the time known by the nickname of ‘Alf’) to form the popular synthpop band Yazoo(known as Yaz in the U.S.), which produced two albums and a string of hits including “Only You”, “Don’t Go”, “Situation”, “The Other Side of Love”, “Nobody’s Diary” and “Walk Away from Love”.Yazoo split in 1983, and Moyet went on to have a successful solo career. Yazoo reformed in 2008 for a series of live dates to celebrate 25 years since the duo’s split.

Then In 1983 Clarke teamed up with Eric Radcliffe and it was their idea to collaborate as one-off associations with different artists on each new single, under the name The Assembly, notably with singer Feargal Sharkey they scored the Top 5 hit “Never Never”. In the meanwhile he founded the label Reset Records with Eric Radcliffe. During 1983 and further on in 1984, he produced four singles “The Face of Dorian Gray” “I Just Want to Dance”, “Claudette” and “Calling All Destroyers” for his friend Robert Marlow, which were released on this label. They also produced an album, which was shelved but was released much later in 1999 under the name The Peter Pan Effect. In 1985, another collaboration took place with Paul Quinn of Bourgie Bourgie, the result was the single “One Day” by Vince Clarke & Paul Quinn. However, the project never took off, and Clarke moved on to other projects.

In early 1985, Clarke put an ad in Melody Maker for a singer, and one applicant was Andy Bell, who was a fan of his earlier projects. He teamed with Bell to form the group Erasure, and the duo became one of the major selling acts in British music with international hits like “Oh L’amour”, “Sometimes”, “Chains of Love”, “A Little Respect”, “Chorus”, “Love to Hate You”, “Take a Chance on Me” and “Always”.The band has released 16 albums to date and have enjoyed a long string of hit singles spanning their more than two decades together, most recently topped-off by the 2005 top five hit “Breathe” taken from their Nightbird album. In 2006 Erasure produced a country-western style acoustic album consisting of mostly non-single cuts from their previous albums. This album, Union Street was preceded by the single “Boy” originally included on their 1997 Cowboy album.

On 26 January 2007, Erasure  announced the release of their sixteenth (thirteenth studio) album, entitled Light at the End of the World. Released in the UK on 21 May 2007, with a US release the following day, it was preceded by the single “I Could Fall in Love with You”, released on 2 April 2007. The second single, “Sunday Girl” was subsequently released.The album was produced by Gareth Jones and was a more “dance oriented” effort than some of their more recent work with Clarke making reference to the new material sounding potentially a bit more like Andy Bell’s 2005 solo effort Electric Blue.Erasure went on to tour with Cyndi Lauper, Deborah Harry, Margaret Cho and other artists, for the 2007 True Colors Tour of the United States, a tour which benefited gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender freedoms and rights. Erasure then went out on their own, headlining the “Light at the End of the World” tour in North America and Europe.The band released a new EP, Storm Chaser, in September 2007. The EP contains nine tracks, one of them the winner of an online fan remix contest, for the track “When a Lover Leaves You”, from the Light at the End of the World album.The most recent Erasure album, Tomorrow’s World, was released in October 2011, featuring production by Frankmusik.

Vince Clarke also teamed up with Stephen Luscombe of Blancmange, Pandit Dinesh and Asha Bhosle. The group, West India Company, released a four track, self-titled EP.Clarke worked with synthpop producer Martyn Ware (of Heaven 17 and The Human League) in 1999 as “The Clarke & Ware Experiment” and released the album Pretentious. The duo collaborated again in 2001 for the album Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle, which was created with “3D music technology” specifically designed for listening in headphones. 2001 also saw the release of the Clarke-produced album Erasure’s Vince Clarke which featured The Peter Pan Effect, an album that he and Eric Radcliffe produced for his long-time friend,Robert Marlow. Clarke wrote “Let’s Get Together” for the pop girl group Girl Authority for their second album, Road Trip. The song was originally meant to be for Depeche Mode, but was never recorded by them. Clarke also co-wrote “What Do I Want From You?” withFreeform Five, for their album Strangest Things (2005).Also in 2001, Clarke founded Illustrious Co. Ltd. with Martyn Ware, to create new forms of spatialised sound composition using their unique 3D AudioScape system, collaborating with fine artists, educational establishments, the performing arts, live events, corporate clients and educational settings round the world.

In 2004, Clarke provided additional music for an episode of Johnny Bravo entitled “The Time of My Life”. This was a collaboration withRichard Butler (singer). Clarke was an essential component of a 2000 project called Family Fantastic. They produced the album Nice!. In 2008 Family Fantastic released a second album, entitled Wonderful.On 21 May 2009, Clarke was awarded by an “Outstanding Song Collection” prize, during the Ivor Novello Awards ceremony of the same day, in recognition of 30 years in the music industry.Clarke was featured in the BBC Four documentary Synth Britannia.Clarke collaborated with his former Depeche Mode colleague Martin Gore for the first time since 1981 as techno duo VCMG on an instrumental minimalist electronic dance album called Ssss, released on 12 March 2012. The first EP entitled Spock was released worldwide exclusively on Beatport on 30 November 2011. The second EP Single Blip was once again first released exclusively on Beatport on 20 February 2012. Their third EP Aftermaths was released on 20 August 2012.In 2012, Vince collaborated with the band The Good Natured on a track called “Ghost Train”, available as a free download on their website, in exchange for a Tweet.Also in 2012, Vince produced a cover of the Depeche Mode song “Fly On The Windscreen” featuring Ane Brun.

The Great Gathering

On the 3 July 1938 The London and North Eastern Railway A4 Class 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive Number 4468 “Mallard” set the official world speed record for steam locomotives at 125.88 mph (202.58 km/h), and being a bit of a steam enthusiast I was pleased to learn that to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Mallard’s achievement, the National Railway Museum in York is holding a series of commemorative events, including three spectacular opportunities to see the record breaker united with its five surviving sister locomotive, as only six of the 35 A4 Pacific locomotives built survive. Two have been temporarily repatriated from their home museums in Canada and the US: and right now you can come and see  4468 Mallard along with the cosmetically restored A4’s Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada in the Great Hall at York,  as well as A4’s No 60019 (4464) Bittern, 60007 (4498) Sir Nigel Gresley and 60009 Union of South Africa.

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The A4 Pacific Class no.4468 Mallard set the record  on the slight downward grade of Stoke Bank south of Grantham on the East Coast Main Line, and the highest speed was recorded at milepost 90¼, between Little Bytham and Essendine. It broke the German (DRG Class 05) 002′s 1936 record of 124.5 mph (200.4 km/h) and Mallard still officially holds the record and as plaques affixed to each side of the locomotive commemorate the feat. It was built at Doncaster, England in 1938 and designed by Sir Nigel Gresley as an express locomotive to power high-speed streamlined trains. Its wind-tunnel-tested, aerodynamic body and high power allowed it to reach speeds of over 100 miles per hour (160 km/h), though in everyday service it was relatively uncommon for any steam hauled service to reach even 90mph, much less 100.

In 1948, shortly after the formation of British Railways, the decision was taken to test locomotives from all of the former ‘Big Four’ companies to find the best attributes of speed, power and efficiency with coal and water. There were two ways of testing and comparing locomotives: either at the Rugby Locomotive testing plant, which was not ready until late 1948 or by testing in the field itself. The results of these trials would be used to help design the British Railways Standard design of locomotives. The express passenger locomotive designs which would be compared were: London Midland Region (former LMS) Princess Coronation class, Eastern Region (former LNER) Class A4, Southern Region (former Southern) Merchant Navy class and Western Region (former GWR) 6000 Class or King class. Three Gresley A4 locomotives were chosen to represent the Eastern Region: E22 Mallard, 60033 Seagull and 60034 Lord Faringdon.

All of the locomotives had the Kylchap double blastpipe chimney arrangement and were fresh from Doncaster works. Mallard had emerged from Doncaster with a fresh coat of post-war garter blue livery, stainless steel numbers 22 with a small ‘E’ painted above them (for Eastern region), new boiler (her fourth) and third tender of her career. E22 Mallard was used on 8 June 1948 on the Waterloo-Exeter route. Driver Marrable took the famous A4 with a load of 481 tons tare, 505 tons full, the same that had been used on the previous trip by 35018 British India Line. Mallard got through Clapham Junction in 6 minutes 57 seconds, Woking in 28 minutes 47 seconds. At Hook there were adverse signals, causing Mallard to slow to a crawl. Even so, Salisbury was reached in 108 minutes and 28 seconds. Despite the signals earlier, the train was only 5-and-a-half minutes late. The net time was 95.5 minutes.   Mallard failed after this trial and 60033 Seagull took over. 10 June saw Seagull achieve the run in 96 minutes 22 seconds, but had departed 3 minutes late, meaning Seagull had arrived with the same load 3.5 minutes early. For Mallard, the 1948 Locomotive Exchange Trials were over, but Mallard was to return to the Waterloo-Exeter line for a Locomotive Club of Great Britain (LCGB) railtour in 24 February 1963 after wch it was retired, having covered almost one and a half million miles (2.4 million km).

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It was restored to working order in the 1980s, and ran  some specials between York and Scarborough in July 1986 and a couple of runs between York and Harrogate/Leeds around Easter 1987. Mallard is now part of the National Collection at the United Kingdom’s National Railway Museum in York. On the weekend of 5 July 2008, Mallard was taken outside for the first time in years and displayed alongside her A4 sisters, thus reuniting all four A4s extant in the UK for the first time since preservation. She departed the museum for Locomotion, the NRM’s outbase at Shildon on the 23 June 2010, where she was a static exhibit, until she was hauled back to York on 19 July 2011 and put back on display in its original location in the Great Hall in the National Railway Museum and To celebrate the 75th anniversary of Mallard’s achievement  the National Railway Museum in York is holding a series of commemorative events on 3rd July 2013 where 4468 Mallard will be reunited with the cosmetically restored Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada in the Great Hall at York, together with 60019 Bittern, 60007 Sir Nigel Gresley and 60009 Union of South Africa.

However if you miss the great gathering, don’t dispair, there will be two further opportunities to see all 6 remaining A4 Pacifics together.  Firstly From 26 October until 8 November 2013. 10am-6pm.there is another chance to see Mallard and its sisters around the turntable at York.  as part of the annual Illuminating York festival, and from The 15 until 23 February 2014,  visitors will have The last chance to see all six A4 locomotives together at Shildon, before the repatriated locomotives return to their home museums in late spring/early summer 2014.

Tribute to Franz Kafka

German novellist and short stoory writer Franz Kafka was born 3 July 1883. He is regarded by many critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Kafka strongly influenced genres such as existentialism. His works, such as “Die Verwandlung” (“The Metamorphosis”), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle), are filled with the themes and archetypes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality, parent–child conflict, characters on a terrifying quest, labyrinths of bureaucracy, and mystical transformations.Kafka was born into a middle-class, German-speaking Jewish family in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He trained as a lawyer and, after completing his legal education, obtained employment with an insurance company. He began to write short stories in his spare time. For the rest of his life, he complained about the little time he had to devote to what he came to regard as his calling.

He regretted having to devote so much attention to his Brotberuf (“day job”, literally “bread job”). Kafka preferred to communicate by letter; he wrote hundreds of letters to family and close female friends, including his father, his fiancée Felice Bauer, and his youngest sister Ottla. He had a complicated and troubled relationship with his father that had a major effect on his writing. He also suffered conflict over being Jewish, feeling that it had little to do with him, although critics argue that it influenced his writing.Only a few of Kafka’s works were published during his lifetime: the story collectionsBetrachtung (Contemplation) and Ein Landarzt (A Country Doctor), and individual stories (such as “Die Verwandlung”) in literary magazines. He prepared the story collection Ein Hungerkünstler (A Hunger Artist) for print, but it was not published until after his death. Kafka’s unfinished works, including his novels Der Process, Das Schloss and Amerika (also known as Der Verschollene, The Man Who Disappeared), were published posthumously, mostly by his friend Max Brod, who ignored Kafka’s wish to have the manuscripts destroyed. Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre are among the writers influenced by Kafka’s work; the term Kafkaesque has entered the English language to describe surreal situations like those in his writing. Kafka sadly passed away on  3 June 1924 but his literature had a big impact on literature and film making.