Friday, July 31, 2015

Songs About People # 114 Brian Rix


While we're jingle-jangling through the mid-eighties here's a song for the infamous star of London West End farces, most famous for being caught with his trousers down in the final act by outraged, cuckolded spouses.The video has all the gaudy charm of British music hall. As well as Brian Rix himself.


B Sides # 26 Primal Scream


Reputedly about Edie Sedgewick.One of the finest B-sides of all. All eighty two seconds of it. Remarkably, coming towards its thirtieth birthday, particularly as it's as much as possibly any record ever made, the sound of eternal youth. Will cost you £10 or more now but I'm pleased to say I have an original copy. It has established a mythical reputation for itself since and it was thought by some that The Stone Roses ripped it off for Made of Stone. Flip side of Crystal Crescent their second single. 

Song(s) of the Day # 558 Colin Blunstone


Former Zombie of course. His first debut album, 1971's One Year had a few golden moments. Here are a couple of them.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

July 30th 1969 Andy Scott


For my older brother who was something of a Sweet fan when we first started taking an interest in such things way back in our youth. This one still stands up!

Bernard Herrmann


So what is it that we look for in drama and music that we can't get from life. A sense of escape of course but also a dramatic intensity that we could never maintain in the humdrum reality that most of us are condemned to endure for the major portion of our lives. The bits we won't remember when the last grains of sand finally run out. 


Bernard Herrmann's score for Psycho is a case in point. It soundtracked the best part of an hour of my life at work stuck at a screen today, one of a sea of heads perching above monitors in an anonymous open office like countless billions adrift in their own waking dreams all over the world. It cast its spell, giving me the sense that I was undergoing some intense, unforgettable and dangerous emotional journey while all along sitting utterly immobile at my desk, ticking off the time.



Of course, even a score as heightened and intense as Psycho is prone to repetition, and even, I imagine, if listened to on repeat play a certain tedium of its own. But then again, variations on a theme is a feature of most great pieces of work. It was never meant to be listened to end to end I imagine even really by Herrmann, although in terms of quality it surely stands its own next to the great classical works. Played interestingly enough, only by the string section of the orchestra it's like a drive down a mountainside on a winding darkened road at night, serene in the knowledge that despite the intense, heightened drama, you are actually utterly safe.


I recommend it. It's an hour of your life you won't get back but then again rest assured it's not one of the ones you'll be demanding a refund on when that time finally comes..



Song(s) of the Day # 557 Liverpool


There's a football club called Everton in Chile. There might as well be a psychedelic tropicalia flecked band from Brazil. Late sixties and suitably groovy. 



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Songs About People # 113 Ravi Shankar


Now here's avant gard. From Red Krayola's astonishing, (though frankly not always listenable), album God Bless the Red Krayola and all Who Sail in it. Listen to it if you can, (find it and persevere). You'll find it difficult to believe it was made in 1968. The bits that work seem to preface so much of what came afterwards. the bits that don't should have been left as demos.


Songs from the Zodiac Soundtrack # 2 Donovan


Close behind the use of Three Dog Night at the beginning of the movie, this song is used to soundtrack the first killing. A wonderful choice of eerie other-worldly music to supplement deeply disturbing images. I was once given grief on social media for offering support for this song. Don't care! Donovan is very much a hit and miss artist and some of his stuff is mired and dated. He's an artist that has been openly mocked ever since he first appeared and not just because of Don't Look Back. His songwriting often invites it. Donovan's considerable and enduring ego make him and his songs an even more susceptible target. This, I'd say endures. Music that attempts to bridge a link to bygone ages automatically lays itself open to ridicule. I'd still suggest this song withstands what can be thrown at it. Oh, and the drumming's wonderful.

Song of the Day # 556 Maggie Gyllenhaal


Breathy!From the recent film Frank. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 71 Jon the Postman





Just heard this. Or at least the recorded version. All I could get on YouTube was this clip from the film about the Manchester Punk scene 24 Hour Party People. This is the guy who used to get up at the end of punk gigs at the end of the seventies and sing Louie Louie. RIP Jon the Postman! Here he is talking about the first moment he got onstage from his Wikipedia page.

"I think the Buzzcocks left the stage and the microphone was there and a little voice must have been calling 'This is your moment, Jon.' I've no idea to this day why I sang 'Louie Louie', the ultimate garage anthem from the 60s. And why I did it a cappella and changed all the lyrics apart from the actual chorus, I have no idea. I suppose it was my bid for immortality, one of those great bolts of inspiration.""For some reason it appeared to go down rather well. I suppose it was taking the punk ethos to the extreme – anyone can have a go. Before punk it was like you had to have a double degree in music. It was a liberation for someone like me who was totally unmusical but wanted to have a go."



B Sides # 25 The 5th Dimension


Can't beat a bit of 5th Dimension. B side to Age of Aquarius.

Song of the Day # 555 Tears For Fears

'And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad. The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I ever had.' 

I dreamed about going to watch Tears For Fears last night. In my dream they were about to play a tiny upstairs club in Newcastle in the here and now. In 2015. So, a new first for this blog as I start to post what goes on in my head while semi-conscious and probably begin to part company once and for all from reality along the way. Odd thing to dream about and not I imagine something about to happen unless they've fallen on bad times that I haven't heard about. Sadly my dream ended before I got to see them play. 

I'm not a fan, I hastily add, of anything beyond their first album but I have reasons for a permanent emotional bond with this band. Before I get to those, here's a video of them playing their first big hit on Top of the Pops, a song, like most of their early ones, about deep, emotional teenage trauma watched by a group of barely interested people in a TV studio wearing party hats. Mad World indeed.

They were actually the first live band I ever saw, when they first emerged, supporting The Thompson Twins at Hammersmith Palais in 1982. I thought they were very good, though of course I had nothing else to base that judgement on. They were still a relatively credible proposition in those days, being supported by John Peel among others though I imagine he fairly soon severed his affections when they trotted off to huge American success with their next album. Mad World though, the best thing they ever did, still sounds good and deservedly almost got to Number 1 in the UK.

The Thompson Twins, later the same evening, was a different story. Strange to think they'd actually once been a hip proposition before mutating into the three headed monstrosity that conquered the world on a wave of cheery synths and lurid videos. Previously they'd been a much larger percussive Talking Heads inspired group with political leanings. 

But not the night I saw them. They'd just trimmed down to the three piece outfit they soon became famous as. I think it was one of their first gigs. They seemed to have a very good sound considering they were a trio until mid-point through an early number they threw down their instruments and started dancing around the stage while the music continued in the background and you realised the whole thing was taped. I learned the truth at seventeen. Round about the same time when Janis Ian chanced upon it.

Monday, July 27, 2015

B Sides # 24 Badfinger


More Slade than Slade. B Side to Come And Get It.

Song of the Day # 554 Foghat


A Sunday evening watching Dazed & Confused, the second film with a great soundtrack in as many days and as good a film on the last days of school as has been made. It reminds me of mine, though they were spent eight years later in South West London listening to Reggae, Bowie and New Pop rather than AOR Guitar Rock in Texas. Hope you like Foghat. Strangely, I've just discovered they're British, though they really don't sound it and virtually all of their commercial success was in The States. If you don't, it might be worth considering that this is the single cut rather than the full, eight minute version.


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Songs About People # 112 Mantovani


This has that end of the pier or fairground feel that so much of the best Two Tone stuff does. The single sadly sank without trace. A song to the king of easy listening who apparently sold more records than anybody else before The Beatles came along though I'm not sure I can really recommend any of them.

Songs Heard on the Radio #70 Grinderman


Jim Jones sitting in on 6 Music and playing some Rock and Roll. Like this!



Song Title of the Day - Cornershop - Double Decker Eyelashes


Not the start of a series. Just an excuse to play and post this on a Sunday morning.

Songs from the Zodiac Soundtrack # 1 Three Dog Night


I was delighted last night to see the Hollywood film Zodiac, about the west coast serial killer of the sixties and seventies who took the same name, turn up on late night television. It's a great film, long sure, but evocative, deeply creepy and stylish. It also has one of the best soundtracks ever put out there. Taken from an assortment of contemporary pop, rock and easy listening songs. The events that they soundtrack serve to make every song that you hear eerie and other worldly and sometimes downright creepy. 

Like here for example by Three Dog Night, the first song you hear on the film as the first killing unfolds. From a band that was absolutely enormous in commercial terms in the States for years, straddling the rock and pop worlds as successfully as anybody and responsible for a whole series of great singles that possibly don't get the recognition they deserve, at least not in the UK. This sounds like the work of a black soul outfit. Cover specialists, this was originally from the soundtrack of Hair and was a Number 4 hit in the US in 1969.

Song of the Day # 553 Adriano Celentano



Quite legendary, at least in Italy, comedian, actor and singer. This is one of his most famous hits, from 1972, about how the English tongue sounds to a foreign ear. I'm not sure that much of the lyric is supposed to be actual words. Go with it! It's quite fun trying to pick things out from the stream of sound.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Instrumentals # 42 Professor Longhair


Something about those New Orleans ingredients.

B Sides # 23 Reparata & the Delrons


The wonderful Reparata & the Delrons. B side to their big hit Captain Of Your Ship.

Song of the day # 552 Johnny Kidd & the Pirates


Yesterday, Wilko Johnson and Doctor Feelgood. Today, one of their main inspirations. Perhaps, the great Brutish Rock and Roll band.

Friday, July 24, 2015

B Sides # 22 The Clique


Late sixties band from Houston, Texas. B side to a song called Sugar on Sunday. This, of course was resurrected by R.E.M. when they covered it in 1986 on Lifes Rich Pageant.

Song(s) of the Day # 551 Dr. Feelgood



'They (Dr. Feelgood), looked as if they'd come together in some unsavory section of the army.' Mick Farren

On a whim yesterday, after work, I went to see the Wilko Johnson film, The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson. Great to bump into a couple of old friends there from The Record Player which was a main inspiration for me starting this blog and we went for a couple of drinks afterwards to discuss it and life and related matters. The film was just great. Verging on profound. Very much focused on the whole fundamental issue of life and death, inspired by the remarkable recent history of Johnson himself. I'll leave you to investigate. In the meantime, here are a couple of mid-seventies TV clips of him and his old band.


'(Wilko) Like a clockwork mouse on rails.'



Thursday, July 23, 2015

B Sides # 21 ABBA


Towards the end of their days ABBA became quite an odd proposition. Still maintaining the melodic knack of their early days but producing songs twinged with genuine melancholy as the personal relationships within the band disintegrated. Here's a pretty good example of that. B-Side to The Day Before You Came, (I think), their last single. More on this here.

Instrumentals # 41 The Durutti Column


While on the subject of meandering British psychedelic whimsy, here are The Durutti Column.

Songs About People # 111 Dan Treacy


As someone shuttling ever nearer towards my second half century and the remainder of my days I sometimes look at 'young peoples music' with some bewilderment as I'm supposed to. I know that many of these artists are in thrall to the music I grew up with in the eighties, much of which was equally under the spell of stuff from two decades before that, most particularly the sixties. It leads to a strange, refracted effect listening to it. Like stumbling down a hall of mirrors. Or perhaps that's just an effect of age too.

Such is the case with MGMT who I've been listening to over the past day or so. They are, or at least were, an enormous, globally popular band a few years back. Many of their most popular songs, generally drawn from their first album Oracular Spectacular have amassed millions of Spotify hits which is as good a measure of such things as anything else. With a couple of exceptions, (I loved a couple of tracks), I listened to it earlier with some bemusement. I'm not quite sure what they were trying to do and why it hit such an overwhelming commercial bullseye while to me sounding like so much aimless bluster. Perhaps I should persevere, though I imagine I won't. 

For their second record, 2010's Congratulations they clearly took a step back from fame to the things they most loved, much of which seemed to be 1980's British-based, independent psychedelic whimsy. Inspired most obviously by Felt, The Monochrome Set and The Television Personalities. A smaller vision, but for me a much warmer and more lovable one. Here's their fine tribute to The Television Personalities leader Dan Treacy, a man not afraid to drop a name or two himself. The song is very much in the spirit of his own stuff. It comes across as a plea to respect individualism and eccentricity which I imagine we should all do our bit to get behind.



Songs Found on my Local's Jukebox # 80 50 Cent


For the landlord of Rosie's. Plus the fact that it's a great record and slightly poignant all these years since its release in that 50 Cent has recently been declared bankrupt. So many great moments in the three minutes of this. 


Song of the Day # 550 Danny Kaye


Another minor milestone reached. So here's a song about measuring. From Hans Christian Anderson.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Songs About People # 110 Louis MacNeice


Make of this what you will. I think it's truly inspired, whatever it's getting at. English eccentricity and vision at its best. The man behind this, Martin Newell is Britain's most published living poet apparently. Here's a bit more background. Chanced upon this a moment ago and it will lead to me further exploration of the story and records of  The Cleaners of Venus. As well as the work of the great Irish poet and playwright Louis MacNiece.



Peru Ubu - Non Alignment Pact


Not quite sure what's going on here but I enjoyed the juxtaposition so here you go.

Song(s) of the Day # 549 - Steve Forbert


I'm so glad I do this. It brings me to things I probably wouldn't otherwise find. Like this. From an artist, who when he initially emerged was considered for a while to be a 'new Dylan'. This didn't happen but he has a nice, lazy style, obvious talent and here are two of his big tunes. The one above, his only really big hit, the one below a song chosen by Bowie when he hosted a radio show in the late seventies as one of his own personal favourites. A companion piece to Monday's Song of the Day Heart of the City and Springsteen's Hard to Be a Saint in the City which I think I also chose in this slot a while back, about life on the city streets.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 69 The Leaf Library


'The Leaf Library make droney, two-chord pop that’s stuck halfway between the garage and the bedroom, all topped with lyrical... love songs to buildings, stationery and the weather. Originally from Reading (ish) but now settled in London.'  From the band's website. Lovely tune too! Rattles along like a happy train on rails.



Covers # 17 The Lemonheads



From Varshons, The Lemonheads album of covers released in 2009. He, (well it's generally mainly Evan Dando, isn't it?), does a varied list of songs - Gram Parsons, G.G. Allin, Leonard Cohen, Townes Van Zandt and Christina Aguilera among other things. Not all of it works. Some of the songs don't seem to sit comfortably with his own strong persona, the generating source of many of his own best songs and left me a little nonplussed..But this, a cover of one of the more orthodox songs from Wire's first album Pink Flag does. He gives it a great American twang. Beautifully short.

B Sides # 20 Steppenwolf


An afternoon spent listening to Steppenwolf's first album yesterday left me reasonably underwhelmed. Perhaps I wasn't listening to it loud enough but one song seemed to bleed into the next and with the obvious exception of Born to be Wild, which was operating on a completely different level and a couple of others, it all sounded a little generic and utterly in the shadow of  that big song of theirs and of The Doors, who took the same ingredients that Steppenwolf seem to favour but were willing to take them all the way. 

Still, this seemed like one of the better tracks on the album and was the flip side to Born, which along with the wonderful Magic Carpet Ride, remains the song the band are best known for. There's a strangely moral and slightly prudish lyric here about a woman who appears to sleep around rather too much and is unable to form long-term commitments as a consequence. Watch out girls! Hardly counter-culture. Born to be Wild? Still it rolls along nicely as a tune even if the band's sentiments seem resolutely stuck in their time and place.

Song of the Day # 548 Ann Peebles



Coming up to two months away from a personal milestone and a party where I'll endeavor to get people to dance to celebrate it. I imagine I'll play this at some point in the evening.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Songs Found on my Local's Jukebox # 79 Helen Shapiro


Number One in the UK just before The Beatles arrived. They also supported her in their early days just before they broke big. Oh, and it's a great song!



Songs About People # 109 Bert Jansch


Early afternoon listening to Donovan and alternating between reaction of irritation with the self-indulgent poetic, pixie whimsy and falling slightly under the hippie spell depending on the track that's playing. Here's something that falls in the latter category. It's got a dissonant, jazzy charm, doesn't outstay its welcome and Mickie Most's production is spot on. The mention of a chocolate eclair in the lyric is also in its favour.



B Sides # 19 The Chiffons


Flip side to debut single One Fine Day in 1963. Later revived by fine American bar band The Detroit Cobras about ten years back from now.


Song of the Day # 547 Nick Lowe


As good as any way to start the working week. Seems to share the same riff as The Rezillos Can't Stand My Baby.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dion


July 19th 2010 Andy Hummel


Big Star's Chris Hummel died five years back. He wrote this.



Songs Found on my Local's Jukebox # 78 The Hollies

 
'The Hollies and the rest presented themselves as traditional show business entertainers, more anxious to meet audience expectations than to challenge them.' Charlie Gillett, The Sound of the City

The Hollies quite often get written out of the history of these things. Although they had twenty Top Twenty singles hits between 1963 and 1970 in the UK and five in the US during the same period they were always among the least hip of the big English groups of the sixties. I've got a Rough Guide encyclopedia of rock music published in the mid-nineties where they don't even get an entry. Nik Cohn doesn't find them interesting enough to write about in Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom

This is probably because they were shamelessly ordinary. They sang about meeting someone you fancied at a bus stop, chatting them up while sheltering from the rain under an umbrella and ending up marrying them. The kind of small town romance that most people's lives were probably based upon while The Beatles, Stones and The Who and the other hipper kids in the playground wrote the story of the decade that most people now remember never once thinking about writing a song which concluded by getting married. Bus Stop was written by Graham Gouldman who is also responsible for For Your Love, Heart Full of Soul, Look Through Any Window and No Milk Today among many others. He ended up forming 10cc. This song seemed to fit The Hollies. They, like Gouldman came from Manchester, where famously, it rains a lot.




Nik Cohn on The Byrds


'The first group to bring folk/rock as a solid concept were The Byrds, who came from California and had themselves a worldwide number one hit with Dylan's Mr Tambourine Man.

Jim McGuinn, their lead singer, wore pince-nez and smiled strange crooked smiles over the top of them, squinting like some moth-eaten Dickensian lawyer, very devious and the rest of the group slouched in the background, staring straight ahead, stoned and uncaring, and none of them gave off any warmth, any signs of life at all.



Musically though they started out strong - Hey Mr Tambourine Man was brilliant and their first album was even better. They made odd, insidious noises, quite soft but sneaky, and McGuinn phrased sideways like a musical crab. They weren't  exciting, they weren't meant to be but their sound crept in on you and nagged you, they made you itch.'



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Song(s) of the Day # 546 John Prine


Spotify lets you access stuff that had previously been hidden from you. This was the way I found my way to John Prine. He's one of those artists you've heard about for years without ever actually getting round to listening to them. I've remedied that now.Much admired by his contemporaries, Dylan no less said, 'Prine's stuff is pure existentialism. Midwestern trips to the nth degree. And he writes beautiful songs.' 


So here are a few from his first two albums in the early seventies. His records are all weary, smalltown experience. Very, very American. Observational and felt. He writes about small flawed lives in a way that isn't a million miles away from great American writers. Raymond Carver comes to mind. Older stuff too. John Steinbeck. Whole lives are catalogued and with them the broader, shared American experience, in beautifully crafted and detailed, three and four minute songs.


Some of the tracks I've posted here seem to feature variations on Big Star's Thirteen's guitar figure but the sentiments of the songs couldn't be further away from Big Star's pure rush of youth. Prine is middle aged before his time or perhaps older still, these are songs that seem to come from a Midwest porch, wistful, winding and slow. Funny too in a sad, wry way.I get the feeling that Nick Hornby would like it. He's into this kind of stuff. If so, I'm with him here. I've just put up four songs but it was difficult choosing as his first two albums alone are so rich and consistent and there's plenty more to be explored.



Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fela Kuti


Songs Found on my Local's Jukebox # 77 Dusty Springfield


There's a bit of a backlog on this series as I've been in  my local recently probably a bit more than is rationally good for you and plowing money into the jukebox as a direct consequence. This went on this afternoon. It's good!








Songs of the Day # 545 The Soft Boys


The Soft Boys plus Robyn Hitchcock, (their nominal leader), in general are 'clever clever'. Too much so for me, in long bursts but there's plenty of good stuff there, not least on their second album Underwater Moonlight. Nostalgists at heart, there was probably no band that seemed so out of place at the end of the seventies in Britain. At least Wire and XTC, the two contemporary bands they seemed to have something in common with made some effort to fit in.


The Soft Boys meanwhile loved the sixties and wore their love on their sleeves. Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd most obviously but also the Beatles, The Byrds, The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band,The Beach Boys and Beefheart. They were  more appreciated by the American college scene than in their own homeland.


Most obviously their legacy is R.E.M. Peter Buck particularly loved them and claimed their guitar sound to be a greater influence on his style than The Byrds, which was always thrown at him. As I said, too much Hitchcock can be hard to take but at his best he deserves respect. Also worth mentioning lead guitarist Kimberley Rew, who was responsible for much of that great ringing guitar sound that makes Underwater Moonlight a great listen.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Songs About People # 108 Bob Lind


Song which namechecks sixties singer songwriter, best known for his big and quite beautiful 1965 hit Elusive Butterfly a success he never managed to repeat though its enough of an achievement in itself. From Pulp's slightly glum final album, rather disingenuously entitled We Love Life. I've posted both below as well as another of Lind's songs. His other recordings are worthy of investigation. Full of that mid sixties singer songwriter rolling wordiness.He overdoes it on occasions and finds himself heading down cul de sacs but gets it just right with the songs posted here.








July 17th 1941 Spencer Davis


Song(s) of the Day # 544 Heart



The use of this song in Sofia Coppola's first film The Virgin Suicides is one of those moments when music is just beautifully processed for the purposes of cinema, enhancing both the song and scene at the same time and indelibly stamping both into your consciousness as a result. Did so for me at any rate.


'She was the still point of the turning world man. I never got over that girl. Never.'

This  song and clip say everything about the giddy hormonal rush of teenage years. I had three years of it myself at least thirty five years back or more of feeling that I was being shaken up and down like a coca cola bottle all day and night and frankly I'm very glad it's all in the deep and distance past. This track, from Heart's first album Steamboat Annie is just perfect for the uncontrollable emotional eruption the scene wants to convey.

The song itself is an early example of AOR at its absolute best, slightly more honest and real than much of that genre. It's not a strain of music you want to overdose on, but a track like this conveys the sense of what a joy it might have been to be heading towards your graduation years in the suburban American hinterland in the mid-seventies. Of course it all ended in tears in this particular movie. But hey, it's only a story.



Magic Man was a Top 10 hit for the band and deservedly so. They followed it up with the title track of the album and it fared less well, stalling just outside the Top 40. There's definitely a lilt of Karen Carpenter about the vocals here. The band clearly loved the song as it featured in three versions in different forms on the album which is a bit much frankly should you choose to listen to it all the way through. Still the  is a very fine record, much preferable to me to their eighties output where their songs, hair outfits and egos sprouted monstrously to horrible effect.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Covers # 16 Francoise Hardy


Hot on the heels of the last in the series and much more like it. You can't go far wrong with Francoise Hardy. Nice picture too, don't you think?

Covers # 15 Paul Anka


Not entirely sure what I think of these. There's such a prevalence of these Easy Listening covers of alternative songs by old crooners nowadays. The Post Modern wink, the irony that we're all in it together and there is actually no alternative anymore. I suppose Feliciano did this years back with his version of Light My Fire. Still, see what you think.


July 16th 1966 Cream


Cream formed. They lasted two years.

Song(s) of the Day # 543 America


America pretty much got what they got wholesale from Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash and The Byrds. John Peel allegedly told them to give up when he met up with them in the UK in the early seventies. Still, Bob Dylan thought Young was ripping him off with Heart of Gold and what America had was a fairly pleasant listen nonetheless. No Horse With No Name here. Instead, the opening track from their first album and their second US Number 1 from 1975.



Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Songs About People # 107 Al Capone


Lovely man. With that famous set of screeching tires and call out that The Specials revived with their debut single Gangsters.



Song of the Day # 542 Tall Firs


New song and video from a band build around a guitar duo of friends, originally from Maryland, now based in New York City.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Shocking Blue - Three of the Best!


Shocking Blue. Certainly the band of the day. 'Put some love in your heart. Like you put the ink in the ink pot.' We can all relate to that. Though it means absolutely nothing at all.


This one means nothing either. Neither does this! Buy yourself a greatest hits!


B Sides # 18 The Mamas & the Papas


B Side to Twelve Thirty. The riff sounds like a not too distant relative of Day Tripper and The Last Train to Clarksville.

Song of the Day # 541 Shocking Blue


What makes this so great?  It sounds like the band have heard the Velvet's Waiting for the Man, stripped it down and reassembled it for the pop charts. The sixties almost become the seventies during the course of its three minutes and seven seconds. Dutch group Shocking Blue has a lead singer who does what Grace Slick should have done. Made the most of her imperious looks and voice, kept it simple and carried on turning out great songs rather than losing the plot after White Rabbit and Somebody To Love and wandering into pretension. 


The video has the band wandering round a zoo behind the ostrich pen.The looks on their faces give you the sense that they're singing about something adult and dangerous but at the same time it's packaged for the mainstream and utterly disposable. Sometimes the best songs in the charts stall 
at # 45, in the UK (# 43 in the States), like one did. As the follow up to Venus, which had topped both charts perhaps that classifies it as a flop. I think it's superior in every possible respect to that song.

Oh and it's another one of Morrissey's favourites. He knows what it takes. A good title. A clean and simple riff. A whiff of bruised romance. The sense that of course this is really just all about sex. Oh and a promo video with a band hanging round the ostrich pen at the zoo while its snowing. Looking like they're having a great time. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Covers # 14 Teenage Fanclub


Where Teenage Fanclub cover Pixies, make the song their own and remarkably, give the original a real run for its money. Unfortunately, I'm pained to report the YouTube feed then proceeded to forward onto the same band's take on The Byrds Hey Mr Tambourine Man and it was shockingly abject. Be warned. I do these things so you don't have to. Top marks, nevertheless for this though! 


Instrumentals # 40 Mr. Bloe


One Hit Wonders. Reached Number 2 in the UK in 1970. Denied a Number 1 by Mungo Jerry. Strangely, one of Morrissey's favourite records.

Bill Evans


Songs / Things Heard on the Radio # 68 Miles Davis


Midway through an afternoon of admin on a Monday morning while listening to a remarkable couple of hours of music hosted by Sparks yesterday through the catch-up facility on the BBC. Pretty much everything they played over two hours could easily be posted up here but I've gone for this. A selection from On the Corner, a Miles Davis album I'd never heard anything from previously. It stopped me in my tracks. It's the West Side Story gangs, relocated to Harlem in the early seventies. Running drugs. Check out those hand claps. Will have to catch up on the rest of the record and no doubt one day own it. After all my credibility has taken a potentially fatal body blow through posting Duran Duran earlier on in the day. In the meantime, here's a Guardian article about the enormous, initially hugely negative reputation of the record.









The most hated album in jazz

At the time, everyone loathed Miles Davis's On the Corner - even the people who played on it. But now, reports Paul Tingen, some of the coolest names in music are proud to name it as a major influence.

Within weeks of its release in 1972, Miles Davis's On the Corner had become the most vilified and controversial album in the history of jazz. "Repetitious crap," wrote one critic. "An insult to the intellect of the people," remarked another. Even the musicians who played on the album were bewildered. "I didn't think much of it," recalls saxophonist Dave Liebman. "It was my least favourite Miles album," says Paul Buckmaster, the British composer and arranger who supplied musical sketches for the sessions, and turned Davis on to the music and method of Karlheinz Stockhausen.
The history of music is full of works that were derided on first public exposure - Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (1910), Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation (1960), the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks (1977) - but within a few years enjoyed a critical rehabilitation. By contrast, On the Corner remained shunned, if not forgotten, for decades. All the more striking, then, that 35 years after its first release it is hailed by many outside the jazz community as a visionary musical statement that was way ahead of its time



Jamie Morrison, drummer with post-punk band the Noisettes, is one of them. "On the Corner is a huge influence on us," he says. "I love the rhythm section, and the way you're just thrown into the music at the beginning. It's really punk in its attitude. It's so offensive, and pushes boundaries at the same time."
He is echoed by Paul Miller, aka electronic and hip-hop musician and producer DJ Spooky. "I'm highly influenced by the collage process producer Teo Macero applied on the album," he says.
Bassist Jah Wobble chips in: "On the Corner is fantastic, because this same riff comes back to you again and again. You can't do it with any old riff." And New York guitarist Gary Lucas, who has come through the Captain Beefheart school of warped aesthetics, loves the "ominous, dense, swampy jungle of urban desperation its dub-like grooves conveyed".
So it seems On the Corner simply went underground, only to emerge again when the world was ready for it. The release this week of The Complete On the Corner Sessions, a six-CD box set, is timely. It's worth pointing out, though, that the re-evaluation of On the Corner has been going on since the early 1990s, when hip-hop artists began quoting it as an influence. "It was the first hip-hop/house/drum'n'bass/breakbeat album I'd ever heard," explains American musician and longtime Village Voice writer Greg Tate.



Since then, the list of musicians who have namechecked Miles Davis's electric music in general, and On the Corner in particular, has become seemingly endless; knowing and liking the album appears to have become indispensable in the hipness stakes. On the Corner's influence can be heard in the music of such varied artists as Underworld, Radiohead, Sonic Youth, Red Hot Chili Peppers, David Byrne and Squarepusher.
Yet, the mainstream jazz community still won't touch On the Corner with a barge pole. And whatever remains of jazz-rock continues to be too deeply in thrall of the pyrotechnics aspect of such 1970s bands as Mahavishnu Orchestra to take any notice of On the Corner's repetitive funk, which was the antithesis of virtuosity.




So what is this most mysterious and outré of albums? The culmination of Davis's two-decade-long quest for the African roots of his music, On the Corner has a huge, extended rhythm section rotating around circular, one-chord bass riffs. But there were a number of other things that set the album apart. First there were the influences of Stockhausen, Paul Buckmaster, and Ornette Coleman's atonal "harmolodics". These were superimposed over grooves and bass riffs that were more tightly circumscribed than ever before. On the opening track, the bass plays the same few notes for 20 minutes. Inundated by an ocean of rhythm instruments, including sitar, tabla and three electric keyboards (played by Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock, among others), and without any harmonic development, the soloists had very little space, and became merely strands in a tangle of groove and colours. 
In addition, producer Teo Macero did his wild cut-and-paste thing, which he had pioneered on Miles Davis's In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. Here, he went deeper than before into overdubbing and studio effects territory. According to The Complete On the Corner Sessions producer Bob Belden: "The original album version was an effect. In essence, it's compression in a narrow stereo field to make the music work on AM radio."



Why go to such trouble for AM radio? The answer lies in what the more anti-commercial members of the jazz community considered to be Davis's biggest sin: having already been accused of "selling out" for incorporating rock influences, he asserted that On the Corner was his effort to go mainstream and reach the kids in the streets. Predictably, this impenetrable and almost tuneless concoction of avant-garde classical, free jazz, African, Indian and acid funk bombed spectacularly, leading to decades in the wilderness. As far as the jazzers were concerned, it completed Davis's journey from icon to fallen idol.



But the story doesn't end there. In the three years following On the Corner's release, Davis managed to take a few more steps in the same direction. In the spring of 1973, seemingly tired of the constraints imposed by huge rhythm sections, he trimmed his band down to seven players and fronted it with Pete Cosey, a fearsome electric guitarist whose jaw-dropping exploits still sound advanced today. The band were at their best live, and their ferocious acid-funk improvisations can be heard on the staggering live double albums Dark Magus, Agharta and Pangaea.
Most of the 1973-75 material on The Complete On the Corner Sessions sounds tame by comparison to those three albums.But the box set also contains Davis's acid-funk band's only studio album, Get Up With It, which includes a meditational homage to Duke Ellington, He Loved Him Madly - a half-hour-long track that Brian Eno has quoted as a major influence on his ambient direction.



In the past few years, there have been signs that this 1973-75 output is also heading for a radical reappraisal. Julian Cope aptly wondered, "Are there any others who took up the baton from Miles after his funk ensemble collapsed? I hear the influence in post-punk but that's about it." Barring a few tributes, this music still appears to be buried in a time capsule of its own, waiting to be discovered.
·Paul Tingen is the author of Miles Beyond: The Electric Explorations of Miles Davis, 1967-1991. The Complete On the Corner Sessions is out on Sony Legacy on Monday.