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.



One Good Thing About Music…(Prince Fatty)

Hollie Cook is British rock & roll royalty, a punk princess who’s Dad Paul is the drummer of the Sex Pistols. Her godfather is Boy George, Mum Jeni was a backing vocalist for the Cultured Clubber. Hollie tells stories of being baby-sat by David Bowie which are true & are better stories than mine…& yours. Blimey…she was in the Slits when they reformed in 2006 for an EP (ask your folks). In 2011 she released an eponymous LP which sounded absolutely fantastic.

The record was made with Mike Pelanconi who, as Prince Fatty, is at the controls of a reggae revival here in the UK. When it comes to reggae, me, Althea & Donna a strictly roots. I think that Prince Fatty is too. Jamaican music of the 1970s has never gotten old for me. The logic & beauty of the rhythms continue to delight & enchant. from the reggaefication of pop hits to the brain-melting stoned dub of King Tubby (no relation to the Prince). “Gimme likkle bass, make me wine up me waist”, indeed.

“Hollie Cook” & the subsequent “Prince Fatty Presents Hollie Cook In Dub” recalls some tasty Studio One distillation. Her sweet voice evokes the classic female vocalists of Lovers Rock but the tunes are no slavish facsimile of  back in the day. The deal is that freshness & imagination is obligatory. There is big respect for the tradition so a cover of the Shangri-Las “Walking In The Sand” is not forced & fits right in. Studio toaster-in-residence Horseman does chat in the style of the Old Masters, Big Youth, Dillinger, the  Princes, Allah & Mohammed because y’know, that is the way it’s done. I hope that there is more to come from the Hollie/Fatty partnership because this stuff is easy on the ear &, as you can see, Hollie is easy on the eye too.

Fatty got some of the old Reggae gang back together. I’m sure that there are plenty of Jamaican veterans eager to step into a 21st century studio with a young producer who gets it & wants to do the right thing. Prince Fatty chose his team well for “Survival of the Fattest” (2007) & “Supersize” (2010). Little Roy, Winston Francis & Dennis Alcapone were all prolific in the early 70s. Roy’s “Bongo Nyah” was in the front line of Rasta lyrics while Alcapone is a big influence on those great DJs  named above. Once again there is a fresh, jump-up feel to the whole thing whether standards are being revived & invigorated or hip-hop tunes are getting the fatty treatment. This new version of Little Roy’s “Christopher Columbus”, a single in 2010, just sparkles. Seriously a Top 10 tune of this century for me.

There are more LPs from the posse Prince Fatty has assembled & here is a 10 minute clip of a radio session which will raise the lowest of spirits…guaranteed. Reggae has been part of British music for over 40 years now. My favourite music from the trip-hoppers, the electro boppers, the trance dancers all had reggae elements. It is such a good thing to hear how Fatty ignoring the jiggery-pokery, the production tricks & playing this music straight.

So…purely in the interests of research you understand…I checked for Hollie Cook’s rather attractive keyboard player. Marcia Richards is part of the Skints, school friends from up Woodford Green way & a new favourite band. Their 2012 LP “Part & Parcel” was funded through Pledgemusic & produced by our soundboy Prince Fatty. It is a pretty irresistible collection which does throw a lot of their influences at you but, with  the Prince’s trademark, it is all done properly. They just need to avoid that cheeky, cheery, modern Cockney, knees-up Lily Allen thing. The LP & the videos for the singles are worth checking. The band are gigging a lot in the near future &, I’m sure, will be tearing it up at a summer festival near you. This home made video of a 5 star version of Dennis Brown’s first hit “Lips of Wine” proves that they know what they are about. More of this please & big luck to the Skints.