I Pledge Allegiance To The Everlasting Yeah

The wait for The Everlasting Yeah to unveil “Anima Rising” has only seemed to be a long one because we knew this thing was going to be good  The band, 4 former members of That Petrol Emotion, have, rightfully, been taking all the time they need in the studio to get their new songs sounding exactly how they want them to sound. It has been 21 years since TPE released the last of their dynamic, often ground-breaking music. There is, of course, a legacy to uphold but this is no rewind revival, no nostalgic ramble. “Anima Rising” is how guitar music should sound in 2014. Here’s the Soundcloud Sampler of 4 tracks to whet your appetite.

 

Joe Brown, bass player off of the Gatefolds, friend of this blog, pulled some strings, twisted an arm & called in some favours from the Derry old boy network to get the drop on  the rest of us. On a recent trip to that Babylon he got his pre-release listen to the debut album by The Everlasting Yeah. His reaction, & I quote, was…”Its been twenty something years since the guys have released any material and I can only say this incredible record has made the wait worthwhile. I wasn’t surprised, it was always going to be something special but I was completely blown away by its sheer class…Sonically amazing with the power of the fantastic guitar sounds and pulsating rhythm…it really does deliver a knockout punch, so why not do the thing and give the band a pledge..you really are in for a treat”. Joe Brown is a man to be trusted, he would not lie to you.

So…the pledge…The band, Raymond, Ciaran, Damien & Brendan, want to ensure that the release of “Anima Rising” in download, CD & vinyl format is to the highest quality. They are asking for the kindness of strangers, the strangeness of kind people, to pre-order this music so that everything can be just so. However you listen to music nowadays this rocking good way of playing it will improve your collection. It will shake you, wake you in the morning. On a commuter journey you will be cruising while the rest are snoozing. A run in the park is all gain, less pain. Heck, even doing the washing up will be more fun. Head over to The Everlasting Yeah’s Pledge page, check out these good people & help yourself to some essential modern music. There are plenty of special offers. If you promise enough they may even come around to your house. If you don’t then they may come around…you get me !

The band played in London last Friday (review coming up next) & a big shout to Kate Greaves for her kind permission to use her dynamic photographs of this gig in this post. There will, hopefully, be more shows around the time of the release of “Anima Rising”. Right, some more music…this fantastic rehearsal tape is just the job. “Hurricane Nation” is a tune that did not make the cut on to the LP. Not because of any lack of quality but because these guys know that when a job is worth doing then you do that job right…maybe next time. Once again, just click here, do the right thing, get yourself some of 2014’s best music then…Pass It On !

 

 

We’re Pinheads All (Devo)

I was in that big Victorian pub opposite the big Victorian Free Trade Hall in Manchester. The F.T.H.was built to commemorate the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 on the site of the Peterloo massacre, a landmark event in British radicalism when a meeting to protest economic conditions & a lack of political representation was charged by cavalry leaving 15 dead & many more injured. I’m still fascinated by the social & economic history of my country. Why not ? It’s where I live. Manchester, “Cottonopolis”, the crucible of Industrial Revolution, was brimful of the stuff (ask Freidrich Engels, “The Condition of the Working Class in England” ,1844). On the 4th of December 1978 the mills were no longer dark & satanic, the grimy city centre not yet gentrified (the F.T.H. is now a hotel). Still no matter because tonight we were off to see a leading group of American art-punk rockers do their thing.

It was sure to be a good night out. I was out with Wink, my closest friend from my school days in a town 90 miles to the East. We saw less of each other when we had made like bananas & split for different colleges 7 years earlier. I was in Manchester for a work thing, in a pub (another one) before a football match when I chanced into the person with whom I had shared teenage passions & problems. Our respective crews, unaware of the significance of this moment of Providence, were confused. Man, it was good to see him & to be back in touch.

The band we were going to see, Devo, were known to wear a uniform of yellow radiation suits. I made a pre-gig visit to the little boys’ room & while shaking hands with the unemployed a similarly dressed young aficionado struggled with his coverall’s fastenings. Our eye’s met, mine with a glint of sympathy. In a deadpan, resigned Bolton accent he sighed “Ee, ah wish ah’d never fooking bothered !”. Brilliant, D.H. Lawrence should have been there. I love being from the North of England !

In 1977 David Bowie called them “the band of the future” & 1978 had been a good year for Devo. Stiff Records curated their early songs into a 6 track EP. A flurry of re-release & re-packaging  “Jocko Homo”, an individual introduction to the band, & “Satisfaction”, a jerky attack on the Stones’ classic, both supported by memorable videos, caught our attention. Britain is a small place which back then supported 3 music weeklies. Devo could talk the talk & they became a favourite of “the Inkies” (please wash your hands) who loved shiny new things. In March, after an appearance on local TV, they played the Free Trade Hall supporting local purveyors of quality rock parody Alberto y Los Trios Paranoias. Now, 8 months later, with a debut LP produced by pop’s Dr Manhattan, Brian Eno, Devo could sell out this big hall on their own.

The members of Devo met at Kent State University Ohio, in 1970 the setting for one of America’s own political massacres. The killing of 4 students by the National Guard greatly affected the group’s founders Jerry Casale & Mark Mothersbaugh. By the time they were ready to move out of Ohio their brothers,  both called Bob, had joined them & the theory of De-Evolution was being run up the flagpole to see who saluted. Now, I’m down with evolution, of course I am, it’s just that I don’t think that we are too far away from the tree we fell out of. Humans are still staggering around holding their heads yelling “Ow! The affectation & conceit of progress & culture is pointless, often dangerous &, thankfully, always hilarious. De-evolution is an idea that we have passed Peak Humanity & are becoming bestial idiots (Jocko Homo). Hey, I never thought we were anything more but go ahead, I’m listening.

After some decent pub-rock pretending to be decent punk rock by the Members (“Sound of the Suburbs”) the lights dimmed but the band did not immediately appear. In their place the videos for the 3 singles were shown on a big screen. This was, at first, a little confusing. We had paid our hard-earned to hear these songs played live & surely that thing would be happening in the next hour or so.It was a smart move, By the time Devo walked onstage the audience had been whipped from a froth to a frenzy. This overload of teenage testosterone down the front surprised me. I didn’t know that this band was this popular & inspired such abandon. This was how I imagined a head-banging metal crowd might be like but hey ho, let’s go, it’s all good. We were with the older guys (who, as you know, get the ladies with the style) sitting comfortably on the balcony

Devo surfed the energy wave & delivered a great rock & roll set. “Q:Are We Not Men ? A:We Are Devo !” has more than the 3 singles going for it. The band, jerkily caroming around the stage, delivered these & more. The giddy, urgent “Gut Feeling” did it for me then & still does it now. I was expecting something a little more conceptual & got high energy, dynamic, even traditional, loud, live music. Y’know…Fuck Art, Let’s Dance.

Ah, “Come Back Jonee”, the final 45 release of 1978. A hectic, lovely, whirling clatter. After years of buying LP records we started a new collection of irresistible 7″ singles, mostly punk & reggae, in a variety of colours & shapes. This was one of them. Sometime around Xmas our gang was selecting their own records of the year. It helped to prevent the blur of time passing &, as you know, some of us do like a list. It was the year of “What Do I Get”, “Because The Night”, “Jilted John” & 250 other contenders but the woman lucky enough to be my wife selected “Come Back Jonee” as #1 in her heart for 1978. She is a woman with unrivalled taste, she married me for Jah’s sake.

The gig ended with the stage covered by a polythene sheet, Booji Boy, a masked Mark  Mothersbaugh, emerging through a hole to entertain us. The child crooner is idiosyncratic & weird, both good things & perhaps what I had expected in a Devo show. The band had enough stage smarts to know that this funny B-Boy would be a real buzz kill anywhere else in the set. This gig was all about exuberance, satire would have to wait its turn.

There were 5 more LPs (without Eno) in the next decade. In 1980 “Whip It”, a motorik electro-disco hit, supported by a video on heavy MTV rotation, became their biggest commercial success. I’m not the guy to tell you about these records I was not listening so much. Go find a Spud Boy, a member of the Devo Army, to tell you how good this music is. Devo kept on keeping on but the passing of Bob Casale earlier this year is a major loss. I watched 2 movies last weekend & Mark Mothersbaugh was involved with the music for both of them. He is all over Hollywood now.

All I know is that Devo played some fine punky American music that rocked the Free Trade Hall that night. As we descend into another, lower, Chamber of Hell on Earth (& Israel, you are really not helping now & you never have helped), as our knuckles start to drag on the ground, that’s the best you can hope for on a night out in Manchester.

The Fast And The Furious (Elvis Costello/This Years Model)

Stiff Records were so free and easy with their publicity slogans that I am not sure of the actual given title of that first, momentous package tour of their impressive roster. “Live Stiffs”, “5 Live Stiffs”, “A Bunch of Stiffs”, it was probably all of these at some time. Anyway, “if it ain’t stiff it ain’t worth a f*ck”. I do know that on the 25th of October 1977 when the ragged, brilliant pub-rock parade reached Birmingham Town Hall it was a very hot ticket. That night there was a whole lot of exciting British music going on. It was the night that I saw Elvis Costello & the Attractions play live for the first time.

Costello’s debut LP “My Aim Is True” (1977) was absolutely part of the blast of fresh air blowing away the stale fug of UK prog rock. 3 singles, the ballad “Alison”, the retro “Red Shoes” & the anti-fascist “Less Than Zero”, had not been hits but had shown the range of an invigorating new songwriter. “My Aim Is True” was a big record around my too-old-for-punk friends & that night in Birmingham Elvis, backed by his new band raced through the LP in fine style. 2 songs which were not on the record “held by many as the most impressive debut in pop music history.” (Pitchfork) tipped us off  that the next release was not to be missed.

The only misfire on “My Aim…” was that Elvis (a cool & surprising  name to appropriate in 1977) had a backing band which was no more than competent. That 2nd LP came around in March 1978 as a record by Elvis Costello & the Attractions. The singer now had his own band & the synergy was perfect. Here was a new gang with something to prove & they made a flying start. “This Year’s Model” is an amphetamine-fuelled charge, Elvis’ spitting, snarling bile matched by the urgency of the rhythm section (Look, there’s Pete Thomas, a man to watch since he was drumming for Chilli Willi & the Red Hot Peppers ) & the impassioned keyboard stabs of Steve Nieve. Some of these songs were the leavings from the first record. They were all improved by the collective input of musicians eager to do more than just play the tune.

All of these clips are from a show filmed for German TV. I love to see a group who know that they have something special going on & just want to steamroller an audience with quality & energy. This frantic take on “Lipstick Vogue” is not as disciplined as the recorded version where the charge from “sometimes I almost feel just like a human being” into the chorus never fails to stir. There is a clip of the same song from June 1979 when the band had sold more records & the song is a showstopper but here there is a demand from the band that attention is paid to something this good.

Those impressive new songs on the Stiff tour were “Watching The Detectives” , released as a single coincident with the Stiff tour, & “I Don’t Want To Go To Chelsea”. “..Detectives” tense reggae-noir arrangement is a step forward from the debut LP. “…Chelsea”, a taut torrential sneer  underpinned by Bruce Thomas’s abiding bass line  which holds the room together. Here Elvis was pushing his “wordplay as swordplay…puns for punters”. I’ve nicked that quote because I like it. Some of my favourite rock & roll is as dumb as a box of hair but I never saw nothing wrong with a finely turned phrase, with some wit & intelligence in my music.

“They call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie” always, for me evoked the 1967 movie “Smashing Time”, Rita Tushingham & the younger Redgrave sister are down from the North to go up West & Stark Raving Mod. The LP’s cover is Elvis as photographer, as David Hemmings in “Blow Up” (1966). “This Year’s Model” re-makes re-models the Swinging Sixties, the decade that Elvis & I became teenagers but were still kids. The classic pop of the Beatles, the attack & wit of the Who & the Kinks even, in ” The Beat”, the pre-Fab Four sound of Cliff Richard & the Shadows.There is too an element of misogyny recalling the early Stones, maybe young Declan MacManus had some scores to settle. I’m prepared to cut the guy some slack. It’s a misanthropic record, he didn’t like anybody. The closing track “Night Rally” is a companion to “Less Than Zero”. The posturing proto-fascist National Front were gaining political ground in 1977. They were not to be flirted with, not to be taken lightly. “Night Rally” is serious & seriously good.

Back in those few weeks when “Punk” became the latest  moral panic (between that stupid one & something even more dumb) British city centres were the setting for a bit of pushing & shoving between the police & local adolescent anarchists. It was all nothing much about very little, the pubs closed at 10.30 & most of those suburban situationists had pleasant family homes that they just didn’t want to go back to yet. Anyway, a punk friend of mine was chased & cornered by a Birmingham bluebottle who, referring to Mark’s shiny, of-the-moment, leatherette trousers sneered, “What are these then…Punk ?”. With the confidence of youth, our dedicated follower of fashion put 5-0 right, “No, they’re New Wave”. It is a fine line, maybe you have to be of a certain age, but that is some funny shit.

Elvis Costello wasn’t Punk either but he’d help them out when they were busy. The “whatever it is I’m against it” choler of his lyrics set in the short, sharp, shocking context of the Attractions placed this music right there in the contemporary section. For 15 years the current British interpretation of popular music had been exported to & copied by the rest of the world. The music business knew that this new unruly mob, gobbing on life in the dole-drums, would be a harder sell. The track listings on Costello’s records were mucked about with for the US, the seismic debut by the Clash was not even released there. “Ramones”, an LP which should be part of the post-natal kit for all new-born babies reached #111 on the charts. So, “New Wave” it was then. Less threatening, designed to shift product.The catch all tag included the Good (Graham Parker, B-52s, Devo), the Bad (the Knack, the Cars) & the Flock of Seagulls. New Wave, as a style & fashion, was, at best, nebulous & probably meaningless.

“This Year’s Model” picks up the torch of British pop music that had become obscured by self-indulgent space odysseys & triple albums. It combined the best of that inventive mid-1960s beat with the energy & attitude of the new music of 1977. There are later records by Elvis Costello & the Attractions that I love but if I want a rush & a push it’s the charge, it’s the bolt, it’s the buzz of this record that I reach for.

A Society Would Be Wise To Pay Attention To The People Who Do Not Belong (Arthur Penn)

When Arthur Penn was still a teenager he was in the US Army, in Europe & in the Second World. I’ve only been in

brando-pennthe middle one, I would imagine that the full set gave him a little perspective to bring back to his acting studies. He was in the right place at the right time for NBC, an expanding TV network where he served an apprenticeship as a director before returning to the theatre then into film direction. His older brother Irving was a big-time fashion photographer for “Vogue” so Arthur knew how far having a discerning eye could get you, His first film, “The Left Handed Gun” (1958) was a study of that troubled American youth Billy the Kid with Paul Newman stepping in when James Dean was unable to make the gig. In the next decade he made considered, provocative movies before directing a film which has come to be regarded as a spearhead of modernity in American cinema.

Arthur Penn was a Kennedy Democrat, a contemporary of the brothers in the White House. After 2 terms of a Republican general as President there was an optimism & a determination to address social issues which had been neglected during the Cold War politics of the 1950s. “The Miracle Worker” (1962) is the story of Helen Keller, a deaf, dumb & blind kid & a tutor’s attempts to communicate with her. It’s intense though it flicks obvious emotional switches. When I was a kid I was affected by  the film but I was so much older then. “The Miracle Worker” is a Liberal’s wet dream. Like  another pile of self-satisfied sentiment, “That Shawshank Thing”, the Academy loved it. Oscars for Ann Bancroft & Patty Duke but… nah !  “Mickey One” (1965) is more like it. It’s a surreal riff on film noir with a bigger thing for the French New Wave than Hollywood. A paranoid story of a stand-up comedian (Warren Beatty) who is, or thinks he is on the run from the mob. In 2010 Penn spoke about the film’s reflections on McCarthyism…” it was in repudiation of the kind of fear that overtook free people to the point where they were telling on each other and afraid to speak out. It just astonished me, really astonished me. I mean, I was a vet, so it was nothing like what we thought we were fighting for.”  Arthur Penn was a man with a message & a mission to pass it on. His films are worthy of consideration because of this.

“Bonnie & Clyde” (1967), now let’s see if I can do this thing without using the word “zeitgeist”. Two young American outsiders, double the trouble. The bad guys & gals had never looked so beautiful, sexy, fashionable & cool. The violence never more casual, shocking & in slow motion. There was a great cast to support Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway, the whole gang, Estelle Parsons, Gene Hackman, Michael J Pollard, was Oscar nominated. We laughed at the crime & the cops as Flatt & Scruggs picked out “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”. The whole package, script, cinematography, editing, was shaking the tree. If there was such a thing as New Hollywood then this was it. Those objectors to the violence, to the lack of accuracy, to the attitude (“a squalid shoot-em-up for the moron trade”) were kicked to the kerb as a  $2½ million movie grossed $70 million. The film critic of the New York Times was sacked after his negative review. Arthur Penn & his crew showed that the rock & roll youth market would go to the movies if the studios offered a little more to see than Elvis’s latest piece of joyless dross.

A director who knew what the Woodstock Nation would pay to watch was hot. His next film was adopted from a counter-culture anthem, Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”. The 18 minute song is a rambling hippie monologue which finally comes to a point about avoiding the draft & that war is bad…m’kay. From this insubstantial foundation an almost 2 hour long movie made rather heavy handed points about the  rubbishness of the “straight” world. Hollywood Hippies…f**k ’em ! Next time round, with more capacious material, Arthur Penn was back on it.

“Little Big Man” (1970) may be a mess but it is our mess. In the same year  Dee Brown’s best selling book “Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee” reflected an identification with the ecological, anti-materialist concerns of Native Americans by the counter culture, “Little Big…” is a story told by 121 year old Jack Crabb (Dustin Hoffman) who has, he says, seen things & done things. The film, like Crabb’s life, is long & sprawling, playing fast & loose across moments in American history. Kind of like “Forrest Gump” only watchable & not at all sappy. Then, like “Dances With Wolves” only without the condescension, Jack spends time living as a Cheyenne, taught the ways of the “Human Beings” by Old Lodge Skins, played by Chief Dan George who nicks the film with his performance & his “good day to die” schtick.

Picaresque is the very word for this film. Story lines are resolved by “with one bound he was free” or are just left hanging. The changes in tone from tragedy to comedy are capably handled, the satire is sharp. Hoffman’s little man shifts with the winds of change. Faye Dunaway, Martin Balsam & a manic Richard Mulligan as Custer are just passing through but leave an impression. It’s only recently that I’ve been picking up copies of classic 70s movies. “Little Big Man”  fits right in there.

I was at the front of the queue for Penn’s 1976 Western. “The Missouri Breaks” starred not only Jack Nicholson in the one after “Cuckoo’s Nest” but also Marlon Brando in the one after the “Godfather”/”Last Tango” double. Hell yeah !  A film of its time, a little out there, lots of black hats & no white ones, a low key story of muddied morality. It was not the meeting of movie mahatmas we expected. Brando felt it would be best if he improvised his part. Penn, aware that the whole emphasis of the film would be changed but vulnerable against star-power, let the cameras roll & hoped to influence the post-production. Jack, seeing he could not compete with Marlon’s excesses, reined himself in to counter his co-star’s energy. Critics, offended by what they saw as Brando’s self-indulgence, set about him & the film was a box office flop.

From a distance & with repeated viewing  the method in Brando’s madness becomes more apparent. Despite unpredictable meanderings of his accent the “regulator”, Lee Clayton,is an impressive, very watchable performance. He is hired to eliminate a funky bunch of horse thieves led by Nicholson , including Harry Dean Stanton, Fred Forrest & Randy Quaid, who all have fun with Thomas McGuane’s snappy script. “The Missouri Breaks” is a beautifully filmed piece with some unforgettable Brando business which fits right in with the new Westerns of the 1970s.

There’s no room here for “Night Moves” (1975), Penn’s New Wave take on the crime thriller. Another time, maybe in a riff on Gene Hackman because he was at the top of his game as the disenchanted shamus Harry Moseby. Penn’s career faltered in the 1980s, while he continued his reflections on the changing times in America his disillusioned outsiders were never as sharply, smartly showcased as they were in the early films. Back then it was his & his generation’s time & he was one of the most assured, articulate film directors around. It’s not just the 3 movies featured here that will reward anyone who appreciates intelligent, concerned movie-making.

Reggae’s Other Bob (Bob Andy)

On the UK music scene in the late 1960s & early 1970s there was always room for the reggae song of the day to crossover from the mod or skinhead dance scene on to the main charts. I can remember the pirate radio stations playing Desmond Dekker’s rude boy anthem “007 (Shanty Town)” in 1967, the first Jamaican produced record to hit the UK Top 20. I could slice it & dice it, tell you about where this music came from, how it influenced the songs that came later but it will sound no better. The ka-chink, reverse R&B, of the ska guitar, the sweet vocals about street life JA style had a irresistible otherness back then & still has it now. “Dem a loot, dem a shoot, dem a wail”

“007 (Shanty Town)” was recorded at Leslie Kong’s ice cream parlour/record store/studio. The combo chased a follow up & in April 1969 “The Israelites” was #1 in Britain, sandwiched by Marvin’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” & the Fabs’ “Get Back”…heavy hitters. There was just the single UK pop music station now. If a record got on to the daytime playlist it inevitably shifted units. In 1970 this lovely record was “wonderful” (Ha !) Radio 1’s reggae song of choice.

The great Nina Simone & her bandleader Weldon Irvine wrote “Young, Gifted & Black” as a beautiful tribute to her playwright/activist friend Lorraine Hansbury who had died from cancer in 1965 at just 34 years of age. Her own haunting version, recorded in 1970, more than hit the spot. In 1968/69 Ms Simone scored 3 Top 10 hits in the UK but this song, so appropriate an articulation of African-American pride & hope, made no impression over here. In Jamaica pop hits were often reggaefied for the local market. Producer Harry J, known in the UK for his hit “The Liquidator” paired 2 young successful solo singers, Bob Andy & Marcia Griffiths, for a duet of the song which became an instant pop reggae classic.

Well, look at Marcia here, Miss Jamaica ? Miss World I think. Just 20 years old & on her way to becoming “The Queen of Reggae” after her 1968 triumph “Feel Like Jumping”. “Young, Gifted & Black”, an upful slice of affirmative action, went international before Marcia joined the majestic I-Threes, backing singers for Bob Marley & the Wailers. There’s a black & white Y-tube clip of Bob & Marcia in afro-chic dashiki finery where they look so great while the audio is a cut-price cover recorded by Elton John when he was still Reg Dwight…what the…!!

Bob Andy was an established star in Jamaica too. After “I’ve Got To Go Back Home” in 1966 there was a string of songs for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One. In 1970 the collection “The Bob Andy Songbook” was released. If Bob & Marcia were Jamaica’s Marvin Gaye & Diana Ross then this record is reggae’s “What’s Goin’ On”. Of the 12 songs 11 are written by Bob. This was his thing. He was writing cool tunes with simple, heartfelt, direct lyrics long before “conscious” reggae was a thing. I listen to Bob Andy’s songs & I am impressed by what he knows.

“My Time”, oh boy…world class. I was given the opportunity to add something to my by-line for all of my posts. It could have been a smart-arse non-sequiter or a Vonnegution “everything means nothing” epigram. I must have been in a considerate mood that day. “I need nothing to be a man because I was born a man and I deserve the right to live like any other man”…Serious, I have no more to say about this emotional declaration of rights

In 1978 Bob stepped away from music to develop his acting career. This seems like bad timing as a confederacy of roots reggae musicians swarmed through the door opened by Bob Marley on to an international market. We loved this dreadlocked diapason, it seemed so shiny & new. Ska & Rock Steady would always have a place in our hearts but around this time we were dancing to the rhythm of the drum & the bassline. Bob Andy was from those old times…I know crazy. The 1978 LP “Love & I” passed me by just as this candid classic from 1973 , “You Don’t Know” had.. In the UK at that time  the sweetness of Ken Boothe & John Holt was breaking through. Maybe Bob Andy was before the times, a little too roots for daytime radio.

When he returned to music Bob worked for Tuff Gong, the company founded by Marley while starting his own label I-Anka. His own experience of sharp practice spurred him to champion higher standards in Jamaican music & business. Through Andisongs, his publishing company, he put things right when others claimed to have written his tunes. Over at www.bobandy.com a list of his songs show how significant his contribution to reggae has been. with master organist Jackie Mittoo he wrote “Feel Like Jumping” for Marcia. Their sweet duet “Really Together” is one of his. I did not know that he was the originator of one of my all-time reggae favourites. Bob Andy is still around, still an ambassador of Jamaican music, a silver haired Dreadlock. “Truly”, a  1977 Channel One triumph by the Jays & Ranking Trevor is a joyful mix of vocal harmony, confident toasting & a cool song. Perfect for a Summer’s day.

 

 

 

The Music Endures, The Harmony Endears (The Dells)

I’m a fool for a  male-vocal soul group. There’s the Motown giants, the 4 Tops, Levi Stubbs, Renaldo, Sugar Pie & Honeybunch. Those Temptations had 2 star singers in David Ruffin & Eddie Kendricks. At Philadelphia International the Intruders, the symphonic Delfonics, Harold Melvin & his Blue Notes & the Stylistics were all great while the O’Jays were probably greater. In Chicago the Impressions presented us with songs which collect into my long-time favourite “Greatest Hits” playlist. To this illustrious list I must add another Chicagoan combo. As one of the originals The Dells are often noted for their longevity. I’ve been around a long time too, longevity is overrated… believe. The Dells make the major leagues because they made an individual contribution to a fine tradition. Here’s the proof…

Phee-yew ! That’s phee-you get me ? How great is that ? “Stay In My Corner”, one of the finest slow jams, was originally released in 1965 then re-recorded in 1968 when it was a #1 R&B hit & the group’s most successful crossover to the pop charts. This performance is from the New York PBS TV series Soul! in March 1972, Also on the show was Chester Himes, the great American crime fiction writer. Man, I’ve just found an episode list of this series…I need those tapes. The Dells were a pretty well-oiled machine by this time. They knew how much is in this song & knew exactly how to get it all out. That powerful baritone is Marvin Junior….Johnny Carter’s smooth change from tenor to falsetto is almost unlikely. There are 2 soloists in the Dells.

The group made their first record in 1954, Is that true ? Were records invented then ? Those were the Doo-wop days, street corner symphonies or the cabaret precision of the Platters. These Illinois boys got a gold record in 1956 with “Oh What A Nite”, a song which became their calling card. The Dells…who ? “Oh What A…”…oh yeah. A near fatal car accident in 1958 stalled their progress, the group disbanded then reformed, with a significant team change, in 1960. These same guys performed together for the next 50 years !

In 1966 the Dells signed with Chess, Chicago’s premier label. Consolidating a reputation as a vital live act there was immediately more commercial success. They worked on the Cadet label, an imprint of Chess, with the production/arrangement team of Bobby Miller & Charles Stepney. “There Is” is the title track of this combination’s 1st LP, a collection of solid, varied, consistent tunes. I have no idea who made this early promo, the song has a martial urgency, the boys sure don’t dance like the Temptations but Marvin sings the heck out of it. Mr Junior has one of those outstanding soul voices that you need to get to know better.

The group stayed with Chess until 1975, recording a string of R&B hits. When Bobby Miller left Chess for Motown Charles Stepney took over production duties. Stepney, a classically trained jazz musician was pushing the symphonic soul envelope with the Rotary Connection. He produced electric Blues records with Howlin’ Wolf & Muddy Waters, a bunch of records for the Ramsey Lewis Trio. His 4 LPs with the Dells are the most commercial of his work, all imaginative, interesting pieces. “The Love We Had (Stays On My Mind)”, seen here on that same Soul! show, was co-written by another Stepney acolyte, the individually talented Terry Callier. The right song, the right producer, the right group, everyone’s a winner.
Oh oh, that clip seems to have gone from the Y-tube so here are the boys on the “Soul Train” in 1974.

The Dells could handle Northern Soul belters, smooth last dance smoochers & often recorded the standards of  the day. The LP “The Dells Sing The Hits Of Dionne Warwick” is one I have to check.  Here in the UK their only hit record was a medley, “Sing A Rainbow/Love Is Blue”, a couple of middle of the road melodies improved by the quality of Stepney’s arrangement. The group’s work has come to me a little randomly. Even now I can hear something new to me that is unmistakably Marvin & Johnny doing that thing they do. The group adapted to the changes in soul music, sometimes following, sometimes setting the bar for harmony vocals. “Wear It On Your Face”, “Give Your Baby A Standing Ovation”, “Learning to Love You Was Easy”, just a sample  & all good stuff.

In 1980, with disco carrying the swing, the Dells worked with Carl Davis, a Chicago Soul legend & Eugene Record off of the Chi-Lites. The LP “I Touched A Dream” is probably the group’s last significant work. I can’t leave this thing without including “All About The Paper”, a late example of the energy & class of some exceptional singers.

Further On Down The Road. Loosehandlebars is Two.

While I certainly am as corny as Kansas in August I am unlikely to be as high as a flag on the 4th of July, those days are over. Today, July 4th 2014, is loosehandlebars’ 2nd birthday. 265 posts, that’s one every 18 hours (oh yes it is !), each one carelessly nurtured then flung out to the furthest reaches of the Interwebs. When I started this thing I had no idea if anyone would find it & didn’t really care. I enjoyed writing about music & memories, enjoyed entertaining myself. That was enough & it still is. That people do come & say kind things about my things is very gratifying. A big shout out to the Glasgow massive, both noted playwright Danny McCahon & R&B legend David Ritchie have been most gracious & help to spread the word.  Similarly, over in Derry, Joe Brown & his posse are as tight as this with the ‘handlebars. It was Raymond Gorman’s idea that I started to write & his support remains more staunch than anyone’s. Raymond has a fantastic CD in his car that no-one else has. The sooner all devotees of great guitar rock are able to buy a copy of “Anima Rising” by his group The Everlasting Yeah the better for all of us.

OK, here are 3 of the best records of 2014 so far. In the words of Shannon’s 1984 floor-filler…”Let The Music Play”.

This little beauty came out of nowhere in February of this year. It is a blast that there are still groups like The Twenty from Belfast who just want to make a straight ahead punk-inspired racket. This sparkling single is fine enough by itself but me & “You Can’t Be Lonely Forever” have history, good history. The song was written by my friend Paul Pj McCartney off of Bam Bam & the Calling, a band of post-punk audio terrorists who were lucky enough to have me roadie for them back in the goodle days. It is not for me to say that B.B. & the C. are a legendary band from Derry but I have heard others say just that & have never disagreed. Kudos to The Twenty for finding, reviving & doing absolutely the right thing by relying on the quality of the song & their own bright sound. The Twenty are ones to watch. If you are reading this Pablo then know this is a great tune. Are then any other stashed under your bed because we would like to hear them ?

The Twenty are the very thing for 2 fellow bloggers at Dave’s Strange World & Pop That Goes Crunch who have sent me nothing but quality music & writing since our paths have crossed. Long may it continue.

Bill Callahan has been around for a while now, as Smog since the 1988 cassettes, as B.C. since 2007. There have always been memorable songs. “Dress Sexy At My Funeral” is as bone-dry funny as the title while 1999’s “Cold Blooded Old Times”, a reflection on a long friendship, made not only the varied soundtrack of “High Fidelity” but my friend Mitchell’s all-time list & he has immaculate taste. On his last 2 LPs, “Apocalypse” (2011) & “Dream River” (2013) Bill really hit his stride, the sparse, spacey songs interspersed with distorted guitar, embellished with fiddle & flute. He is 48 now, his maturity brings to mind Raymond Carver’s exiguous short stories. Leonard Cohen is 80 this year. It’s time for a new generation who are getting older to embrace Bill Callahan.

“Have Fun With God” is to “Dream River” what “Garvey’s Ghost” is to “Marcus Garvey”, a dub re-imagining of a whole LP. It’s not King Tubby & a familiarity with the parent LP probably helps but it’s dreamy & my ears love listening to it.

Lastly but certainly not leastly it’s my favourite new British band the Skints & their killer single “The Cost Of Living Is Killing Me”. Back in January I featured Prince Fatty, a one man British reggae revival who is making some terrific music with old-school rock steady men like Little Roy, Dennis Alcapone & Winston Francis. There’s a touch of nostalgia about these tunes because that’s how the rhythm has always gone. The clean, bright production, the effervescence of great singers, pleased to be making records again is just dandy. Prince makes music with new artists too. His MC Horseman is all over it, the “vs Mungo’s Hi-Fi” dubs it up nicely & the charming Hollie Cook really should be a star. All of these people nice up the place, there’s no awkwardness, they all get it. So do East London’s, y’know, up Leyton/Walthamstow/South Woodford way, the Skints.

“The Cost of Living…” is from an EP (ask your Dad) made independently of the Prince but the unit is reunited for an upcoming 3rd LP. There is an argument to be made (but we won’t have it now) that the last truly great British #1 record was 1981’s “Ghost Town” by the Specials. This mix of ska-punk, rap & conscious lyrics brings that classic to mind. I really do hope that the Skints’ time will come because they have something to say that is worth listening to. Check for their Y-tube channel where their covers of reggae classics are just easy now.

This tune is for my lovely, new, funny American friend Gigi Mac who has written 2 vibrant posts for the blog which I have been so pleased to include. I hope that she will contribute regularly in the future. Loosehandlebars was always intended to be a broad church & there are other people I would like to include. Meantimes I am happy doing what I’m doing & I hope that it shows. It is still a gas to have so many people come visit. Even if they didn’t I would keep on keeping on because this is my little part of the Internet. I’m the King round here, I say what I like & I like what I say. Peace.

 

 

On The Town (The Gatefolds Playing Out)

There has been so much football in my TV over the past 2 (or is it 3 ?) weeks that I have let a couple of things slide here at loosehandlebars. I must take advantage of  the 48 hour ceasefire to put one thing right because there is new music around from the Gatefolds, our favourite Derry guitar wranglers & it belongs right here with all their other great tunes. A couple of weeks ago (or was it 3 ?) the band gigged in support of Sean Mason’s fine group the Benjamin Chapter. I knew that there was some fresh material around & we are lucky that the archivist of the Derry music scene, Jim Cunningham, was at Sandinos bar to point his camera at the Gatefolds to put us on to the new good stuff.

First up it’s “Latchico Saddle” with a touch of early R.E.M. about the cascading guitars (never a bad thing). This band keeps the faith with the Derry guitar band tradition of making a fine, melodic clatter when you get on-stage. I know that half of the Gatefolds spend too much time listening to esoteric psychedelic soundscapes & I often expect the new songs to be 4-hour technicolour dream, brain melting space odysseys. I love that the guys’ inner-garage band wins out, that they keep it short & very sweet. People go to a bar to be entertained by the band. Hold the self-indulgent ” I have suffered for my art now it’s your turn” for the moment.

A latchico can be a term used for any ne’er do well or chancer. Down in Cork the patois of the insult is taken more seriously, the definition is more particular & sophisticated. So, a latchico is a sniffer of the saddles of ladies’ bicycles while their owners attend Mass ! There is, we all know, some strange & twisted stuff here on the Interwebs. For the real deal you have to have to hang out with the aberrant bunch that I call “friends”. Saddle-sniffing indeed !

“The Decorator” has, to my cloth ears, a touch of Television about it & again you will hear no complaint from me. These new songs sound like the real deal & I’m sure the band know that they need to get some good recorded versions made. If there is a new CD (hope so) they should coerce one of Northern Ireland’s most talented young artists (bassist Joe’s son Adam) to supply free artwork. If not then Bandcloud, Soundcamp or wherever the current place to be is (just not Myspace OK). You will hear it here as soon as I do. Meantimes this is all we have & it’s good enough.

gatefoldsThe Gatefolds (left) & the rest of the Derry music fraternity gathered last weekend to celebrate the marriage of Jeanette Hutton & Ruairi O’Doherty off of Little Hooks, 2 great contributors to music in Derry. Jeanette has told me that it was a great day & the smiling faces of the shiny happy people passing across my computer confirms that the evening was enjoyed to the full by all who attended. ” one of the best wedding receptions ever combined with one of the best rock ‘n roll shows ever” said my good friend Paul Pj McCartney, off of Bam Bam & the Calling. Paul was seen throwing some fine shapes on the dancefloor & I have the incriminating photographic evidence. jeanette

There are also some lovely snaps of the very happy couple  & this one has been making me smile all this week. Of course they also performed at their reception & the photograph of the bride in all her finery with her electric guitar is a wonder if a little blurred. We wish all the love & the luck to Jeanette & Ruairi, in their life together & for their band Lady J who, I am sure, will be included in further bulletins about the music from Derry.

jeanette2