The Who In South London

It didn’t seem to be the biggest deal when we obtained tickets to see the Who in February 1981. Since Xmas we had been panning for the gold to be found on “Sandanista!”, a dense, sprawling triple LP on which the Clash laid claim to be the Greatest Rock & Roll Band in the World, a title previously contended by the, you know, Who. In January Elvis Costello’s lyrical dexterity & developing musical maturity delivered “Trust”, a 5 star collection (out of 5). In the same month David Byrne & Brian Eno were making music for a brave, future new world. “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” would be influential & rarely equalled in the new decade. It was the shock & the shine of this new music that occupied our turntables. Those great Who records, whether filed alphabetically, chronologically or just left where they lie, tended to be at the back of the stack.

 

Image result for the who the clashThe gig was at the Lewisham Odeon, one of the country’s largest cinemas, a stopping-point for the package tours of the 60s but now out of the loop & a little faded. The Who usually played enormodomes or sports stadia so this is better. The biggest gigs in the city, the Rainbow in Finsbury Park, the Hammersmith Odeon, both a fair trek from our South East London manor. Lewisham was a short bus ride from East Greenwich, a night out for the locals seemed to be in order. It was a 7.30 p.m. start, early after a day at work, we didn’t even have time to hit a pub just met up outside the cinema not quite ready to rock. I had picked up a half-bottle of whiskey (& rolled up a bit of the other) to help things along. Dave, good man that he is, had exactly the same idea. Sue, much cooler than us two, was sensibly not drinking for 2…more for us then.

 

 

Related image“Substitute”, “I Can’t Explain”, “Baba O’Riley”, a perfect triple whammy to start. The Who’s more recent output.may not have been the most vital but from their 1965 debut, the aforementioned “I Can’t Explain”, maximum R&B for smashed & blocked Mods, to 1973’s double LP “Quadrophenia”, the kids are not alright, they had been smack dab in the middle of British Rock’s amazing journey. “My Generation” (1965), a confident rebel yell, was one of those significant songs that convinced you that this Beat Boom was for real & not just a passing fad. In 1967 their 45 “Pictures of Lily” made my life so wonderful & then, at the end of the year, the LP “The Who Sell Out” was Pop Art, more relevant to 15 year old me than a Warhol print, an Antonioni movie or a novel by Truman Capote. As the band thundered into their set I realised that while the Who’s records may no longer be at the front of the stack, this group, well I used to follow them back in 65. A long list of great songs, my perfect Who set list, came to mind. This was going to be meaty, beaty, big &…you get me.

 

So there was Pete Townshend, windmilling, power chord  guitar hero, ambitious, a sensitive even neurotic songwriter, still a believer in the redemptive qualities of a great Rock & Roll anthem. Singer Roger Daltrey, the punk with the stutter who became a microphone twirling Rock God. His job was to sing Pete’s lyrics & he made damned sure that he would always have work. John “The Ox” Entwistle, stony faced & stood stock-still, rumbled a bass foundation & just how is he doing that ! Of course, Keith Moon, the group’s extraordinary drummer, had died in 1978. Kenney Jones, an ace Small Face, was an obvious, natural replacement but, well, y’know…Moon was a one-off, we knew that & I’m sure Kenney did too. We got 4 songs from the new, yet to be released, LP, that’s how it went in the early 1980s.  I’d have to dig out “Face Dances” to remind myself how “Don’t Let Go the Coat” goes. “You Better You Bet”…I’ll be singing that for the rest of the day.

 

 

Image result for the who 1981Promotional requirements out of the way the band gave us more of what we had come for. Just the 1 track, the one about pinball, from “Tommy”, the expansive double LP which Pete was happy to call a “rock opera”, a presumption that I was never convinced by (it was still  a great record). “Drowned”, “The Punk & the Godfather” & “5.15” were from 1973’s “Quadrophenia”, a more accomplished concept than the deaf, dumb & blind boy. Townshend was better placed than anyone to document Mod, the most significant British youth movement of the previous decade.

 

There’s a case to be made that Pete’s inability to satisfactorily complete “Lifehouse”,the one between these two big ideas, produced two of the group’s finest records. “Live at Leeds” (1970) may have been a stopgap release but captured the Who as an onstage juggernaut, It’s one of the great live LPs, the best ever according to Rolling Stone readers in 2012, & we were getting a taste of this tonight. “Who’s Next” (1971), with it’s innovative use of synthesizers, proved that Townshend’s pretensions to a wider cultural significance for his group were unnecessary when you were capable of making music as good as this. We got plenty of that one too.

 

 

In 1981 the Who were still a working band, touring every year to promote new albums & consolidating their rep for putting on one of the great Rock shows. They were no longer smashing their equipment but the aggression was undimmed, the power unmatched. “Who Are You”, “5.15” & “Wont Get Fooled Again”, possibly a greater anthem than “My Generation”, were a world class ending to the set. They returned for an encore which included thunderous versions of “Summertime Blues” & “Twist & Shout”. I’m guessing that the PA had been scaled down to suit the venue but this was the loudest band I had ever heard. I had friends who still told of earlier ventures south of the river, great days out at the Charlton football & the Oval cricket grounds, when the Who had rocked over 50,000 people out of their socks. To see the group in such a relatively intimate venue was a privilege. You have got to love the Internets for allowing me to hear this concert again. If you stick with “Twist & Shout” to the end (& you should) you will hear a packed cinema going nuts in appreciation of just the best way to spend 2 hours on a Monday night in Lewisham.

 

 

Image result for the who the clashThe next year the band toured the US with the Clash in support. Apart from showing out at Live Aid it would be 1989 before the next Who tour. By then the 20th anniversary of Pop’s resurgence had come around. VH1, MTV for old people, was launched, Golden Oldies were re-branded as Classic Rock & you could buy your record collection again, this time on shiny, new-fangled CDs. Original Who fans now had kids who were alright without babysitters, teenagers who were fans of the group themselves. The Who kept rolling out, even after the death of John Entwistle, to huge audiences, no longer promoting new music, easily filling long sets with their extensive back catalogue. In 2010 they were the half time attraction at the Superbowl.Pete & Roger played a 12 minute medley of songs that 100 million viewers knew because of some American cop show.

 

Pete Townshend probably didn’t mean it when he wrote “I hope I die before I get old”, we have all said things as dumb as that. He’s 70 now, his group still sell out big venues playing 20 songs & every one a winner. I’m not sure that I want to be there but when I catch them on TV the Who seem to retain a strength & power that has always made them a class act. I was lucky to see them do their big show at a small place. Those stellar records  (particularly the expanded “…Sell Out”), some of them 50 years old, are nearer the front of the stack nowadays too.

 

 

 

 

 

Random Notes (February 2017)

OK, while we wait for the release, in early March, of “English Tapas”, the new LP by Sleaford Mods, February brought new records by two old favorites. Y’know, I possibly have enough music by Ryan Adams & Son Volt. From what I’ve heard, their current collections are not better than the stuff I already own. There’s the return of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah with only one surviving member of the group that made the notable debut in, (is this right ?) 2005. I’m more interested in “Backlash”, Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears always had more going for them than Soul revivalism & the first record for 4 years will receive further investigation. Australian psych-gang King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard have plans for 5 LPs this year, perhaps the fine “Flying Microtonal Banana” will not be the best of them. So, here’s a crazy video for a track from my favoured album this month.

 

 

 

 

Image result for moon duo“Occult Architecture Vol 1” is the fourth LP by Moon Duo, the offshoot of San Francisco space-rockers Wooden Shjips. Guitarist Ripley Johnson’s hook up with keyboard player Sanae Yamada is proving to be more prolific than the mothershjip. The lo-fi, drone heavy sound of 2010’s “Escape” has developed into something that places them at the forefront of 21st century psychedelia. The signifiers are still there, the motorik steadiness, synthesized shades of Alan Vega, even Hawkwind’s guitar barrage (blimey !). For all the cosmic cacophony there are tunes with hooks while more than a hint of the Garage about Moon Duo adds a power & drive that draws you in & carries you along to the relentless 10 minute closer “White Rose”. The video for “Cold Fear”, by Micah Buzan, is a strange & imaginative thing. Please don’t stare at the screen for too long if you are of a nervous disposition.

 

 

Image result for minneapolis uranium club who made the manThe single of the month is “Who Made the Man” by the Minneapolis Uranium Club. It was released in October 2016 but, as I have stated before, this new music can take some time to get through to me. Now I’m no expert on hi-octane modern punk but I know a young person who is & he spent some of his student loan on this 7″ disc (Emmet ! You did what !). Further investigation has shown that there are similar groups who intend to have similar fun, fun, fun, until their daddies take their Devo albums away. I have also heard the Dead Kennedys & the Fall invoked, with a touch of Fred Schneider off of the B-52s in the vocals. This is all good. The other track, “Small Fry”, shorter & very 1977, is included in the clip & the LP “All of Them Naturals” will certainly be on the “to investigate” list.

 

 

OK, enough of this new-fangled noise. My album of the month is 1974’s “I’ve Got My Own Album to Do” by Ronnie Wood. Back then Ronnie was doing very well thank you after a spell as bassist in the Jeff Beck Group & as guitarist in Faces, a band popular enough to tour the world in their own right but increasingly in the shadow of the solo success of their singer Rod Stewart. Original Face Ronnie Lane had already left the group & Ronnie W could hear the way the wind was whistling (1973’s “Ooh La La” became their final LP). He lived in a very nice part of West London, Richmond, near the park, in a well-appointed gaff, The Wick, overlooking the Thames, which he had bought from actor Sir John Mills. The basement became a studio/man-cave & he invited Rolling Stone Mick Taylor over to help with that album that he had to do.

 

Image result for i've got my own album to doThe Wick had a coach house in the garden (very nice) & Keith Richards off of the Rolling Stones, at a loose end with no touring for his band that year, came over & stayed to help things along &, quite possibly, have a real good time. More of Ronnie’s heavy friends appeared. Track 1, the joyous, loping, funky “I Can Feel the Fire” has that Mick Jagger (& David Bowie) on backing vocals while the next one up, “Far East Man” is a collaboration with George Harrison. Jagger/Richards (maybe just the latter) gave Ronnie 2 songs, “Sure the One You Need” is good enough for them to have possibly regretted it. “Mystifies Me”, a great original soul ballad, reunites the unit which made Rod’s “Every Picture Tells a Story” such a stand out. The rest of the album features the American rhythm section, Andy Newmark (drums) & Willie Weeks (bass) who were as good as it got back then. There are 2 Soul covers included, Freddie Scott’s “Am I Grooving You”, a classic produced & co-written by Bert Berns, & Freddie & the Dreamers’, no, make that James Ray’s, “If You Gotta Make a Fool of Somebody”.

 

 

Image result for ronnie wood keith richards kilburnTo promote this all-star album, there was not always room in the basement for everyone who showed out, Ronnie played 2 shows in July 1974 at the Kilburn State in North London. Along with Ronnie, Keef, Weeks & Newmark are Faces Ian McLagan (organ) & Rod Stewart (backing vocals). Now “I’ve Got…” is a terrific record, a super session where egos were left at the studio door, but the superb live show (see it here) is, for anyone interested in British music of the time, Rock & Roll Heaven. Mick Taylor, who played on 5 tracks on the LP is not around & by the end of the year had quit his day job with the Stones. There was a prolonged search for a replacement but Ronnie, who released another LP in 1975, helped out on a Stones tour before joining permanently, sure was the one they needed.

Three Months in a Brown Paper Bag in a Septic Tank(Before Monty Python)

In late 1969 I watched the first TV series of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” with my Mum. Dad was more vocal about things he disapproved of on the idiot box. “Top of the Pops” was never not interrupted by “I can’t hear the words” & “Is that a boy or a girl ?”. While I struggled not to fall off the sofa in convulsions of laughter Mum’s silence was only interrupted by regular tutting. That was OK, an example of the “generation gap”. I was 17, living in the swingingest country in a dynamic decade, Mum was ancient…36 ! Anyway, don’t you hate it when old people think they are down with the kids ? As my sides were splitting over Bicycle Repair Man, Nudge Nudge & Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson, Mum was wondering quite what the world was coming to.

Monty Python is now regarded as a high watermark in comedy (not just British), a ground-breaking New Wave of hilarity. My friends & I had an interest in any seriously funny business & the series was a much anticipated collision of talents who had already been making us laugh for some time.

Despite the increasing hegemony of television the BBC, the monopoly provider of UK radio, continued to commission popular comedy programmes. I was too young for “The Goon Show” but Spike Milligan’s anarchic tomfoolery was built to last & still around.         The interest in political satire, sparked by the decrepit Tory government of Harold Macmillan, had been past my bedtime but Peter Cook & Dudley Moore seemed to be the funniest men in Britain.  They had come to notice in “Beyond the Fringe”, a tremendous success, a merging of the best talent from Oxford & Cambridge university revues. Comedy became a career option for graduates of these establishments & the Beeb eagerly signed up the next generation of side-splitting scholars.

Image result for i'm sorry i'll read that againWhen the 2nd series of “I’m Sorry I’ll Read That Again” moved to the Light Programme from the Home Service (I know…what the…!!) in 1965 it soon became essential listening.Satire was played out, we had a new Labour government, the first for 15 years, & it wasn’t only comedians who were cutting them some slack. The young cast of “I.S.I.R.T.A” reverted to their teenage Goonery & spliced it to the iconoclasm that Britain was getting pretty good at in the mid-1960s. The new rules were that there were no rules &, often, no punchlines. In the helter skelter of hilarity the stand out was John “Otto” Cleese. His parody of the oleaginous “bubonic plagiarist” (©P. Cook) David Frost nails the vacuity of the chat show format. Frost was not the last self-obsessed, talking loud saying nothing, TV host to prosper in the US.

Image result for john cleese ronnie barker ronnie corbettIt was on the BBC’s “The Frost Report” that we first got to see the 6’5″ Cleese in our telly. Sketches with, in descending order of height, Cleese & the two Ronnies, Barker & Corbett were the stand out in a successful series. Frost’s production company (he was always a busy…) assembled Cleese, his writing partner Graham Chapman &, from “I.S.I.R.T.A”, Tim Brooke-Taylor for 1967’s “At Last the 1948 Show”, a mix  which included older university revue stuff & sketches which would later be used by Python. The cast was completed by the “lovely” Aimi McDonald (& she was) & Marty Feldman who had a reputation as a writer, for Frost & “Round the Horne”, a very popular radio series, not as a Image result for marty feldman 1948 showperformer. Marty had much more going on than the bulging exophthalmic eyes that gave him a face for comedy. He roughened the intellectual edges of the others & brought along his own brand of mischievous anarchy. The ramshackle improvisation & corpsing in this cross-dressing cop sketch still makes me laugh out loud. “…the 1948 Show” replaced “Ready Steady Go” as the must-see TV show, another night that I was on my quiet, best behaviour so that bedtime came a little later.

Meanwhile at teatime, children’s TV was getting more interesting. “Do Not Adjust Your Set” ran for 2 series from December 1967 to May 1969. Eric Idle (Cambridge), Terry Jones & Michael Palin (both Oxford) were touting their sketches around to the successful comedy shows already mentioned & were enthusiastic about writing & performing their own show. They were joined by Denise Coffey & David Jason ( as not-so-superhero Captain Fantastic), later to find his own place in the British comedy pantheon. Neither lampooning the worthy but patronising tropes of British children’s TV  (& about time too) nor being funnier than other comedy for kids was particularly difficult but “Do Not…” did both with imagination & energy. It was an opportunity for the 3 young writers to find out what worked & what didn’t. I was of an age where kids’ TV was no longer interesting but this was a reason to rush home from football practice, ask my sister & 3 brothers to move on over & let me watch my show.Then we all had to hush up while Dad watched the News !

Related imageFor the musical interludes, direct from “Magical Mystery Tour”, the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band were now sending up their novelty trad jazz roots, dropping the Doo Dah & becoming the funniest rock group on vinyl. A regular TV slot & a free rein allowed them to develop their visual style & expand their audience. By the end of 1968 “I’m the Urban Spaceman” was in the UK Top 5 & we were rolling around to the classic LP “The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse”. In the second series the guy who contributed short illustrative inserts, Terry Gilliam, a young American, was given more to do. “Beware of the Elephants” (with the UK’s most prominent racist, Enoch Powell, promoting sludge that keeps everything “white, white, white”) is perfectly Pythonesque. We all know now that the world is a better place for having Gilliam around.

Image result for monty python“Monty Python’s Flying Circus” was not something completely different for us 16 year olds who liked to laugh. It was a merger of talents who had been making us do that very thing for some time & was eagerly anticipated. I guess that we thought that this new troupe would attract a cult following (that would be me) before the BBC decided that it was just too silly & pulled the plug. It really did not take long (Episode 8, the Dead Parrot sketch, Ep 9 the Lumberjack Song) before British youth were committing this funny business to memory & knowing that it was built to last.20 years later, on a quiet Mayfair street, on a quieter Sunday morning, I met John Cleese & he politely acknowledged my rather effusive greeting. I didn’t ask him to do a Silly Walk or perform the Gunfight at the OK Corral in Morse Code, just paid the respect & thanks due to a Comedy Don.

Random Notes (January 2017)

For much of the time I am perfectly happy listening to music I know so intimately that a molecular transference has occurred & made it part of me. Lately, if I want to hear something previously unknown, there has been much satisfaction to be found in crate digging for Soul & Funk gems from the early 1970s. Whether it’s getting beyond the singles of ex-Temptation Eddie Kendricks & discovering the delights of his 7 solo LPs for Motown or grooving to the gritty Blues-Soul on the 4 records Little Milton made for Stax after leaving Chess, there’s much great music that passed me by at the time.

 

Image result for pinegrove cardinalAt the turn of the year I was checking for a “best of the year” list on one of the few message boards I trust (hey, it’s the Internet, be careful) & I heard something that just knocked me over. I bought the CD within hours &, a month later. have had no reason to regret my impulse purchase. Here’s just 80 seconds of Pinegrove, a song that’s not on their record “Cardinal”, an indie-pop blast that has certainly helped to lighten the mood in the weird times of January 2017.

 

 

 

Pinegrove are from Montclair, New Jersey, out near Paterson, the setting for Jim Jarmusch’s latest film. In 2015 they signed for Run for Cover records, tying up the loose ends of Bandcamp tracks & self-released cassettes on “Everything So Far”. “Cardinal” opens with “Old Friends” & closes with “New Friends”. They have made plenty of the latter with this assured collection. Evan Stephens Hall’s songs combine emotional lyrics with dynamic melodies, changes that are subtle while still having a real belt to them. The all-to-brief “Angelina” brings Teenage Fanclub to mind & that is never a bad thing.

 

 

Congratulations to the good people at Audiofeed who recorded 8 tracks with Pinegrove which are even better than the record. “Aphasia” is just a triumph, the whole band pulling together to make a good song even stronger & getting the sound it deserves. Both of the LPs are on the Y-tube, you can, as I did pay what you like for “Cardinal” at their website. Now over at Pinegrove’s Bandcamp there is the same deal for “Elsewhere”, 8 tracks recorded live on their last tour. Pinegrove are visiting the UK in late February/March. They are not playing too near my house but I will seriously try to go those extra 70 miles to catch my favourite new band.

 

Meanwhile the #1 in my heart for 2016, Whitney, continue to make an impression on the mainstream. I caught their “Golden Days” being used in an infomercial for one of those machines that you shout at & it plays music or turns off your lights. I don’t know what these things are called nor do I care. They monitor every move you & your family make in the name of progress & it’s a no thanks from me. The band also got to play that song again on their US TV prime time debut for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”. Here’s how that went…

 

 

There is, I guess, a touch of alt-country about both of these groups though they are hardly hanging out in the barn or whittling on the porch. It’s emotional Indie Rock that relies on melody & intelligence rather than a run along the effects pedals for impact. I’m hearing a freshness & an energy that I no longer hear in more established artists. I’m ready to put Wilco, Son Volt & Ryan Adams (though not Jason Isbell) on the back burner & look forward to Pinegrove’s & Whitney’s future music. I know…Just kick my ass, okay.

 

Well, that’s enough brand new modern music thank you very much. My album of the month was released in 1968. Joe South had success as a producer/writer for Billy Jo Royal before recording his own debut LP “Introspect”. The second single from the record, “Games People Play”, (you know it…”people try to sock it to ya, singing glory hallelujah”..great electric sitar) became a world wide hit. Capitol Records, wanting to reach this new audience, withdrew “Introspect” & quickly released an LP with the same title as the hit. Only 3 songs were retained, Joe’s versions of his better known songs included. It’s a good record but what the heck do record companies know ?

 

 

Image result for joe south“Introspect” is a Southern Country Soul classic, a little heavy on the strings but enough imaginative production flourishes to still surprise. Joe’s strong voice is matched to lyrics containing a strong element of social commentary (Joe had played on Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde”). “Mirror of Your Mind” & the 7 minute closer “Gabriel” step into Psych-Country Pop, not the most populated genre & South is really good at it. Even “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden”, a syrupy country hit for Lynn Anderson in 1970 & a song I was never too fond of, sounds tougher & better. I was lucky enough to catch Joe playing an acoustic set of his hits, he was a fine songwriter. “Introspect” (again the full works on the Y-tube) could be the template for when Elvis went to record in Memphis. I prefer the one that got there first.

 

He was Butch But I Was No Sundance (1969-70)

I was not the only clever kid at our school. Our whole form was force fed facts so that we could pass our exams a year earlier than others our age. It was some bullshit exercise in school pride but if it reduced the time spent under the archaic, cruel (the cane was still used by the headmaster) & unusual (an English teacher made transgressors write out chapters of Genesis) punitive system then we would go along with it. This meant that I entered the sixth form when I was 15 going on 16. The 17 year old girls in my classes were a lot further on down life’s road  & 68/69 was Peak Mini Skirt as I remember. I was amazed that they would even acknowledge my presence, it was months before I was able to say anything that made any sense back to them. The guys were already drinking at the weekend (only a year underage so…y’know) & that seemed better than the Youth Club. On their 17th birthdays some of them got cars. That was certainly an upgrade on taking the bus !

 

 

Image result for morris 1000Butch had a Morris 1000, a classic car now, cheap & cheerful in 1969. His name was Keith but his Dad had a butcher’s shop on the High St so…His girlfriend, Natalie, worked in the local record shop Rushton’s, a place that sold instruments & sheet music before awkwardly adjusting to the demand for small discs of vinyl. After college Butch & I would drive into town to keep her company for the last hour of her working day. To keep us out of further mischief she gave us free range in one of the soundproof booths to listen to any of the latest records that took our fancy. They didn’t always hit the spot. That second Blood Sweat & Tears album, David Clayton Thomas singing, no Al Kooper, may have sold by the lorry load but it was no “Child is the Father to the Man”. One non-album single with a red Atlantic label, “Comin’ Home” by Delaney & Bonnie & Friends featuring Eric Clapton, had us opening up the booth for the other customers to hear & irritating our favourite shop assistant.

 

Image result for delaney and bonnie comin homeDelaney & Bonnie Bramlett had done musical time before they were married, D as a member of the house band of the “Shindig” TV show, B as a fake-tanned Ikette. Their first LP was recorded at the Stax studios in Memphis with Booker T & the MGs. By the time of the follow up they had assembled a smoking band, people who would go on to make a pile of good music. Their brand of Southern Soul, Gospel & Rock attracted an influential friend in Eric Clapton, happy to play the sideman after all the attention attracted by Cream & Blind Faith. Eric brought along the newly ex-Beatle George & his stinging, ringing contribution to “Coming Home” made it more than notable. Delaney’s mate Leon Russell needed to assemble some Mad Dogs to back Joe Cocker on a hastily arranged tour & he borrowed the whole band except keyboard player Bobby Whitlock who left for England to write with Clapton. When these two needed a rhythm section for “Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs” they were joined by Carl Radle (bass) & Jim Gordon (drums) to form Derek & the Dominoes. Now that is a good record !

 

 

Butch lived above the shop, just a walk away from mine & I would go round in midweek to listen to his records. At night the front was closed up & you entered the house through the back of the shop past simmering pots of pig’s heads. Brawn is some kind of peasant jellied terrine (my Mum loved it). It’s apparently called “potted heid” in Scotland & in France “pate de tete” & that sounds no better. Now I’m a Big Meat Eater (yes I am…now there’s a movie you have to see) but I don’t always choose to get that close to its production. I would hurry through that steamy, funky room. Butch had some good records. I particularly remember 3 double LPs, Cream’s “Wheels of Fire”, Jimi’s “Electric Ladyland” & “Streetnoise” by Julie Driscoll, all good long listens as the music got & was taken more seriously. We had a couple of bottles of cider & a coloured light bulb for atmosphere…that’s all. We didn’t know where to buy any hash back then. Our town had not yet done with Modernism. The cool kids were robbing chemists of their good stuff, waking up in the park with blood leaking from their ears. That sounded like not much fun at all.

 

Image result for julie driscollThere were no women like Julie Driscoll in our town either. Julie, with organist Brian Auger, Long John Baldry & Rod Stewart had been part of Steampacket, a Mod Soul-Blues revue who, despite their popular live act, never recorded. In 1968 her & Auger’s take on Dylan’s “This Wheels on Fire”, an urgent psychedelic classic, shifted the ground for British female singers. Her expressive, distinctive vocals put Cilla, Lulu, Sandie, even Dusty in the shade. She became a beautiful, instant icon of cool, replacing Emma Peel as the object of my affections. “Streetnoise” reflects the times, musical boundaries were to be ignored. There are old songs, new songs, Jazz & Blues songs, all given the individual stamp of Driscoll & Auger that still sounds fresh today. “Indian Rope Man”, one of the band’s best, written by Richie Havens, is promoted here on German TV but was only released as a b-side in the UK. Julie married jazz pianist Keith Tippett & stepped away from Rock & Roll to make more experimental music. Whatever she chose to do was just fine by me.

 

 

Image result for family a song for meAh Family…Leicester’s finest. Butch had their 3rd LP “A Song For Me”, released in January 1970 & a Top 5 record. At the end of 1969 the single “No Mule’s Fool”, a gentle daydream of a song had totally hit my spot but only grazed the Top 30. Their debut “Music in a Doll’s House” (1968) was a more than interesting slice of post-Sgt Pepper’s British psychedelia & “Family Entertainment” (1969) consolidated a reputation as a band on the rise. The loss of 2 founding members, multi-instrumentalist Jim King & bassist Rick Grech (he joined the aforementioned Blind Faith) was a setback just as they were ready for prime time. The idiosyncratic, forceful presence of vocalist Roger Chapman made Family’s live show memorable.They were one of the first big concerts I attended & Hull City Hall rocked that night. The new-ish group were possibly less textured, a little more full tilt, than previously. There were 3 Top 20 UK singles, an LP a year until 1973 before diminishing returns & a failure to make an impression in the US called a halt. Family don’t really get the credit they deserve. If you have an interest in psych-prog they merit further investigation.

 

Image result for bath festival 1970We hung out a lot over the next year. The 4 of us (rather surprisingly I had a girlfriend too) tore around in the Morris looking for pubs, parties & places of interest. We both studied Geography & a week’s “field study” in North Yorkshire became an alcohol-fuelled exercise in besmirching our college’s good name. Butch was a good guy to have around, a dry sense of fun & humour, a little more grown-up than the other happy idiots I called friends back then. He was the perfect companion for an adventure to the Bath Festival of Blues & Progressive Music in June 1970. Over 2 days we joined 200,000 others to see a musical line-up that can only be described as awesome. We saw a lot of things that you didn’t see in our small town that weekend. The Hell’s Angels were cool & the casualties of the purple acid were not. It was a great time, we could see the attractions of this Hippie thing but we were Northern lads, this stuff wouldn’t really fly back at home. I’ll repeat myself, he was the right guy to share the experience with. He drove me there, he got me home & we had approached things correctly.

 

Butch left college that year. I had to hang around to make up for that year I had jumped. The next year I left town & only returned for flying visits to see my family. Keith is actually on Facebook & we live in the same town though we would probably pass each other in the street these days. I’ll send him this & hope that he has the same good memories about the short time that our paths intertwined all those years ago.

 

 

Staying Stoned and Singing Homemade Songs (Bobby Charles)

“See you later alligator…in a while crocodile” was the first song lyric to make an impression on my young self. The reptilian rhyme was smart, snappy & became quite a catchphrase. Bill Haley & the Comets were a Rock & Roll sensation in the mid-1950s. They may not have been the originators, they weren’t, but they were popularisers of this new, rebellious music. In the UK the inclusion of their #1 hit “Rock Around the Clock” in the 1955 film “The Blackboard Jungle” & a subsequent tour in 1957 caused a moral panic when the Teddy Boys made the nation’s front pages, wrecking & rolling cinemas & concert halls. Haley was 30 years old, a great pro but hardly hip to the teenage trip. This swinging sayonara, a hip hasta la vista, was written by a much younger hepcat, someone whose music continues to hit the spot.

 

Image result for bobby charlesBobby Charles (Robert Charles Guidry) was just 17, you know what I mean, when he recorded “Later Alligator”. The song caught the attention of Chess Records who were surprised when a young white boy answered their invitation to Chicago. Bobby was from Abbeville Louisiana, 150 miles west of New Orleans, & it was Fats Domino, that city’s biggest star, who had inspired him to take up with the Rock & Roll. In 1960 his hero recorded “Walking to New Orleans”, a song written for him by Charles, & had his biggest hit for a couple of years. In the following year “(I Don’t Know Why I Love You) But I Do” put Clarence “Frogman” Henry in the Top 10. Bobby continued to record with Imperial Records in N.O. & then with Jewel up in Shreveport but it was as a songwriter that he made his money (never what he was fully due) & earned his reputation. “I Hope”, 2 minutes short & so sweet, is one of the tracks cut for Jewel in 1964.

 

 

In the late sixties Bobby had to leave Nashville when he was caught growing the marahoochie. He turned up in Woodstock NY, famous for a festival that was actually held 60 miles away, home to a community centred around Bob Dylan & his manager Albert Grossman’s Bearsville Records. Bobby was laying low but, back then, if you knocked on a door in Woodstock it was likely that a musician would answer it. With his stories of sessions with Fats, Willie Dixon & Little Walter, his bag full of new songs, he soon had new friends, a recording contract & was back in the studio.

 

Image result for bobby charles bobby charles songs“Bobby Charles” (1972) is known as the album Charles made with the Band, Dylan’s backing musicians for his concerts & responsible for great music in their own right. Sure, bassist Rick Danko co-produced & was joined in the studio by Levon Helm & Garth Hudson (I believe Richard Manuel is in there somewhere, the credits are a little informal) but there’s much more to the record than famous friends. From the slinky Funk of “Street People” to the closing languid Country waltz “Tennessee Blues” there’s a greasy musical warmth matched with Bobby’s smoky rasp that makes the whole record a lovely, leisurely treat. Session guitarist Amos Garrett inserts a handsome elegance whenever he steps forward. Bobby’s roots are still there, you can take the boy out of Louisiana but…his lyrics, mature & magnanimous are, on the best songs, quite perfect. It’s tough to pick just one track but “Small Town Talk”, just Bobby, Levon on drums & the organ playing of Dr John, always does it for me.

 

 

Recording was underway for a follow-up LP in Bearsville when Grossman, who had helped Charles out with his legal problems, wanted to negotiate a new contract. Bobby had been wheeled & dealed before & now had a sharp eye for sharp practice. He walked away from Woodstock with the parting shot, “I can’t say that it was good doing business with you, so I’ll just say adios m—-f—-r !”. In November 1976 he showed out at the Winterland in San Francisco for the Band’s farewell concert. He performed “Down South in New Orleans” but didn’t make the final cut for the movie “The Last Waltz”, possibly because he had refused to go along with director Martin Scorsese’s suggestion that he should play “See You Later Alligator”. Bobby had had it with the business of music, went back to Louisiana. There would be no more new music for over a decade.

 

Image result for bobby charlesBobby still wrote songs, it was what he did. Joe Cocker picked up a couple for a 1976 LP. He had a co-credit with Neil Young on “Saddle Up the Palomino” & there was a song with Willie Nelson. Some of the tunes from the eponymous LP, “Small Town Talk”, “Tennessee Blues”, were covered by other artists. Fellow member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame Tommy McLain recorded “I Hope” & “Before I Grow Too Old”. Charles became known as a pioneer of Swamp Pop, somewhere musically & geographically between Zydeco & New Orleans. His subsequent LPs, some involving more of his regarded friends, included selections from his extensive catalogue. It was the extended version of the 1972 record, followed by a box set of the complete Bearsville sessions which confirmed the quality of the music he was making at that time. “You Came Along”, not previously released, is a simple, sumptuous, delightful declaration of love with outstanding support on piano from Spooner Oldham off of Muscle Shoals AL.

 

 

Charles chose to live a quiet life in Abbeville, his major concern the pollution caused by the refineries along the banks of the Mississippi. When his house burned down, leaving him with his car & little else he moved to Holly Beach on the Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane found him there & he returned to his hometown where unfortunately, in 2010 he collapsed & died aged 71.

 

His talent was that he merged his many musical influences with his own empathic personality to produce an attractive, individual take on American music. His lyrical facility, direct, honest, almost conversational, has meant that successive generations have found an affinity to his songs. In the UK Ian Dury, no slouch when it comes to vernacular lyrics, selected “Small Town Talk” as a Desert Island Disc. Lily Allen opted for McLain’s version of “Before I Grow Too Old”. That same song, as “Silver & Gold”, was recorded by the great Joe Strummer, appearing as the final track on his final LP with the Mescaleros. Everyone has a favourite Bobby Charles song, maybe it’s just that you haven’t heard yours yet. That great album can be found in full on the Y-tube so get to it. I’ll see you later…

 

 

There’s not many men round here who’ve still got their Meccano sets, you know! (Liz Smith)

Image result for liz smith hard labourI first became aware of Liz Smith, who died this week aged 95, in 1973 when she starred in “Hard Labour”, a BBC TV drama directed by Mike Leigh & produced by Tony Garnett. The weekly “Play for Today”, like its predecessor “The Wednesday Play”, was a forum for many emerging British talents. The strand encompassed a wide variety of styles & subjects. It was the hard-hitting & effective social realist themes, a development from kitchen sink dramas of a decade earlier which often provoked controversy. “Hard Labour” was Leigh’s first TV play, it employs his improvisational technique to achieve a naturalism & a bleakness unleavened by the humour to be found in his later work. Mrs Thornley, harassed by her husband, patronised by her middle-class employer & offered no solace by her religion, is a study in isolation & limited communication. Liz Smith was outstanding in the part & she broke our hearts.

Image result for liz smith i didn't know you caredThere’s very little of “Hard Labour” on the Interwebs so let’s move on a couple of years to her next starring TV role. “I Didn’t Know You Cared” was a sit-com adapted from his own novels by Peter Tinniswood. It ran for 4 series from 1975-79, another slice of Northern life, this time across the Pennines in Yorkshire. The Brandon family were a wonderful parade of absurd characters, the men cloth-capped, gloomy & cynical, the womenfolk keeping a close eye on them & their faults. It had a terrific ensemble cast, was tougher than the long-running “Last of the Summer Wine”, with the gentleness & acerbity of Alan Bennett. At the heart was Liz Smith’s Mrs Brandon, hen-pecking, haranguing & hilarious, nailing some of the best lines of a very good bunch. Some right old toot from the same period is now recycled on the nostalgia channels with no sign of this classic British comedy.

Ms Smith was in her fifties before this acting thing really took off. Her talent to portray the slightly mad but always likeable Grandma found her plenty of work in film & TV & she quickly became a very recognisable character actor. Her cinema work included Lindsay Anderson’s “Britannia Hospital”, Ridley Scott’s debut “The Duellists” & she was Lady Phillippa of Staines in Viv Stanshall’s brilliant “Sir Henry at Rawlinson End”. She was perfect for the BBC’s adaptations of Dickens & appeared in Michael Palin’s “Ripping Yarns” classic episode “The Testing of Eric Olthwaite”. It would be 1984 before she gained recognition from her peers for her talents.

Handmade Films, a British production & distribution company, was formed by George Harrison when his Monty Python friends were struggling to finance “Life of Brian”. The story goes that George had to mortgage a house but I don’t think that he ever went short. In the next decade Handmade were involved with many fine British films. “A Private Function” (1984) is as close as this to the gentle, eccentric comedies made by Ealing Studios in the 1940s & 50s. Alan Bennett was an international success in 1960 with “Beyond the Fringe”. He continued to act while becoming better known as a writer for TV & theatre. This was his first screenplay, perhaps having less substance than his plays but no less lacking in the acuity Bennett has for language & the intricacies of social interaction & manners.

Image result for liz smith a private function“A Private Function” is set in post-Second World War Yorkshire when food was still rationed. The social climber Joyce Chilvers (Maggie Smith) is determined to make her mark in the town & intends to drag Gilbert, her chiropodist husband, (Michael Palin) along with her. A pig, being illegally fattened for a municipal celebration is kidnapped by the Chilvers & hilarity ensues…really it does. Along with the great writer & the two illustrious principals the cast involves an overflowing National Treasure chest. Denholm Elliott, Alison Steadman, Pete Postlethwaite & others all do their distinctive thing while Liz, as Joyce’s mother, driven mad by the smell of the secret pig, thinking that perhaps she could be the source of the odour, won the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress.

Image result for liz smith a private functionLiz continued to do the work, adding value to whatever she appeared in. In 1998 she was cast as Nana Norma in Caroline Ahern’s comedy “The Royle Family”.By this time she was 76 year’s old & the nation’s favourite grandmother, perfectly cast in a series which, along with Ricky Gervais’ “The Office” & Steve Coogan’s “I’m Alan Partridge” injected new energy & raised the standard of British situation comedy. “The Royle Family” was sometimes a kitchen sink drama but it was mostly on the living room sofa in front of the telly. The skillful characterisation, the pacing, the natural humour & affection made many people suspect that Aherne had placed a spy camera in their own homes to obtain material. This clip, from the 2006 special “The Queen of Sheba” where the new baby is introduced to the bedridden Nana will moisten the driest of eyes. A starring role in the UK’s most popular comedy brought Liz Smith even wider recognition &, in 2007, a British Comedy Award for Best TV Comedy Actress.

Liz Smith was born in my hometown in Lincolnshire. She’s from the Crosby area up in the north of town. She attended the secondary school which, years later with a change of name, in a different building became my school. That may be why, even in those early days  before I knew of her origins, I found her performances to be so convincing. She reminded me & so many others of our own grandmothers except that perhaps my Nana Daisy actually knew her as young Betty Gleadle. Sad events have made this appreciation into an obituary & that’s a pity. It’s OK because I am reminded of the talent of Liz Smith by the old ladies I talk to at the bus stop, in the market & around my estate. For these women, who have lived through some times, have seen & learned some things, Liz Smith represented.

Joe Brown’s Hit Parade (2016)

Joe Brown has supported & encouraged this blog since the very beginning. When I wanted other voices to contribute their end-of-year stand outs he was the first person I asked because he got good taste. It’s a tradition now, the 5th year, that Joe points us to his favourites so, without further ado, it’s that man again !
Image may contain: 2 people, outdoorThere’s not an end of year “Best Of”, broadcast, in print, written & talked about anywhere on the planet that doesn’t acknowledge 2016’s Haul of Fame, I can be no different . When the indestructible Lemmy left us at the end of 2015 who could possibly have imagined who would have followed him by the end of 2016. I know it’s life and what can you do, but to see so many big hitters depart in an unreal succession was difficult to comprehend. Personally, Bowie,Prince,Leonard Cohen and Gene Wilder’s leaving shook me the most… what more can be said…so it goes.
OK, my top 3 musical highlights of the year in no particular order. In the words of Willy Wonka (via Oscar Wilde), “the suspense is terrible, I hope it’ll last”…on we go!
“Skeleton Tree”” is Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ follow up to 2013’s “Push The Sky Away”. The album, his 16th with the Bad Seeds, bears all the Cave hallmarks, masterly crafted songs concerning doomed romance & foreboding fate. Only this time Art & Reality have collided to add a unique poignancy to the record. “Skeleton Tree”  was written & recorded around the time of the tragic loss of his teenage son Arthur. With that in mind listening to it had me in awe! For the man to continue on with day to day life must have taken some strength but to complete an album and pour his heartache into it takes a person with unimaginable courage and commitment and love. This is not a record for all occasions but you should find the time to give it consideration. It’s a mesmerising listen & will stop you right in your tracks.
Image result for parquet courts 2016From early this year Parquet Courts’ “Human Performance”  was, for me, their best since 2012’s “Light Up Gold”. After the improvised experiments of “Monastic Living” (2015) New York’s finest (really)  return to the stripped back post-punk, anxious lyrics combined with irresistible, melodic hooks, pure & simple human performances. Its an easy option to throw out the Modern Lovers/Velvets/ Pavement comparisons. Parquet Courts have a lot more going for them than their influences. Lyrically the album is packed with “what did he just sing?” moments but it’s tough to choose standout tracks such is the quality & consistency of the whole. “I Was Just Here” deals with displacement and the dreadful situation when you return home you find your favourite Chinese restaurant/chip shophas shut down..a horror I am familiar with.The title track, a great pop song, has a melody faintly reminiscent of Wire’s “Outdoor Miner”..wonderful!
Radiohead’s “A Moon Shaped Pool” is an album that shows you something new on every listen, As Thom Yorke sings in “Daydreaming”…”this goes beyond me, beyond you”. Often described as a band in constant motion, they’ve shifted again. Sustained experimentation is probably their only familiar theme. Their skill lies in tweaking levels, dropping in signals, making serious music that is still bright & uplifting. “Ful Stop”, a tour-de-force, is up there with my favourite musical pieces of the year. The Latin shuffle of “Present Tense” counters the natural melancholy of Yorke’s lyrics. There’s so much to admire & discover on this record, Radiohead are operating in Miles Davis country, making records that are innovative artistic statements. “A Moon Shaped Pool”s musical journey has been my choice to accompany my own journeys this year.

Image may contain: 1 personThanks Joe, you’re the 2nd friend this week to endorse the Radiohead record…that’s enough to put me on to it. In 2017 I look forward to new music from Joe’s band the Gatefolds &, you never know, a reunion of Derry legends Bam Bam & the Calling (Joe is the bassist) on the occasion of your upcoming big birthday would be the very thing.

Here Comes Santa Claus (A Christmas Story)

One of the good things about working in construction was that it was one of the last businesses to pay your wages weekly. The days of cash, in hand or in a lovely packet, may have been over but you could still work hard in the week & be holding the folding for the weekend. So, Monday I got Friday on my mind, by the time it’s Friday, it’s 5 to 5 & I’m looking forward to a crackerjack few days. It’s a thing, wash off the day’s dust, a throwaway meal, neck it pronto, music that’s loud & fast, maybe a couple of cheeky lines, certainly a couple of cheekier friends & I’m ready to go. Then the phone rang…

 

“Hi Mal, I need a little favour”. That was my friend Sally & a “favour” usually involved her handing her 3 small children into my care. Charlie, Danni & George were a rambunctious gang of angels.I loved their company, loved being the “uncle” who could share their fun. I think that they liked me too.My weekend would have to wait. “OK, should I come to your’s or will you bring them over ?”. “No it’s not that. I need a man with a big white beard in a big red suit”. It was the third week of December, I knew the fellow she was on about but…hmm…really ? “I know, but I promised a Santa & no-one else is around…Please !”.

 

So, within the hour I’m the most festively dressed man in this North Birmingham car park & thinking that this had all been a bit rapid. The kids knew that I could be a pushover but not all the time. The looks from & the amusement on the back seat clued me in to their surprise that Mum had got me to go along with this. The gig was on behalf of the local Round Table, not, unfortunately, the knights of Arthurian legend but a charitable network involved in raising money for their communities. Their was a hubbub of door-to-door collectors drawn from various junior paramilitary set ups like the Sea Scouts & the Brownies. I was shown to my “sleigh”, a Land Rover-drawn carnival float, handed a large bag of sweets, y’know, for the kids, a microphone (interesting !), a cassette of popular Xmas hits & sent on my way.

 

 

Related imageOK, a couple of things, no right-thinking person should let me loose in the suburbs with a microphone. I’ve got information man ! New shit has come to light & people need to hear it. Also I’m never really seized by the festive spirit until almost the last minute. By Christmas Eve I’m as ready as a red-nosed reindeer. I love the time spent with family & friends, I just don’t get the materialism, the planning in October, the office party with people you avoid for the rest of the year (though I’ve had my moments at these). I’m really not a miserable person but, if asked “Are you ready for Xmas ?” then you may get short shrift & the wrong impression.

 

Another thing…I’m really not a great fan of Xmas pop songs. I know that there are plenty of offbeat, cool seasonal offerings (I can’t resist including one here) but the mainstream staples have always struck me as just being too much of a novelty, bland to start with & not helped by the annual repetition. Phil Spector’s “A Christmas Gift For You” was released in 1963, just as Santa brought me exactly what I wanted, a shiny new record player. It pretty much covered all the ground that needed to be covered. Much of what followed, for me, paled in comparison & no-one was ever going to look as good as the Ronettes did in those Xmas outfits. This was not my gig & I didn’t get to choose the playlist. No-one wants a halfhearted, smart arse Santa stinking up the evening so it was time to get my act together & I’d better be good for goodness sake !

 

 

And it all went very well. I gave it the full amplified “Ho, Ho, Ho”, curtains were opened, old ladies waved back & the kids came out to meet me. I handed out the confectionery & not one of the little mites saw through my disguise. In return, when they told me what they hoped to receive when I called on Christmas Day, I made promises that their parents would possibly be  pissed off about. I didn’t even rise to the cherub who, when asked what he wanted for Xmas, replied “Everything !”. Greedy little blighter !

Image result for santa sleighThe joviality was turned up to 11 despite being stuck with this music by all the usual suspects, Slade Wizzard, Elton John, Wham. I was having a good game, my festive flow was in full effect. The quality & sincerity of “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” seemed incongruous & I wished the citizens of Kingstanding “Peace on Earth from John, Yoko & all the other Beatles”. that was as far as I was going to push it.There was a bit of a swerve when up came “Another Rock & Roll Christmas” by Gary Glitter, a man whose stage costumes resembled a foil-wrapped turkey but who had, more recently made the news because of his unsavoury sexual predilections. The Double Gee was a pervert & this was the wrong soundtrack to be handing out sweets to children. I needed to find the fast forward button sharpish to get to something less controversial (but equally offensive) like “Mistletoe & Wine” by Cliff Richard. Where’s an elf when you need one ?

 

 

Image result for bad santaI was still on roll when we left the residential avenues for the main road. The adults were corralled & we flash crashed a couple of pubs, y’know for charity. Back on my sleigh I gave a ride to Dani & her friend. My job done I passed them the mic & they serenaded passing pedestrians with the hits of Robbie Williams, who, for reasons that eluded me, was very popular at the time. Back at base photos were taken & everyone was very pleased with the evening’s work. Unfortunately they wanted the costume back & I was mild-mannered Clark Kent again.

 

I went back with Sally & the kids & when Dad, Bernie, returned from his late shift he was assailed with the stories of what he had missed. Bernie knew me well & he couldn’t quite believe that I had been persuaded to join the seasonal shenanigans. Sally was so pleased that I had helped her out that she fed me for the weekend (I like food !) & I stayed with this lovely family until Sunday. I wasn’t Santa anymore but I was full of peace & goodwill & knew that if he was busy I was up to the job of helping him out. Merry Xmas everyone.

 

 

 

 

Music To Fergal’s Ears (2016)

 

It’s the time of year that Loosehandlebars invites anyone who rocks up & can be bothered, to contribute their picks of the year. First up is Dr Fergal Corscadden, guitarist off of Derry noise merchants the Gatefolds. Dr Fergal is a real doctor just not a medical one. I’m still going to get him to take a look at this embarrassing rash of mine though !

 

Image may contain: 1 personA suck bag of a year: the death of some of the most celebrated musicians to have ever walked our polluted planet – mix into that a year scourged by a rapid, domino-effect decline in sensible politics (if ever such a thing existed) and you’ve got your suck bag. Yes, some would say 2016 has been evil; a fucking tremendous annus horribilis. But, this isn’t a blog-piece about that. No, I’m here to talk all things my top 3 releases of the year. I’m not choosing some of the more obvious choices among the massive hits this year, I guess that many fellow bloggers/contributors will no doubt mention those. Instead, I’m going to talk about ones that fell slightly below the radar and/or which merit greater attention.

 

I’ll not say that there was so much to choose from, but, well, yip, there has been. From what I have managed to listen to so far it’s all been good. In my traditional style (“borrowed” from the Miss World pageant), the run down will be in reverse order from 3rd to 1st . Believe me, this has changed a lot over the last week or so.

 

 

3       And, nudging fellow Manchester no-wave outfit Cabbage out of 3rd place, is DUDS. Like many new bands I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in 2016, BBC 6Music has been my main source so hats and scarfs off to them. DUDS released 3 EP’s in 2016, two of these, “NLP” & “Unfit For Work” are available (name your price) at their Bandcamp page . The 3rd EP, on physical release October 28 2016, gave us the jerky, quirky angular guitar laden ‘No Remark’. If young bands today are writing stuff like DUDS (and there are many…. Institute, Cabbage, Ulrika Spacek, Kane Strang to name a few), then there is a great future for music as we approach the end of the 2nd decade of the 21st Century. Every time I listen to this, it sounds like my very first time and at the end of it I want to hit repeat. So, go on, you know you want to…. DUDS/’No Remark’

 

 

Image result for preoccupations band2    #2 slot is firmly occupied by ‘Preoccupations’, by Preoccupations. The Canadian band described as ‘labyrinthine post-punk’ and formerly known as Viet Cong, released a substantial album in September 2016. Under their old moniker they threw out jams like ‘Continental Shelf’ and ‘Bunker Buster’ from their self-titled debut album ‘Viet Cong’. With the name change comes a change in sound. I think the new album, the difficult 2nd one, has a much more mature and focused approach. Take ‘Memory’ for example, at just over 11 minutes you might think that things could get a little samey, and that’s when they crank things up, change direction once again and finish the track off with 6 minutes of dreamscape ambience; you have to watch the video for more on this. Their sound, while holding onto their uniqueness, which comes from the very 80’s sounding vocals of Matt Flegel, is difficult to pin down, but why would you want to, their fantastic music is already enough of a preoccupation… Preoccupations/’Memory’

 

 

And…drum roll…the winner is…the tenth studio album from the incredibly talented Joshua Paul “Josh” Davis, aka DJ Shadow. Every single track on every album release since 1998s ‘Endtroducing’ stand out as masterpieces to me. This guy had me right from the start of his 18+ year musical career as DJ Shadow. The new album ‘The Mountain Will Fall’ is no exception folks. Related imageRight from the get-go, opening track and album title track, we get a “Hi” to welcome us in. This is one of my favourite tracks on the album because it is a down-beat instrumental hip hop track that grabs you by the shoulders and gives you a hug and says, “come on in, sit down, enjoy yourself, now, are you ready?”. The other outstanding tracks for me are track 4 ‘Bergschrund” featuring the German composer/producer Nils Frahm’, track 6 ‘Depth Charge’; and the final track on the album ‘Suicide pact’. I have to say, this is one of those special albums that upon repeat listen, you hear more and more each time. Happy listening folks! DJ Shadow/’Bergschrund (feat. Nils Frahm)

N.B. If Loosehandlebars hadn’t pulled rank & grabbed Underworld’s ‘Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future’, that would have been my No. 1 album, ya sod ye! ;).

 

This year Fergal treated me to my first ever gig in the Republic of Ireland, a fine night with good people seeing Hookworms do their thing in Letterkenny. Now he’s handed me 6 minutes of “dreamscape ambience” & a hug from DJ Shadow. Let’s hope there will be more nights in 2017 including a show by the Gatefolds who, I’m told, are ready to go with some new material.