Thursday, April 30, 2015

Things I've Found on My Local's Jukebox # 68 The Cars


Life is difficult coming up to Fifty, without dependents trying to make sense of an upcoming General Election. So I put The Cars on the jukebox. Probably because I've been listening to BRONCHO for a day and a half.

Record Sleeves # 32 Richard & Linda Thompson - I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight


From a record I'm just discovering the greatness of on a Thursday afternoon drifting to Thursday evening when perhaps I should be working harder. The record was released 41 years ago today.



30th April 1948 Wayne Kramer


Firebrand guitarist with The MC5. Still with us remarkably.

Things I've Found on My Local's Jukebox # 67 Prince


Any number of Prince songs of course could always be selected. This one went on the other night. To take me back to my first year at University and one of his most interesting, if slightly flawed albums.



Song(s)of the Day # 466 BRONCHO

'You can show up to my room with no clothes on. It's on...'

Straight off the American production line! If BRONCHO didn't actually exist they'd probably have to be invented. Listen to the song posted above. It starts with a Clem Burke drum roll. Then mutates into Ramones stomp, I'd take a stab in the dark at Rock & Roll High School as the 'brudders' song they lifted it from. You're in a totally recognisable world. One where we're forever in 1978, perhaps 1979 at a push and looking back from there to the Sixties and Fifties as the true Golden Age. BRONCHO never once break the spell. They know what they like and what they want to be! One of so many great American Punk/Garage bands springing up from everywhere at the moment. The fact that BRONCHO hail from Norman, Oklahoma and spell their name in capitals only underlines their appeal. Ramones, Dead Boys, Blondie, The Cars, The Stooges, Modern Lovers, Velvets, Dictators, 60s Garage Punk, Beach Boys, Surf Music, Girl Groups, Rock and Roll. You know the lineage. They barely put a foot wrong.  Just Enough Hip To Be Woman, their album from last year is a constant explosion of moments like these. A thing of beauty. They do the cool / dumb thing that's been played on in American Pop Culture for a half century at least, and I imagine has got at least another half century left in the tank. The early Strokes would have been happy to pull some of this off. Black Lips, I imagine would tip their hats. Even Iggy might approve. I'm almost fifty but this makes me feel much younger. Indulge yourself!



'Billy told Mary, told Tommy told Sue. It's on...'



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Record Sleeve # 31 The Beatles - Revolver


For Klaus Vorman who designed the sleeve and whose birthday it is today.

Songs about People # 85 Helen Keller


To give it its full title The Ballad of Helen Keller & Rip Van Winkle. One definitely real, one possibly not. From a band who was briefly bracketed with The Strokes when they emerged thirteen or so years back. Good to hear again!



Parquet Courts

Listening to and very much enjoying Parquet Courts Sunbathing Animal record from last year. They're a hit and miss band for me, some tracks work, some less so, it's their very nature, the songs seem designed to give the impression that they're about to fall apart at any moment. But when they hit, they hit hard. Like these for instance.









Covers # 2 The Move


They tended to do live versions of this (The Byrds of course) and Love's Stephanie Knows Who in their sets in the mid to late Sixties.

Song of the Day #465 The Baptist Generals


The best song I heard yesterday. Two years old from a band with a great name on Sub Pop who took ten years between their two albums.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Katmandhu - Nepal


John Lydon


King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown


One of the great record titles. And legitimately 'seminal' records.



Sam Cooke and Muhammed Ali




Song of the Day # 463 The Ladybug Transistor


Small, perfectly formed Indie Pop song from a couple of years ago from a Brooklyn based collective that goes way back. Seems to be about catching a commuting train and watching and experiencing the world through its window. In the fine tradition of The Shins and also fittingly given that this is a Go-Betweens inspired blog it also seems a song they would have also been proud of. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 47 The Beatles


Always great to hear this coming out of the radio. Courtesy of Dave Grohl.



Covers # 1 Love


From a 1974 album Reel to Real with a terrible cover. This though is just great.

Song(s) of the Day # 462 Papernut Cambridge


A great weekend with a good friend coming up from Cambridge and staying for a couple of days. Beer, talk of the past, football, music. Co-incidentally Papernut Cambridge is my discovery of the week, particularly their album from last year There's No Underground, (strangely a line from a Go-Betweens song, You've Never Lived, is that deliberate?). A peculiarly English album though. Haunted by the ghosts of Syd Barrett, Luke Haines, Robyn Hitchcock, Lawrence, Tajinder Singh, Ray Davies, Steve Marriott, Marc Bolan and Jesus and Mary Chain (Scottish I know but there's definitely some of that resigned lilt in the vocal delivery).



It's a very specific record and struck an immediate chord as soon as I heard its first notes . It's now on repeat play. Deeply evocative of suburban avenues and England's dreaming. Here's a paragraph from The Quietus review;

 'This is a great rock & roll record. Ian Button may be "haunted by the insects in his dark imaginings", as he intones on opener 'The Ghost Of Something Small', but outside that buzzing hook-laden head of his, it's a leisurely ride through glittering neon, the fluorescence that illuminates rock's shadowy nighttime world. The lights that feel like they're never gonna end whilst terminating all too quickly – there's 12 songs in 30 minutes here. But no matter, press play again and we're back amidst the exiled warriors on Electric Main Street. Just as one would never fault T. Rex for being derivative, so here the nods to rock's past – The Stones, Bolan himself, The Replacements, Kinks, and Mary Chain – are simply the lineage continuing itself. All sung in that sweet sinister voice a la Jim Reid, with just as sharp an ear for melody.'


Ian Button was previously in Death In Vegas and Eighties under achievers Thrashing Doves. The record sounds like someone who's done a long, studious apprenticeship and is now coming into his own. He knows his stuff, and has a small, beautifully formed vision.  He's listened to a few records in his time. The album is drenched in influences but nothing is slavishly aped and he makes something quite his own of it.


The record contains more golden moments then many feted Creation bands achieved over the course of entire careers. Each song is beautifully and lovingly crafted. The lyrics are wry, observant and consistently witty. A memory of a childhood world that is gone now but still there in the streets, the sounds and smells that remain. Anybody who loves guitar music, has a certain record collection and a few years in the tank will respond to what the album is saying. The band is still a small, independent, cottage industry concern on the wonderfully named Gare du Nord label. They deserve to outsell the increasingly ludicrous Noel Gallagher but of course will not. The world is wrong. Do yourself a favour and track it down.



Friday, April 24, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 46 Elias Maluleke And Mavambe Girls


There's something beautifully idiomatic, gutteral, direct and dirty about the vocal delivery of this that jumped out of my radio. It's almost 'Saff Laandon'. Also short and sweet. Less than three minutes in all.  From a Soweto compilation of music from the Seventies and Eighties.





April 26th 1945 Doug Clifford


The hairy drummer of one of the best bands there's ever been is 70.

Song of the Day # 460 Eels


Eels have had lots of notable moments. This is probably their most famous. And the one I wanted to hear.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Moe Koffman

Now this is great! From a Guardian article.



The 101 strangest records on Spotify: Moe Koffman – The Swingin’ Shepherd Plays for the Teens

You’d have to be a fantastically introverted stay-at-home teen to embrace this Canadian jazz flautist – but perhaps Moe Koffman’s uncool cash-in LP helped spark the Brit Beat revolution?



Moe Koffman
Canadian jazz-flute legend Moe Koffman. Photograph: Ross; Fred/Toronto Public Library

It’s autumn 1962 and no one in the US record industry has seen the Brit Beat bombshell that’s about to explode on both sides of the Atlantic. The newly formed Ascot Records is a United Artists subsidiary overseen by music-biz lifer Chet Woods, and his first two signings are Dede Young (a singer so utterly forgotten that her releases aren’t even on YouTube) and 34-year-old Canadian jazz flautist Moe Koffman. Four years previously, Koffman had hit big with his Swingin’ Shepherd Blues single on Jubilee Records, and here he is again, tapping up that same captive, desperate-for-thrills market with his usual airy grace.




A collection of almost cosmic politeness, this is a classic quick-buck exploitation move that dates from an era in which you could record an album in a day and have it in the marketplace a few weeks later. The pitch is simple: get Koffman in front of what Billboard described as “a solid guitar-based combo” and let him loose on a selection of Twist-scented covers. At no point does it reach great levels of excitement, and yet you sort of fall in love with it all anyway. A musician of his talent – this is someone who’d play with Quincy Jones and Dizzie Gillespie during his long career – could record stuff like this in his sleep. Not only is the album the very essence of disengaged session players knocking it out before lunch, it’s an also-ran, by-numbers tootle-fest at best.




But – but! – Koffman also injects numbers like Twistin’ and Bumpin’ (which also features a gloriously will-this-do? piano solo) and Pretzel Twist with what at least appears to be genuine joy. If he’s faking it, he’s a true master of the art. You’d have to be a fantastically introverted, stay-at-home sort of teen to feel like dancing to music as steadfastly gentle and predictable as this, but then, maybe it’s precisely this tediously middle-aged way of watering down contemporary pop music for fast-growing children that created the soon-to-come revolution? The gum-chewing, hair-growing, fag-smoking, Cuban heel-stomping wave of Fabs-led creativity should have swept away this sort of cash-in LP forever, except, of course, it would endlessly reappear in an array of newer and hipper guises – I really like this one – over the years. Koffman would go on to cover The Beatles, record a best-selling album of Bach material and appear on the Moonstruck soundtrack, among a million other gigs. He died in 2001 on the very day he and Oscar Peterson were named as the first inductees into Canada’s Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame. 

Songs Heard on the Radio # 45 Toots & the Maytals


And also on Trojan Records. From round about the same time. Nice!



Instrumentals # 29 The Upsetters


A touch of the James Brown band here.

Song of the Day # 459 Asha Bhosle


And others in this track. Plus a neat dance routine. Immortalised by Cornershop. Here's what's top of her Spotify Playlist.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 44 Jayne Mansfield


Featuring Jimi Hendrix. From a single on London Records released shortly before she died. You can buy a copy for £650.00 on Discogs. Perhaps better just to listen to this. Cheers Jarvis!



Song(s) of the Day # 457 Carmel


Another discovery of a weekend spent listening to records at a friend's. Below's the song she's probably best known for. A counterpoint to Lou's Perfect one.



Sunday, April 19, 2015

Patti Smith on Lou Reed


A great artist inducts another great artist into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

April 19th 2012 Levon Helm


Song of the Day # 456 Lana Del Rey



It's a while since I've listened to Lara Del Rey. Since the first thing of hers I heard a few years back Video Games which I was entranced with for a few weeks. But I've been down to see an old friend today, we listened to her new record and I was very impressed. Opening track above. In addition here's Video Games which still works for me.


Friday, April 17, 2015

April 17th 1960 Eddie Cochran


News today about someone who predicted that I'd have a nervous breakdown about twenty years back. Not quite there yet.

Song of the Day #454 Sleaford Mods


In Nottingham. So here are the Sleaford Mods.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

16th April 1969 Desmond Dekker

Number 1 in the UK.

Song(s) of the Day # 453 Yazoo


Listening to Upstairs at Eric's. A good start to a morning with an interview with someone call Yazoo coming up later on today.




P.S. Meeting done and dusted. Onwards and upwards! Strange how this album has grown in reputation since it's release. It's patchy, doesn't feel like an entirely self-contained record but it definitely has its moments.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Song(s) of the Day # 452 Swervedriver


A very fine band. Never quite given the attention they deserve, perhaps through lack of strong personal charisma though there's plenty of personality in the music. Also perhaps because their basic template was the American Road, but they were from Oxford, UK and emerged at the same time, (the early Nineties) as the Shoegazing Bands and so were lazily lumped in their when perhaps they had more in common with Sugar, Pixies and Sonic Youth. I picked two of the more obvious choices from them but there is plenty to choose from. Oh and their new album is great!


Percy Sledge





Songs Heard on the Radio # 43 Jacques Dutronc


Constantly hearing more Dutronc that I love. Here is just the latest.



April 14th 1932 Loretta Lynn


Song of the Day # 451 The Field Mice


Leading band from UK Independent record label of the Eighties and Nineties. Sensitive is the word.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Viv Nicholson - The Smiths

From The Guardian.


This charming woman: why Morrissey and the Smiths loved Viv Nicholson

She hit the headlines in the 60s for winning – and quickly spending – the football pools. But Viv Nicholson, who has died aged 79, is better known to Smiths’ fans as one of the band’s strong, working-class, striking female cover stars


Viv Nicholson on the cover of Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now by the Smiths
Viv Nicholson on the cover of Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now by the Smiths.

The earliest pictures show her in London in 1961, fresh off the train from West Yorkshire, high-kicking in a bowler hat and cane. Beside her – gleeful, bright-eyed, full of wonder – the newspapers printed her legendary quote, announcing her intention to: “Spend, spend, spend!”
Viv Nicholson, who died last weekend aged 79 after a long struggle with dementia, was often held up as a cautionary tale of how vast wealth can soon be frittered. Her image and that headline summed up the story of how she won the Littlewoods football pools with her husband Keith – £152,300, 18 shillings and eight pence – and ran through it all in just four years.

But for many music fans, Nicholson’s image meant something more. In 1984, long after the money had all gone, she appeared on the cover of the Smiths’ single Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now, standing in a deserted terraced street, grim-faced in a pale coat, her hair wildly backcombed.
The picture, and Nicholson’s associations, echoed the sentiments of the song – the misery of the working life, the valuable time wasted on those we dislike, the brief, happy haze of a drunken hour – but it was soon reinterpreted and swept up in tabloid scandal.

Keith and Viv Nicholson with their winning cheque in 1961
Pinterest
Keith and Viv Nicholson with their winning cheque in 1961. Photograph: Alamy
The Smiths had chosen as the single’s B-side Suffer Little Children, a song about the Moors murders. Upon its release several newspapers whipped themselves into a fury, suggesting that the song glorified the murderers, even positing that Nicholson had been cast as the record’s cover star because, with her bleach-blond hair and early 60s style, she bore some resemblance to Myra Hindley. Woolworths and Boots duly withdrew the single from sale.

It was not in fact Morrissey’s first tribute to Nicholson – on the Smiths’ debut album he had borrowed the line “Under the iron bridge we kissed, and although I ended up with sore lips …” from her autobiography for the lyrics of the song Still Ill. There was more to come: the following year, the Smiths featured Nicholson on a record sleeve again – this time the German release of Barbarism Begins at Home. The picture had appeared in her autobiography and was titled Viv at the Pithead. It showed her in a crocheted minidress and knee-high boots, standing beside Castleford pit with a suitcase at her feet, and was taken just before she relocated, briefly, to Malta.

The same image would be used on the Meat is Murder tour programme, and it was on that tour, in Blackpool, that Nicholson first met Morrissey. Several years ago she recounted in the Observer the oddity of that first meeting – how surreal it was to walk up to the venue, surrounded by huge promotional pictures of herself. “I was quite astounded,” she said.

Viv Nicholson on the cover of Barbarism Begins at Home by the Smiths
Pinterest
Viv Nicholson on the cover of Barbarism Begins at Home by the Smiths.
“I was asked to go up on stage,” she recalled. “There was this young man wearing a hearing aid and thick-rimmed spectacles with a tree hanging out of his backside, and I thought: ‘My goodness, who is that?’ It was Morrissey. Wow, I thought, here’s two weirdos together.” There are still pictures of them together, both short-haired and bespectacled, a strange distorted echo of one another.


In 1987, the Smiths cast Nicholson again for a reissue of The Headmaster Ritual, but this time Nicholson objected to the use of her image – a black and white picture showing her painting at an easel. The problem, apparently, was that as a Jehovah’s Witness, she took issue with the expletive in the line: “Belligerent ghouls/Run Manchester schools/Spineless bastards all …” Nicholson’s friendship with Morrissey promptly soured.

You can place Nicholson beside many other female stars of the Smiths’ record sleeves, among them Rita Tushingham in A Taste of Honey, Patricia Phoenix as Elsie Tanner, Yootha Joyce in a still from Catch Us if You Can, Billie Whitelaw in Charlie Bubbles, the screenwriter Shelagh Delaney, Avril Angers in The Family Way, Alexandra Bastedo, Sandie Shaw, Diana Dors in Yield to the Night, and see the thread that draws them together. They are strong women, working-class sirens, women whose lives have often been touched by tragedy or dragged down by feckless men. Many of them appear to have been trapped in some way, but they have dreamed of escape, and all of them, no matter their circumstance, have clung to their dignity.

Viv Nicholson on the cover of What She Said by the Smiths
Viv Nicholson on the cover of What She Said by the Smiths.
Dignity was not something that was often afforded to Nicholson. Even that early picture had the lick of mockery about it – here is the daft northern factory girl, about to blow her fortune. And ever since, the story of her life seems to have been told merely as a series of numbers and objects: the winning ticket found in Keith’s trouser pocket, the £7 a week she earned at a cake factory, the borrowed tights she wore to collect her winnings, how the first thing she bought was a watch, followed by furs, fancy hats and a fleet of cars in which she unfailingly knocked over the neighbours’ plant pots. There were the three children, the four husbands, the failed boutique and the job in a perfume shop, and above them all, the sense that all of these things added up to nought.

If there is a story that sums up the way the world has regarded Nicholson, it might perhaps be the tale of her failed stint as a stripper in a Manchester nightclub, paid £50 a night to undress to the tune of Big Spender. The job ended abruptly when she dropped her dress but failed to remove her bra and knickers. “I couldn’t do it,” she said. “I just wasn’t a stripper.”

What I like about this story is the fact that Nicholson refused to be reduced to nothing, and in its telling lies a gleam of the woman we see on those Smiths covers: jaw set, steady-gazed and dignified.

Songs Heard on the Radio # 42 Kevin Coyne


A session version on the radio. Not this. The album version. Still nice to hear. Possibly his best song though he had a few. Takes me back twenty years to Dortmund listening to lots of his stuff on Friday nights with a hardcore fan. And beyond that to my Grannie who retired to the town concerned and time spent with her there. Night, night!





Al Green


April 13th 1946 Al Green


From Peter Green a couple of days back to Al Green.

Song of the Day # 450 Milky Wimpshake


A local Lo-Fi band. Still going strong twenty years in. Nice GCSE French.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Album Reviews # 1 R.E.M Murmur

Life does its work on you. But this is the most important record I'll ever hear. For lots of reasons.


                              R.E.M. (l-r) Bill Berry, Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills

The first thing you notice in looking at the sleeve and taking the record out to play is the attention to detail. These people really thought about what they wanted things to look like. The name of the album, the lettering, the tangled kudzu grass on the cover, the song titles, the photos of the band. A lot of thought had been put into this. This was an assured and confident group of people.

R.E.M had played scores of dates before this came out. They'd emerged out of the Athens, Georgia college scene which also produced such notables as The B52's, Pylon and Love Tractor amongst others. They'd worked in record shops, played in college bands, done cover versions and worked on  half-baked underdeveloped originals while they developed their style and absorbed music and  culture to the point where they knew what they wanted to do and how to deliver.

They'd released a mini-album called Chronic Town with some cracking songs but an unrealised vision. Murmur meanwhile is incredibly sure-footed from the off. It kicks off with Radio Free Europe which is a statement of intent. It's pretty close to some Who stuff in terms of dynamics but offers something never heard before and builds and builds 'til the killer punch on the final chorus. Something's afoot.


Pilgrimage continues in pretty much the same vein. It's not clear what Michael Stipe is singing about. This is a consistent feature throughout and one of the main reasons I really fell in love with this album. Somebody suggested that Mumble might be a better album title than Murmur.The band responded that you wouldn't get the script of the film you were going to see when you went to the cinema so why should you be spoonfed here. The lyrics that are discernable - 'rest assured this will not last,' 'the pilgrimage has gained momentum' are about movement, change and growth. Just the stuff to appeal to pale, literate, teenage boys. The vocals from drummer Bill Berry and bassist Mike Mills here are extraordinary and to my mind unprecedented.

Laughing draws on Greek myth and Talk About the Passion talks about poverty. In a way it's the most conventional thing on here chiming like a post punk Byrds. Moral Kiosk is more urgent. Both of these songs are political but in an oblique way. R.E.M emerged at pretty much the same time as Reaganomics. They became more explicit on later albums in terms of their critique of what was going on. I'm not really sure if they became more effective.

Perfect Circle is often mentioned as one of the band's favourite songs. Quite rightly so. It's supposedly  inspired by Stipe watching a group of kids playing baseball. I imagine it also may be about being in a great band with a group of friends




Catapult starts the second side and may be the weakest song on the album but was once considered the potential break-out single and New Order's producer Stephen Hague was brought in for an ill-judged remix. Sitting Still which is up next is indescribably good. I think I almost cried on hearing it first. You'll do well to hear a whole line of coherent lyrics here. It's all emotion and youth.

9-9 is the least conventional song and it took me a while to come to terms with it. Again there are Who dynamics there and it's reputed to have a Gang of Four influence though I've never really heard it myself. Shaking Through is marginally the longest song on the album and one of the best. Like much of the album it's driven by a beat generation inspired optimism and fervour. Great use of piano here.

We Walk is truly Southern. The album draws on Southern fiction throughout. Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner are all there. We Walk is pure Harper Lee, pretty much hokum but the band is so assured that they pull it off. Even their jokey song is pretty much streets ahead of the competition. The Smiths were the only guitar band firing on this level for me at this point.

This leaves us with West of the Fields. A song that to all intents and purposes is about death with more Greek myth in the mix. But despite the theme they gallop back for one more chorus to bring the album home.

I love this LP pretty much more than any other. It never tires or dates for me and if you're not familiar I suggest you give it a go. I used to listen to it time after time at the top of the house in Teddington. It cast a spell on me! I would listen through to it differently every time alternatively the vocals, the production, Peter Buck's guitar work, the bass or the backing vocals and hear something new every time. R.E.M produced several great albums and I'll write about them on here at some point but for now I'll just commend this album.

I've no idea how often I've listened to this record or how much I'll listen to it. I'm immersed in it. It's part of me. Everybody should have a record that means this much to them. When I put it on to listen to it today part of me wanted to go back to that time and space I listened to it first as an eighteen year old on the top floor of my parent's house in Teddington. But I can't go back there Nor do I want to. I'm in a different time and space and happy to be here.But I will always love and listen to that album. I will age while it won't.  Perhaps it's my Picture of Dorian Grey.

Soul Train # 6 Rufus



Featuring Chaka Khan. Written by Stevie Wonder.

Song of the Day # 449 Bop English


New album from White Denim frontman James Petralli's side-project. Consistently interesting and diverse.



Thursday, April 9, 2015

Copy Cats # 11 Sandra Church


The end of this particular series. A very good one. On to the next!







Song of the Day # 446 Blur


It's taken a long time to get to Blur on this series. I have quite a bit of time for them despite a tendency of theirs to be pretty obnoxious in their youth. I guess that's what youth is for. 'Sci-Fi Folk' ,ishow they describe it. Evocative, as the best Blur songs are. Reminiscent of their mid-Nineties stuff in terms of its lyrics and attitude but with a slightly more globalised sound.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 41 Broadcast


Night night. Sleep tight!



James Williamson


8th April 1942 Roger Chapman


Copy Cats # 11 The Shangri-Las



More tears. From two of the greatest songs to one of the greatest Girl Groups. 





Song of the Day #445 The Mighty Lemondrops


The Mighty Lemondrops, from Wolverhampton, had their brief spell in the Indie sun in the Mid-Eighties. Their big moment was Like An Angel, which like most off their stuff drew its ingredients from The Doors, The Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. Here's a slightly smaller moment.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

7th April 1915 Billie Holliday


Would have been a Hundred today. Sadly she didn't even make it halfway.



Copy Cats # 10 Dion


And in this series from one of the best singles ever made to another.





Song(s) of the Day # 444 Los Yorks


Last year I discovered Los Saicos, a great Peruvian Garage band from the Mid-Sixties. Here's another. Not quite as 'rediscovered' as Los Saicos as their records fetch exorbitant prices but worthy of notice. Here's their cover of The Box Tops The Letter.


Monday, April 6, 2015

Courtney Barnett Newcastle University 31st March 2015



 Lester Bangs in a famous interview, (posted above), discussed the malaise in Rock Music in the Mid-Seventies. He said something along the lines that something came along every ten years Frank Sinatra, Elvis, The Beatles and then... He claimed nothing. Punk turned up just a little later.

The same thing has pretty much worked for me too, since I became actively engaged and committed to music about six or seven years after he made these comments. First R.E.M. in the Eighties when they first arrived in the UK, though it could easily have been The Smiths. Nirvana in the Nineties, The Strokes ten years later and now, for me at least, Courtney.I'm not suggesting these artists are the most significant artists in their decades by any means. They're just the ones I paid most attention to. They're all essentially quite straightforward, back to basics beat bands with clever lyricists. But if I drew a personal parallel with Bang's comments for myself those would be the ones I'd pick

I'm also not making inflated claims for Courtney Barnett and her band's significance. They're not going to be headlining Glastonbury at any point soon. Neither are they going to change the world. Nor would I imagine would they want to do either. Or even that I would want them to. But she and they've got something that very little else around have now.


Personality might have something to do with it. Courtney Barnett in her small, modest way has it in spades.We're living in an age which almost actively discourages individuality. She's a throwback. There's plenty of great music out there, Day in day out I'm discovering it and posting stuff on this blog. But there's very little strong personality leaping out at you as was the norm in the Sixties and Seventies and which seemed to wither and die on the vine through the Eighties and Nineties as Counterculture Anti-Establishment Rock Stars became a thing of the past and those who persevered became grist to the industry mill and eaten up within the machine. We ended up with plenty of good music but very few people actually saying anything much. At least in the mainstream. Most of this stuff seems to have been chased to the margins now. As a consequence we also ended up with U2, Oasis and Coldplay s the big 'important' acts rather than Creedence, The Clash and Nirvana. Very little rage against the machine. Or inside the machine for that matter.

There are exceptions to this still of course. P J Harvey leaps to mind. Nick Cave I guess. But neither of these have shows on Saturday Night Television the way that somebody like Johnny Cash did. Generally in the same way as we've become more passive, more content, less politically engaged in the West, or else locked out of the whole thing as the increasing disenfranchised poor in our societies have been, so we've been satisfied with processed music just as much as processed meals . Music that's either nonsense Reality Show bilge or music, (as good as it might be), as lifestyle choice to distract us from real life in its most important sense rather than engage us with it.


Courtney Barnett and her band are not going to change any of this. They're merely the new thing that have excited me most recently. They won't be to everyone's taste. I sent a circular round to like-minded colleagues at work and no-one wanted to come along so I went on my own. More fool those people! But the band are doing their small, smart thing and I'm grateful, as I've said on here before. I also spoke to them very briefly when I saw them in the bar before they played. I went over and told them excitedly that my brother-in-law had made the promotional chair that they were using in photos for the tour. The whole band nodded enthusiastically and said things along the lines of 'Yeah, really great chair'. My sister when I told her about it later said 'Well what were they supposed to say?' but that's family for you! Really Alison they're just nice people and it really is a great chair. Anyway I shuffled off, not wanting to bother them. I'm Forty Nine years old and shouldn't feel like I'm Fifteen just to be in the presence of people who I admire and whose work I respect. But I did.

Of course they were great later on that evening. Playing in a much bigger venue than they did last time they were in Newcastle, a fact Courtney commented on. This time an utterly soulless, corporate university room but they filled it with personality. They're gradually moving on from that early sound which was still evident in the older songs here, of a three piece trio building on the melody, energy, wit and power of those great Nirvana records to a broader, slightly but only slightly more commercial sound. Augmented by Stephen Luscome from The Drones on their new record though not on this tour it's made them sound more realised and ambitious without losing what made them special in the first place. A difficult act to pull off. I look forward to the next time they play here though I don't imagine it'll be for a while and possibly in a bigger venue still. In the meantime, here's another picture of that chair and the band appreciating it. As we all agreed, a really great chair!



I'll dedicate this to my friend Rod, supporter of this blog, (I imagine you'll read this), and fellow traveler musically. Go see them if you get another chance!