Saturday, September 28, 2013

NME Writers All Time Albums November 1985

A very important list for me. Still looks pretty great ! Though Greatest Hits compilations seem a bit of a cheat to me and perhaps a way of getting some of the writer's favourite artists onto the list. Note. No Led Zep. No Queen. No U2. Only one Stones! The Madness album in the middle of the chart seems a very odd choice to me. Would love to own this list on vinyl. Currently have 68.

NME Writers All Time 100 Albums


Whats Going On 1. What’s Going On - Marvin Gaye (1971)
2. Astral Weeks - Van Morrison (1968)
3. Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan (1965)
4. The Clash - The Clash (1977)
5. Marquee Moon - Television (1977)
6. Swardfishtrombones - Tom Waits (1983)
7. The Band - The Band (1969)
8. Blond On Blond - Bob Dylan (1966)
9. John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band - John Lennon (1970)
10. Unknown Pleasures - Joy Division (1979)
11. Revolver - The Beatles (1966)
12. The Sun Collection - Elvis Presley (1975)
13. Never Mind The Bollocks... - The Sex Pistols (1977)
14. Forever Changes - Love (1967)
15. Low - David Bowie (1977)
16. The Velvet Underground And Nico - The Velvet Underground (1967)
17. Solid Gold - James Brown (1977)
18. Horses - Patti Smith (1975)
19. Live And Lowdown At The Apollo - James Brown (1962)
20. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys (1966)
21. Kind Of Blue - Miles Davis (1959)
22. Bringing It All Back Home - Bob Dylan (1965)
23. Otis Blue - Otis Redding (1966)
24. The Doors - The Doors (1967)
25. Exile On Main Street - The Rolling Stones (1972)
26. Anthology - The Temptations (1974)
27. Greatest Hits - Aretha Franklin (1977)
28. Are You Experienced - The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)
29. The Modern Dance - Pere Ubu (1978)
30. King Of The Delta Blues Singers - Robert Johnson (1972)
31. Imperial Bedroom - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
32. Anthology - Smoky Bacon And The Miracles (1974)
33. The Beatles - The Beatles (1968)
34. Searching For The Young Soul Rebels - Dexys Midnight Runners (1980)
35. White Light/White Heat - The Velvet Underground (1968)
36. Young Americans - David Bowie (1975)
37. The Poet - Bobby Womack (1982)
38. Trans-Europe Express - Kraftwerk (1977)
39. Darkness On The Edge Of Town - Bruce Springsteen (1979)
40. This Years Model - Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1978)
41. Another Green World - Brian Eno (1975)
42. Trout Mask Replica - Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band (1969)
43. The Man Machine - Kraftwerk (1978)
44. The Mothership Connection - Parliament (1975)
45. The Cream Of Al Green - Al Green (1980)
46. Let’s Get It On - Marvin Gaye (1973)
47. There’s A Riot Going On - Sly And The Family Stone (1971)
48. Rocket To Russia - The Ramones (1977)
49. Greatest Hits - Sly And The Family Stone (1970)
50. Big 16 - The Impressions (1965)
51. Blood On The Tracks - Bob Dylan (1974)
52. Alan Vega/Martin Rev - Suicide (1980)
53. Another Music In A Different Kitchen - Buzzcocks (1978)
54. Closer - Joy Division (1980)
55. Mad Not Mad - Madness (1985)
56. For Your Pleasure - Roxy Music (1973)
57. The Scream - Siouxie & The Banshees (1980)
58. The Harder They Come - Soundtrack Featuring Jimmy Cliff
59. Entertainment! - Gang Of Four (1980)
60. The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground (1969)
61. 3+3 - The Isley Brothers (1973)
62. The Hissing Of Summer Lawns - Joni Mitchell (1975)
63. “Heroes” - David Bowie (1977)
64. Meat Is Murder - The Smiths (1985)
65. Station To Station - David Bowie (1976)
66. Clear Spot - Captain Beefheart And The Magic Band (1972)
67. Get Happy! - Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1980)
68. Fear Of Music - Talking Heads (1979)
69. Lust For Life - Iggy Pop (1977)
70. Berlin - Lou Reed (1973)
71. 20 Greatest Hits - Buddy Holly & The Crickets (1967)
72. Music From Big Pink - The Band (1968)
73. Hard Day’s Night - The Beatles (1964)
74. Roxy Music - Roxy Music (1972)
75. Leave Home - The Ramones (1977)
76. A Love Supreme - John Coltrane (1957)
77. Golden Decade Vol 1 - Chuck Berry (1972)
78. The Very Best Of.. - Jackie Wilson
79. In A Silent Way - Miles Davis (1969)
80. Stranded - Roxy Music (1973)
81. Talking Heads ‘77 - Talking Heads (1977)
82. The Correct Use Of Soap - Magazine (1980)
83. Born In The USA - Bruce Springsteen (1983)
84. Court And Spark - Joni Mitchell (1974)
85. Strange Days - The Doors (1967)
86. More Songs About Buildings And Food - Talking Heads (1978)
87. LA Woman - The Doors (1971)
88. Chess Masters - Howling Wolf (1981)
89. Armed Forces - Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1979)
90. Steve Mcqueen - Prefab Sprout (1985)
91. Paris 1919 - John Cale (1973)
92. Forward Onto Zion - The Abyssinians (1977)
93. My Aim Is True - Elvis Costello (1977)
94. Rattlesnakes - Lloyd Cole & The Commotions (1984)
95. Best Of - The Beach Boys (1968)
96. King Tubbys Meets The Rockers Uptown - Augustus Pablo (1976)
97. Rubber Soul - The Beatles (1965)
98. Suicide - Suicide (1977)
99. The Undertones - The Undertones (1979)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Morrissey / Marr Inspirations...

Things that the two of them have mentioned in variations as inspirations which bonded them or influenced the writing of specific songs...

The New York Dolls. Of course
The Marvelettes - The B-Side Marr chose to play from
Morrissey's collection at their first meeting
Dionne Warwick. An abiding Morrissey favourite.
A great, potentially Smiths title and again a B-Side
Pete Shelley. Something the band listened to
in clubs in the early days
Hamilton Bohannon - Disco Stomp.
An inspiration for How Soon is Now
Patti Smith - a Morrissey favourite. He covered it
Bob & Marcia. A favourite of both
Reparata - Shoes. An inspiration for A Rush And A Push...
Marvin Gaye - the inspiration behind the riff for There Is A Light
Nico - One of Morrissey's Desert Island Discs

Thursday, September 19, 2013

#12 Marvin Gaye - What's Going On- Review

Marvin Gaye. Coolest front man bar none on the blog so far. Time to get political.

As a human being amongst many, I think I have one basic human right. And that's to curl up in a foetal ball wherever I am and go to sleep without being disturbed. I need sleep. And then to wake up again, get up, do the things that I need to do in my waking hours then settle down again. Back into the foetal ball.
Being a functioning member of society is rather more complicated. I have to imagine the existence and needs of others. At some point I have to realise in my mind that their existence is equally as important and significant as mine. If I'm really sold I'll want to start a family with one of them or march under a banner and try to get things changed or noticed. I also have to realise and acknowledge the value and importance of work and work really hard to make the most of the opportunity I've been given. I have to compete. I need to bring up children if I chose to have them to do the same.
 Politics isn't easy either. For any of us. Let's listen to What's Going On by Marvin Gaye together to see if it helps us iron out these basic, essential, fundamental contradictions! If not we're sure to enjoy the listen. Trust me. I've heard this record before.
I just typed in the name of my residences in my first year at university into a search engine. This came up. It may not be where I lived but I think it is. I think it's the main drive leading up to the reception building at Fifer's Lane in Norwich where I spent that first year. Three or four people who might read this could refute or verify that for me.
In any case whether it is or not, when it came up on the search it inspired an unearthly, involuntary shiver in me. Human consciousness is quite an uncanny mechanism. Up the end of that road I'm sure I necked pint after pint of snakebite and black, talked literature, politics, culture, music and life. I tried to work out women. For the most part unsuccessfully. I made and hardened some of the best friendships I'll ever have and one evening turned and saw one of the most beautiful faces I'll ever see.
What's Going On is a university record for me. First year of university '85-86. I lived in a corridor with three similarly minded blokes. Rod, Ben and James. After the pub or when we returned from university we'd decamp to Rod's room and listen to records and discuss stuff. What's Going On was one of the records we listened to.
     Here's Marvin. He's cooler than you or me. He's also more conflicted. Troubled. Trouble man.
I'm enjoying thoroughly writing up this blog since I started it a couple of months back. It's great, listening to music, exploring your emotions, punching out memories. I often feel when I start writing about a record that really means something to me that there's a bit of a weight there because you want to do these things justice. With this one I couldn't ever begin to do so because it's so far out there, says so many things and has meant so much to so many people far beyond my ken and will continue to do so indefinitely and with such good reason. It's indelible. It's the best record I've written about so far. It's always amongst the best five records in my collection and will remain so.  
It's very much in its time and space. The Sixties becoming the Seventies. Violence, war and crime getting the upper hand on love and peace. Vietnam turning really, horribly, terminally sour, Black consciousness radicalising. Drug culture. New Hollywood. Disillusion with the American dream. CIA, FBI and government machinations. Paranoia. Watergate looming. It's very easy to watch the record spin, look at the cover and back sleeve and go right back there. Even if it's slightly before your time as it was before mine. 
But there's also something incredibly sweet, eternal  and transcendent about listening to it. It's a record that someone hearing it three hundred years from now will have no difficulty at all in understanding immediately. It's the first record I've reviewed on here that I have absolutely no doubt will endure for centuries, My only problem is to even begin to explain why. 
Maybe it's because it sounds like the future. Generally with these reviews I'll play through the album and talk about it track by track. With this one there's no point and again I couldn't remotely do it justice because it's all of a piece. Gaye is backed by the Funk Brothers who were pretty much the Motown house band and apparently the album was fuelled by whisky and marijuana. It has that warm, sure glow despite everything that's going on beyond the studio doors on the streets of America and the world as a whole.
I'm sitting in my flat in lamplight with this playing on the wax facsimile I bought back in the Mid-Eighties which is still giving a pretty good account of its greatness despite reaching middle aged status for well worn vinyl. The album is less than forty minutes long. It's a cycle and a concept and gives grace to both of those maligned formats. Marvin soars throughout over the orchestrations which tip their hat to and realise the best traditions of soul, jazz, pop, R&B, gospel and funk and go beyond all of them.
In the first line of my review I stated my intention to get political, but during the course of writing this I've abandoned that idea because this album goes far beyond immediate politics or concerns. It describes and conveys consciousness. It takes you back in time. It lets you know where you are. It makes you imagine where you might be going. I've had almost thirty years with it. I hope I get thirty more. Just listen to it. It's as good as it gets.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

#11 The Smiths - Meat is Murder Review

' Life is not like a Morrissey song.' A girlfriend. On our split. Early nineties.

'Morrissey is the Hilda Ogden of pop: harrassed, hard done by and constantly surrounded by woe.' NME Review 1985

"Morrisey (sic) and co have once again delved into their sixties treasure-trove, and produced a visceral power capable of blowing the dust off Eighties inertia. The majestic ease of Morrisey's melancholic vocals are tinted with vitriol, as they move through vistas of misery with plaintive spirals around the pulse of Johnny Marr's vibrato guitar. The string's muted strains conjure wistful signs that bridge the schism between crass sentimentality, and callous detachment. Each repeated phrase intensifies the hypnotic waves, with results that outflank anything since "This Charming Man". Catharsis has rarely been tinged with so much regret, and shared with so much crystalline purity." Melody Maker Review 1985

'Oh I didn't realise that you wrote poetry.
I didn't realise you wrote such bloody awful poetry' Morrissey lyric 1986

     "The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there."   
                                             L.P. Hartley, The Go Between 1953
When I was 17 and 18 I had very specific routines. On Thursdays I'd buy a music paper, usually the NME. I'd watch Top of the Pops on Thursday. Generally The Tube on Friday. On Sunday afternoon I'd listen to the chart countdown. I listened to and recorded David Jensen and John Peel during the week in the evenings. Sometimes I'd take a small transistor to college so I could listen to Janice Long running through it again during the week. This may strike a chord with people who were doing similar things at a similar point in time. We were almost unknowingly living through a time of great change. And not just the one that was going on inside ourselves. The government was bad. I've never known a worse one.
(the article is Appendix E)
A particular NME Thursday sticks in my mind. This one. I can date it because helpfully it tells me in the top left hand corner - February 1984. Alarmingly this is almost 30 years ago. I bought a copy from W.H.Smiths, took it to Richmond Green, sat down on a park bench and read what Morrissey had to say. Thousands of fey youths up and down he country were probably doing pretty much the same thing as me at pretty much the same time.
Re-reading the article at this remove is a rather odd experience. It starts with a quotation from Jean Genet. Fair enough. He was apparently the inspiration for this, which in turn was a major inspiration for Morrissey himself but still. It's an indication of just how much the world and music journalism has changed. NME journalists don't quote Jean Genet anymore. Music journalists don't generally either except if they're amateurs and have blogs of their own like me.
Music seems divorced from all this stuff now. Almost as if it's been neutered. Compartmentalised into a sealed, boxed category all of its own. A consumer option that is a world away from the tortured poets in box room attics of the late seventies and early eighties who dreamed of nothing else but appearing on television on Thursday evenings, recording sessions for Jensen and Peel and expounding their views on everything at enormous length to like-minded NME journalists who secretly (or not so secretly) fancied themselves as romantic novelists .
This stuff is loaded with compressed, resonant, personal memories. I watched The Smiths performing this on Top of the Pops later on that same year. I seem to recall David Sylvian's video being shown on the same show. Angus McBean, directed by Anton Corbijn. Cocteau would have been proud. See what I mean? People pushed the boat out back then.
After it was over, the girl next door Emma Pailthorpe came round and rang the bell. She was very upset, almost tearful as her cat had captured and killed a small bird. I went over and we buried it in a box in her back garden. We then watched Some Like It Hot. All very innocent. Quite Morrissey. Emma Pailthorpe, here's to you wherever you are!
The world opened up for The Smiths and their looks in 1984. The music press had been waiting for their arrival unknowingly for years. Top of the Pops and the charts which had been just wonderful between 1978 and 1982 were on the wane. It was all becoming quite Thatcherite. Glossy, vacuous salesmen selling product. Wham, Spandau Ballet, The Thompson Twins, Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw, Bananarama. A pox on them all.
 The things that had been worth believing in were gone or were going. The Clash, The Jam, The Specials, Joy Division and the Teardrops had all packed it in. The Bunnymen, Banshees, Associates, PiL and Simple Minds were in decline. U2 were not the answer, much as they wanted to be. New Order were self-consciously plain.
Though for me personally R.E.M. and The Go Betweens emerged at the same point and I loved them as much and sometimes more than The Smiths, they were never going to mean the same to a sea of pale British youths looking for a cause and icons. An ideal an image and identity to believe in and follow. The Smiths ticked all the boxes.
 They did it all that year. Except that they didn't release the undeniably great studio album that everyone, themselves most of all, knew they were capable of. I remember feeling their first, self-titled record seemed a little flat given the hype despite some great songs, great statements and a great cover. I've come round to it over the years but I wasn't alone in my initial judgement The compilation of singles, b-sides and session tracks Hatful of Hollow which was released later in the same year made up some ground and captured a lot of that early energy and brilliance but there was a sense that The Smiths, despite all they'd achieved, still had something to prove as 1984 became 1985.
At which point I moved here. To a hotel in Locarno on the Italian border of Switzerland where I worked for six months in my year out before university. I got letters from my sister letting me know what was happening and there was one shop in town where they had back issues of NME and Melody Maker but for the most part whatever was going on music-wise in the UK during this time passed me by and so I missed this...
 I came back just in time for Live Aid where The Smiths were notable by their absence. Boris Becker won Wimbledon for the first time. Emma Pailthorpe moved away. So did I shortly afterwards. Up to Norwich to university for the big adventure. The Smiths released The Queen is Dead at the end of my first year which realised once and for all their promise.
My girlfriend at UEA had a cassette copy of Murder which we listened to alongside Prefab Sprout, Lloyd Cole, Go-BetweensR.E.M.  and Jesus and Mary Chain. Perhaps things weren't so bad after all. But I didn't own the album myself for years afterwards and only got myself a vinyl copy last year. In the intervening period though I've come to appreciate it more and more and so plan to record that appreciation here as best I can .
The cover of the album is typically stylish but perhaps as bold a statement as the band ever made with their artwork. We were used to or became used to Northern kitchen sink or TV icons, Warhol derived or art school images. They were all beautifully realised but in some ways deserving of the adjective tasteful. This was something different. A photograph of marine Michael Wynn taken during the Vietnam War. The original statement on his helmet,' make war not love,' doctored by the band to show their album title. Hardly a hippie statement.
"Where did the image come from on the cover of the LP? That makes a link between war and, well, meat is murder.
"Yes, it does. And the link is that I feel animal rights groups aren't making any dramatic headway because most of their methods are quite peaceable, excluding one or two things. It seems to me now that when you try to change things in a peaceable manner, you're actually wasting your time and you're laughed out of court. And it seems to me now that as the image of the LP hopefully illustrates, the only way that we can get rid of such things as the meat industry, and other things like nuclear weapons, is by really giving people a taste of their own medicine."

- Melody Maker, March 16, 1985
Sir leads the troops. Jealous of youth.
'If you dropped a pencil you'd be beaten to death. It was very aggressive. It seemed like the only activity of the teachers was beating the students.' Morrissey on his schooldays.
The first song on the album was every bit as uncompromising as the cover. As Simon Goddard puts it in his excellent, Songs That Saved Your Life, it's a throwing down of the gauntlet.
'Belligerent ghouls run Manchester schools.'
  Try to watch this famous clip from the late 60s Ken Loach film Kes on which opening track The Headmaster's Ritual is surely partly built. See if you get right the way through. It's not very easy to do so even though it is darkly funny if you like that kind of thing. Especially if you have within you the knowledge of the film's bleak deadening ending where the sad main character's dream of escape is murdered along with his kestrel.
It's very hard-going because the brutality of it is true for thousands of kids who went to school in the fifties, sixties and seventies. Listening to The Headmaster's Ritual is a much more pleasant and enjoyable experience at least for me because it has an unstoppable tune, breakneck momentum and poetic, funny lyrics. Music can sweeten these things. It's no less real for all that.
For me Meat is Murder gets under the skin of the English character better than any of their other albums. Even the much lauded Queen is Dead. The Headmaster's Ritual takes you back onto the playing fields of secondary schools when you were thirteen on wet winter afternoons. As someone who was notoriously inept at football I'd be put at right back and told to stay there. Never mind the cross country runs around Petersham tow paths and back lanes straggling at the back, panting asthmatically with the other under-achievers. 
I wasn't whacked on the knees, kneed in the groin or elbowed in the face. This was the late seventies so sports teachers couldn't anymore. I'm not sure they wouldn't have done so if they could have got away with it. My experience wasn't so brutal but it's not a part of school routine I look back on very fondly. I've said elsewhere that I'm generally nostalgic but I'm very grateful I won't be going back there. As for the song. It hits its targets square on. This relives secondary school from this era and just before and all its crouching horrors better than anything else written in music for me.
When my parents brought us back to Britain in the early 70s we lived in Nottingham for three years up to 1975. Every year in October they held the Goose Fair on the Forest Recreation Ground. It dates back 700 years. In the early 70s it was all toffee apples and candy floss, waltzers, dodgems, haunted houses and helter skelters.  I imagine it still is. Truly British experience.
Second track Rusholme Ruffians inhabits this territory just as Headmaster inhabited its but the song is populated by an older cast than me and my soft-centred memories of Goose Fair when I was eight. It's all about the teenage initiation of fair night and there's more casual brutality and violence in store with a teasing bit of sexual intrigue and cheap romance thrown in for good measure. Morrissey is steeped in this culture and it all just trips off his tongue, this time accompanied by a musical arrangement that whirls and reels like the rides itself. There's a big dollop of Presley's His Latest Flame here. One of Morrissey and Marr's favourites. 
For me the initial inspiration for the song seems taken at last partially from That'll Be The Day, the nostalgic rock'n'roll movie that was a big hit in the early seventies. Morrissey is so adept at taking a basic template from films or books, populating it with his own people and way of looking at and commenting on the world and setting it off. The song is so well realised that it almost makes you giddy. Morrissey appears to be beaten up at the end. The senses being dulled are mine. Poor fellow. But his faith in love is still devout. You can almost smell the grease in the hair of the speedway operator. I could quote the whole thing line by line but really it speaks for itself so I'll just post a link.
 and the air hangs heavy like a dulling wine...
I've barely mentioned the other players in the band yet and it's remiss of me because they're every bit as  important to me as Morrissey in the realisation and greatness of the album. It's all sounds so effortless throughout though I'm quite sure it wasn't.. I'm not sure Andy Rourke will ever get the credit he deserves for bringing funk to indie kids and making sure they enjoyed it whether they were ready for it or not. Mike Joyce never does anything flash but that's exactly what's required.
Marr meanwhile, as for much of his Smith's career just operates on a different level from any other guitarist I can think of. It's the sensitivity of his playing that gets me every time. Versatility too. It says everything about the partnership and how much Morrissey missed him that I don't think I've ever really noticed the musicianship on his solo records even though I enjoy plenty of them.
It is strange how words and music go together in The Smiths. A literal interpretation would end up sounding like one of Nico's bleaker albums and that certainly isn't the case . It's one of The Smiths breeziest records. Paul Du Noyer puts it well in his NME review of the album.
"It's not as if the words and music sound 'made for each other': they don't. Of course, they don't clash or contradict, they simply work independently of each other. Morrissey's singing preserves a quality of solitude; the instruments and voice operate in eerie detachment, but often to beautiful effect. Morrissey and Marr don't so much sink their talents into one as give you two for the price of one."
When I saw Morrissey for the first time a couple of years ago, (sadly and unforgivably I missed out on The Smiths), he set off with I Want the One I Can't Have, so he clearly holds it dear. I don't blame him. It says a great deal of what he's about in just over three minutes. Yearning, poetry, melody, life, emotional anguish. Whatever you think of him, and there's a whole great constituency who can't abide him, he tapped into a whole way of writing about emotional experience that no-one had touched on before and barely anyone has come close to since, though I'd doff my hat to Jarvis Cocker . Still. Morrissey wears the crown.
'One memorable couplet from your new record: "A double bed, a stalwart lover for sure/These are the riches of the poor."

Morrissey: That came from a sense I had that, trite as it may sound, when people get married and are getting their flat - not even their house, note - the most important thing was getting the double bed. It was like the prized exhibit; the cooker, the fire, everything else came later. In the lives of many working class people the only time they feel they're the centre of attention is on their wedding day. Getting married, regrettably is still the one big event in their lives. It's the one day when they're quite special...

Isn't that a mite condescending?

Morrissey: Yes it does sound condescending, but it's a fact I've observed.
I do know people who have no money, marry and live in very threadbare conditions and have threadbare requirements. I'm glad I'm no longer in that situation myself. It sounds very snotty but what can I say?'

NME Article, 1985

Wrong album but it made me laugh out loud so I had to share it!
What She Said is described as sub Heavy Metal by both the NME and Sounds reviews of the time. I can't hear it myself. It sounds far too melodic to me. It is the most full throttled musical attack so far from all three players and is less a song than a reel but it keeps the pace and standard high. It makes me think of how The Byrds take on James Williamson of the Stooges might sound. Williamson is Marr's long acknowledged hero and inspiration.
How come someone hasn't noticed that I'm dead.
And decided to bury me. God knows I'm ready.
Morrissey meanwhile is piling up the references to the Northern British  working class underbelly. 'The tattooed boy from Birkenhead', who 'really, really opened her eyes.' And also adding to the almost endless list of lines that only he could ever write / purloin. 'I smoke because I'm hoping for an early death.'.
Both this and the 'How come someone hasn't noticed that I'm dead and decided to bury me,' line are both redrafted (perhaps slighty shamefully) from Elizabeth Smart lines in By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. The band meanwhile go hurtling onwards into the side's mirthless finale. 'That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore' often mentioned by Marr as amongst his favourite Smiths tracks.
If you ever want to change the mind of a Smiths or Morrissey sceptic, don't play them 'That Joke', because it's Morrissey at his most bleakly relentless and for once The Smiths come and meet him halfway and even compliment him in their sour tone. It's a great, evocative, eerie even profound track but it should surely never, ever have been a single.
What were they hoping for? Top 5 and heavy rotation on the Simon Bates and Steve Wright shows? To be played last song but one at the Student Disco in between Come on Eileen and New York, New York. Please trust me. I went to student discos in the mid-Eighties and they really did play these songs as last and second last song on a regular basis. That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore meanwhile didn't get a look in.
Time's tide will smother you...
I don't know what Philip Larkin's poetry is like but I imagine there's a fair serving of the ingredients that make this up in there. Alan Bennett would surely also approve. It's great British Northern miserabilism. I think it's wonderful but in some ways it's only Marr's and the other musician's astonishing sensitivity that keeps it buoyant and afloat. The reprise is great. And it's even greater if it's raining which it is as I type. 

Each household appliance. Is like a new science. In my town
Nowhere Fast, Side 2 Song 1 could hardly provide a greater contrast. So what if Morrissey's shovelling on more miserabilism. He surely doesn't mean it. He sounds almost chirpy. That comment about dropping his trousers to the Queen is probably meant satirically though given his well publicised opinions of them it probably actually isn't.
This song was also mooted as a single. I think it went as far as the pressing stage. On balance it probably had a better shot at the charts than That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore and had it made it onto Top of the Pops could have provided one of the truly great Smiths moments. They might have even got some drunken freshers onto the dancefloor towards the end of that student disco. The Youtube film I've posted above is superb and I'm very grateful to be able to use it to brighten up my blog. Thanks to those responsible. Time very well miss-spent. 
This is the fierce last stand. Of all I am...
Round about here is where Meat is Murder is reputed, according to received wisdom to drop in terms of quality and dip below classic status. Not with Well in Wonder as far as I'm considered. It's one of my favourite of all Smiths songs. The arrangement is stately grace. They actually made the genius move of recording the sound of rain here, and layering it behind the song as it builds and fades. Rain is such a British sound and such a central feature of our condition.
I hope you get my meaning here and I don't come across as pretentious. It's not something I could really explain without writing a PhD and frankly I don't have the energy, brains or money and no-one needs my thesis. Still. I love the arrangement. I love the rain on the track. I love the song. I like the way it has no chorus. I love the nagging unknowable dilemma of whether you enter the consciousness of someone who you will never see again. I think the emotion presented of someone who is almost dying wracked in anguish by the grief of rejection is magnificent. I love Morrissey's falsetto. Please help the cause against loneliness. Please keep him in mind!
A crack on the head. Is what you get for not asking...
I'd be willing to wager that if a poll was carried out amongst Smith obsessives as to the weakest track on Meat Is Murder that Barbarism Begins at Home would win by a country mile and would be obliged to have done the walk of shame minutes before we reached the funk bass solo. It's mentioned as the lowpoint on virtually every review of the album I've ever read. I haven't as yet managed to track down any dissenting voices so might as well provide my own.
It's got a great title. Morrissey's performance is excellent. There are some great guitar effects and it allows Andy Rourke in particular but Mike Joyce as well to come into their own. It's no less than their due. Their treatment within the band at the hands of Morrissey and sadly Marr too from all I can gather is little short of shameful as from everything I can see they were absolutely integral parts of the band from pretty much the word go whether they wrote the songs or not. They certainly played on them and did a mighty job.
They also have good names which I may have mentioned is important in a group and they looked right. They never let the side down in fact made them much stronger than they could conceivably have been  be had it been Morrissey and Marr and session musicians or Morrissey and Marr and musicians that didn't look right or fit. They made up the gang which was what Morrissey so desperately wanted and needed. Respect to them both.
There was a lot of bass crime in the 1980s. Jaco Pastorius was a formative influence for many who wielded the instrument then and Mark King in particular did things during the decade which should have ensured he did time. Nothing Rourke does here even comes close. It's just within the context that The Smith's existed which was an incredibly white one that jaws dropped and eyebrows were raised amongst the indie fraternity. Good for them. They were much too good as musicians for such constraints.
 It's overlong but I've just listened to it and it's fine. It's not When I'm Sixty-Four bad or Hippie Boy bad or as bad as the Bill Wyman song on Their Satanic Majesties Request. It's far, far better than all of these. It's just funk indie kids. Get over it! It is the weak track mainly because it's too long but doesn't topple the album's claim to greatness by any means. Perhaps the weakest thing about it is that it makes domestic violence sound like quite good fun which is surely not the driving idea behind it.
Heifer whines could be human cries
Closer comes the screaming knife
So to Meat is Murder. I love the track while it has no impact whatsoever and never has had either on my nervous system or conscience. I'm a confirmed meat eater and was never likely to stop being one at the behest of a pop star - great as Morrissey is at being that. It seems he didn't convince his colleagues in the band either. I won't get into the whole morality debate here. It's not a subject that I can get very heated about. 
I cannot understand the Morrissey quote I posted earlier in the article on the subject. It doesn't make any ethical sense to me. Morrissey seems to love animals but not love people too much if at all. If you listen to his lyrics he seems unable ever to establish this connection. It's one of the factors that makes him such an incomparably great artist in my eyes. He has an unresolvable dilemma. He's constantly reaching out for something he'll never attain. He wants the one he can't have. And it's driving him mad...
This track doesn't outstay its welcome in terms of its length as Barbarism probably does .The sound effects, a whole barnyard of animals and the sense that some of it may well have been recorded in an abattoir so close does the sound of their braying get particularly at the end makes it highly effective.
So that is pretty much that. Unless you think How Soon is Now is part or should be part of this album. It was on the American release and has since been added to the UK listing of the CD at least. I don't see any reason why not. It's an incontestable great track up there in both Marr and Morrissey's finest career moments.
You shut your mouth...
It exists on a slightly different plane from other Smiths songs. To me it sounds almost as if its the work of a completely separate band. It would certainly raise the status of the album to undeniable greatness. So it's in. I think it's generally placed at the beginning of Side 2. I'd prefer it between Nowhere Fast and Well I Wonder.
A footnote to all this. The titles for the reviews of the album in the three music titles successively were Top of the Chops, Meat on the Ledge and Steak Your Claim. Hmm!
So that's it. Meat is Murder. I hope I've argued the case for its greatness with some conviction. The next two albums are quite wonderful too and as I said I've come round to the first of late. However, I couldn't review any of them without repeating myself at great boring length. I regret somehow writing so much about Morrissey here and neglecting the rest of The Smiths somewhat because to me they were always a band first and foremost. I lost interest in all parties concerned for a long time on the break up.
So back to the initial question. Is life like a Morrissey song? Well no. She was a very wise woman and was quite right as she was about most things.  But it is sometimes something like a Smiths song. And all the better for it too.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Dexys Documentary

A documentary that many of the quotes in the review below are taken from. Well worth a watch. May be some crossover on the videos

Would also recommend The Smiths programme in the same series. Dexys and The Smiths somehow have more in common than immediately meets the eye.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Top of the Pops Performances

When Top of the Pops went a thread was torn out of the fabric of the British way of life. Here are some performances I remember...

The Smiths - William It was Really Nothing
Sparks - Beat the Clock
Indeep - Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
ABC - Look of Love
                                                       Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit

The Associates - Party Fears Two
Jilted John - Jilted John
Echo & the Bunnymen - The Cutter
The Stone Roses - Fools Gold
New Order - Blue Monday
Lene Lovich - Lucky Number
Buzzcocks - I Don't Mind
R.E.M - Orange Crush
Adam & the Ants - Dog Eat Dog
Simple Minds - Promised You a Miracle