A most pleasing episode of Interweb synchronicity today when a Facebook friend posted this early gem by an artist who’s music I just love. I am a little obsessed by those boys from the Southern states of the USA who grew up listening to rock & roll, country, R & B then found, in Memphis & Muscle Shoals, places where they could influence the future of soul music. Steve Cropper had more hits at Stax than a basket full of kittens on Y-tube. The great maverick Jim Dickinson & his band, the Dixie Flyers, were involved in so much great music. There are many others who were there & made their mark but it is the life & music of Dan Penn which continues to intrigue as I hear things like this.
“I’m Your Puppet” was the breakthrough hit for Dan Penn when, in 1966, James & Bobby Purify took the song into the US Top 10. It convinced Dan that this music thing just might work out & when, a year later, he produced a world wide hit for the Box Tops his reputation as a guy who could get the job done was made. This version was released as a single & did nothing, the song went back into the drawer marked “for future reference”.
The clip was posted by Davie Ritchie, a man I have never met but someone I know to have impeccable taste. His band, the Debris Rose, prove themselves to be the perfect bar band with this terrific version of Prince Buster’s “Girl Answer Your Name”. I am perfectly content to have my evening’s musical direction chosen by someone else so I chipped in with James Barnett’s “Keep On Talking”, a Northern Soul classic & went off to listen to more songs written by Penn both for himself & for others. In any such rummage a mandatory stopover must be made at a delightful oasis.
After a slate grey February day “That Summer Feeling”, a fine collision/collusion between Scottish jangle pop, Dan Penn and a Jonathan Richman song is the very thing to remind you that, when we get through the Winter, things are gonna get better. I don’t know too much about how this BMX Bandits b-side came about, it probably does not eclipse the JR original. I do know that it is absolutely charming & that if you are making a record with Dan Penn that you will have to raise your game.
So, I am enjoying this favourite when Mr Ritchie’s thread coughs up the name of Duglas T Stewart. Now this may be just a regular passer-by for Davie but it’s a rare thing when the people I am listening to are on my F-book at the same time. Duglas is the BMX Bandits,there have been many members of the group in the past 25 years but he has been the one constant. He & school pal Norman Blake started the band. Norman went off to start Teenage Fanclub while other Bandits have left for greater success. Duglas has been at the centre of a Glasgow rock scene which has worn its influences on its sleeve & pretty good solid influences they have been too. In his case the songs of Jonathan Richman were as influential as those of Brian Wilson & Alex Chilton. There can be a jokey naivete but the moments of direct emotional honesty, of love & pathos that get you right there. The BMX Bandits may have boasted that “Kylie’s Got A Crush On Us” on a 1993 single but they could make some lovely honest pop nuggets too.
“Serious Drugs”, now there’s a title that’ll get you played on the radio. If only it had been because there is a tune that gets stuck in your head and in a good way. There are 3 versions of the song. Norman Blake sings this one & a later one with Duglas on vocals is good stuff too. Kurt Cobain said “If I could be in any other band, it would be BMX Bandits” & the band were at Creation Records when the Oasis thing happened but have determinedly remained a cult while influencing other bands. There is a movie about him called “Serious Drugs” which deals with his career & his problems with depression. i must check it out.
The BMX Bandits have affected enough people for Duglas to keep working & to collaborate with many interesting people. This evening I was tempted to make a couple of clicks & ask him to tell me about Dan Penn, about Brian Wilson. Hey, this “the Internet makes the world a smaller place” thing just won’t wash. I don’t know him, he don’t know me & I’m sussed enough to know when I may be too intrusive. No matter, there was a little connection today & I got to post some good music right here. This is “Little Hands” more proof that Duglas & Norman wore out those Big Star LPs when they were kids.