Saturday, May 31, 2014

Musicians Do Drugs # 2 Viv Albertine & Johnny Thunders

Sid & Viv
From Viv's great, recently published memoir. London Bohemia. This blog of course does not condone the taking of illegal drugs. Johnny has just told her that Sid is planning to kick her out of early punk band The Flowers of Romance.
'Viv, I told Sid he was wrong. I said what the fuck does it matter how well she plays? She's totally cool and looks great.'
But no one - not even the revered Johnny Thunders - has any effect on Sid. I'm out. There's nothing more to say. We step back into the haze of the living room. Has Johnny told them? No one takes any notice of me so I flop onto a floor cushion. Thunders, always the leader, takes command of the room.
He announces that it's 'Time to shoot up now,' like a playground teacher. There's a ripple of excitement. He looks down at me.
'Want some Viv? It'll make things better.'
. I've been offered heroin before. I've never taken it. I've never had any intention of taking it- but today is the perfect day. Today I'm devastated. I want to belong, if not to my band then somewhere else, anywhere, I don't care. I just need the world to go away.
So I nod. 'Yeah'
Johnny knows I've never taken smack before and he becomes reverential. He tells me that I can go frst as we're all going to share the same needle and he wants it to be clean and sharpest for me. I understand - this is a honour. He produces a black-and-red bandana from out of nowhere like a magician. He ties the bandana round the top of my arm and taps my veins with two fingers to bring them up. I've seen this ritual so many times. It doesn't express me, it doesn't excite me. I'm numb.
As Johnny sucks the liquid out of the spoon into the syringe, I feel no sense of occasion - no 'Oh my god, this is Johnny Thunders from the Heartbreakers, about to turn me on to heroin for the first time in my life'. And I  have no fear. I'm detached, just watching it all happen to me. Johnny compliments me on my lovely virgin veins, then slides the needle into the biggest blue one in the crook of my arm and unleashes the smack.
A rush starts in my toes and surges up through my body. Thousands of tiny bubbles of love and happiness are released into my veins. I feel like a shaken up bottle of Lucozade. Then I vomit. Right there on the carpet. I should be embarrassed but I can't quite muster up the feeling. I look at Johnny and he smiles. He strokes my hair and tells me everything is OK, this is completely normal, then he crouches down and injects himself.' 
Somehow she makes it across town and Sid does sack her. As I said all this dabbling with darkness  can't be condoned but it's a powerful little rites of passage story. The book is much recommended.

American States - # 15 Ohio - The National

A middle-aged, mid-American, Joy Dvision (apologies for my geography if I've got it wrong). But a Joy Division that have resigned themselves to the contradictions of life. Lots of sitting in cafes and bars staring into space. I do a fair bit myself. They've had some wonderful moments. Here's one of them.

The Last Song on the Album - # 34 Marvin Gaye - What's Going On - Inner City Blues

Well what can you say? One of the great songs detailing urban American life and what it's really like off one of the truly great albums. Marvin knows.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Song of the Day # 133 - The Go Betweens

In late 1984 I'd just finished my A Levels and was preparing to go to Switzerland for six months in my year off. I'd saved up for my first stereo. The Go Betweens album Spring Hill Fair was one of the first records I bought to play on it. From a record shop in Twickenham. The cover of the album ironically shows them in a balcony at nearby Richmond Theatre which also has a lot of memories for me of growing up there. The record is still very precious to me. Second track Five Words gave this blog a name. Its first, Bachelor Kisses is just the kind of song you want to hear when you're eighteen. The lyrics are just romantic poetry. It's about going out into the world and falling in love. I see no reason why it wasn't a huge, huge hit. But the Go Betweens were always neglected by a world not smart enough to realise their worth. Some people knew. Cheers to my mate Rod, another devotee for posting this on Facebook yesterday and reminding me of it.
'Hey wait
Oh please wait
Don't rush off
You won't be late

Oh wait
Yes, he'll wait
The engine's running
At the gate

Don't believe what you've heard
Faithful's not a bad word

Oh, won't you save
these bachelor
kisses now they're for your brow

 Hands hands like hooks
you'll get hurt if you play with crooks
Your hand that's all he took
The world opened up for your looks

Don't believe what you've heard
Faithful's not a bad word

Oh won't you save
these bachelor
kisses now they're for your brow

 But don't be slave
to bachelor
kisses now they'll break their vow.'

 McClennan 1984

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Last Song on the Album # 33 - Jeff Buckley - Grace - Dream Brother

'Don't be like the one who made me so old
Don't be like the one who left behind his name.'
For me, like most people I suppose, Grace was originally a CD album. It makes a lot more sense to me now I have it on vinyl. My favourite song was always probably this; the one most explicitly about his father Tim who pretty much abandoned him for his career and the life he chose. The pain is quite tangible and it's really incredibly brave.

Song of the Day # 132 Minnie Riperton

It's Friday. Even if it says above it's Thursday. It's just early. Thanks to my colleague Darran for directing me towards this one. Very much of its time, 1970, but nothing wrong with that. You also get a nice video of flowers blooming.

Songs About People # 5 - Billie Holiday - Warpaint

The jury's out, at least for me, on their second album but I loved their first and this, which is from their earlier Exquisite Corpse EP.

Vinyl Purchase # 13 - Serge Gainsbourg

29th May 2014 - £20.99 Windows Records, Newcastle
It's my sister's birthday today. She's off to see Courtney Barnett right now in London. I pretty much wish I was there even though I saw Courtney a couple of weeks ago. I bought this instead today. It's on transparent vinyl. Not quite sure on first hearing, but it's Serge so I imagine I'll come round. And it's a great sleeve to put at the front of your collection.

Musicians Do Drugs # 1 The Ramones

This column in no way endorses the taking of illegal substances. But aspiring pop stars are particularly good on this subject. This comes from the best Rock and Roll book ever written.
Dee Dee Ramone: 'Besides smoking good pot, I started doing a lot of glue. I'd do glue and Tuinals and Seconals. What a party, you couldn't get your head outta that bag. I used to do it with my friend Egg, because Egg was real sleazy. He didn't go for dope or pot or acid, what he liked was sniffing Carbona, the cleaning fluid, and glue. After we'd sniff glue we used to call up numbers on the phone.
We knew the numbers to call where you could get these weird sounds. We'd call the numbers and it would go "Beep-beep-beep-beep-beep-beep." We'd listen to that for hours. Then sniff some more glue. Or if we couldn't get any glue, Egg would go to the supermarket, get some cans of whipped cream, and we'd do the gas in it. Anything to get high - cough medicine, glue, Tuinals and Seconals.'

The Five Spot

Roy Haynes, Theolonius Monk, Sonny Rollins and Ahmed Abdul Malik at the Five Spot Cafe in the Bowery, NYC in the late 50s.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Last Song on the Album # 32 - Tom Waits - Swordfishtrombones - Rainbirds

For everybody of round about my age who discovered Tom Waits first with the release of this wonderful album.

Song of the Day # 131 The Heptones

I was directed here by Frank Black. The Heptones had more great songs than you could shake a stick at.

The Beatles - While My Guitar Gently Weeps

From David Quantick's opinionated and funny book Revolution about The White Album.
'While My Guitar Gently Weeps' has been criticized in recent years. It is a big bloaty thing in its final version, with a slightly patronising lyric, and it doesn't really go anywhere. It's still a magnificent piece of work however, and whatever it's faults as an actual song, as a recording and chunk of rock music, it works incredibly well. Harrison has never sounded so confident on record before, nor had he attempted such a powerful and emotive song. In creating 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps', he also inadvertently invented 70s rock, which is arguably a bad thing but ensured the sale of small cigarette lighters for the next decade.'

Bob Dylan

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Record Collectors

A feature on some of the world's great record collectors.

The Last Song on the Album # 31 Dr John, the Night Tripper - Gris Gris - I Walk On Guilded Splinters

Speaks for itself. From surely the best voodoo album ever made.

Song of the Day # 130 The Feelies

Nerds. And proud of it. First track from their indescribably good first album Crazy Rhythms which I'll definitely write more about. The sound of the suburbs. But nothing like that horrid Members song.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Garage Discoveries # 3 - The Knaves

This stuff is an endless seam apparently. Archetypal garage from Chicago. Two singles and they were gone.

The Last Song on the Album # 30 Suicide - Suicide - Che & Songs About People #4 - Che Guevara

Two for the price of one here. From one of the truly ground-breaking debuts. Nothing quite like it before or since. It's title is a reference to Che Guevara apparently though you wouldn't learn much about him from it.

Song of the Day # 129 - Josef K

The opening song from their first and only album The Only Fun in Town. Incredibly inventive guitar lines.

Garage Discoveries # 2 Peter Bread & the Wheatmen

Derivative of course. But also of its time. An East Bay, California band. None of the group were called Peter Wheat.The YouTube video, assembled recently, is as sixties as you could possibly get. Featuring Judy Huxtable. Here's a picture of the band. Looking like the droogs from Clockwork Orange.

Things I've Found on my Local's Jukebox # 19 Van Morrison

The bass line drives the whole song through!

The Last Song on the Album #29 Big Star - Sister Lovers - Kanga Roo

The last song on the last Big Star album. Pretty much as bleak and ragged a record as any made. I don't listen to it much, frankly preferring their more jangly melodic first two albums. It's a remarkable document nevertheless. Plenty of gems on here. This was another song re-interred by This Mortal Coil in the eighties which along with R.E.M.'s constant referencing of the band helped me find my way to them. Always interesting how Alex Chilton himself always wrote the band off as undeserving of the attention and adulation they eventually got.

Song of the Day # 128 - Buddy Holly & the Crickets - Rave On

The great 'What if..' story.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Vinyl Purchase # 12 Cher - Half Breed

£ 5.00 RPM Records Newcastle 24/ 5 / 2014. As I suspected when I bought it, it's a shockingly bad record. I'm only on the second track and can't imagine I'll get through the whole thing. Sometimes you buy things for the cover alone. No I've just got onto the title track. It's coming off! Still. Nice cover.

Things I've Found on my Local's Jukebox # 18 - Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood

The whole Hippie California thing churned out some remarkable records. Not least this one. In some respects it could be taken as utter nonsense. I think it's just inspired. Far preferable to the Rowland S. Thompson and Lydia Lunch version which may be one of the worst records ever made.

The Last Song on the Album # 28 Prefab Sprout - Steve McQueen - When the Angels

Starts with what sounds like a church organ intro. Takes me straight back to my first year at university. A fitting end to a wonderful record.


Song of the Day # 127 Fats Domino

Released in 1969 as a stand alone single the year after the original came out on the Beatles White Album.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Marc Bolan


Stories in Song # 4 - The Vibrations

An absolute gem! Discovered today. It will be treasured forever. The adjective 'funky' comes to mind.

Favourite Musicians # 6 Peter De Freitas

Great to see an article in this month's Mojo dedicated to The Bunnymen's truly great drummer. Here's a selection of his. Loved all of these too much to reduce it to five.

1. Rescue(in fact you get the whole concert on here)

2. All That Jazz
3. Do It Clean
4. Over The Wall
5. Zimbo - also called All My Colours (with The Burundi Drummers at Womad)
6. Fuel
7. The Cutter (one of, and will always remain one of the ten most important songs to me. Will write more about why at some point)
8. Killing Moon

American States # 14 Utah - Camper Van Beethoven

May not be a definitive history of the state. Like a punch drunk Doors.

The Last Song on the Album # 27 - The Doors - LA Woman - Riders on the Storm

As good a way to sign off a record and a career as any. From Break on Through to this. The Doors knew how to bookend albums.

Song of the Day # 126 - Dusty Springfield

First song from Dusty in Memphis. Some way to start a record and a day.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Stories in Song # 3 Joni Mitchell

Worth playing for its beauty alone. But the lyrics are the stuff of great fiction.
'The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in '68,
And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark cafe
You laugh, he said you think you're immune, go look at your eyes
They're full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies, pretty lies
When you gonna realise they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies, just pretty lies

He put a quarter in the Wurlitzer, and he pushed
Three buttons and the thing began to whirr
And a bar maid came by in fishnet stockings and a bow tie
And she said "Drink up now it's gettin' on time to close."
"Richard, you haven't really changed," I said
It's just that now you're romanticizing some pain that's in your head
You got tombs in your eyes, but the songs
You punched are dreaming
Listen, they sing of love so sweet, love so sweet
When you gonna get yourself back on your feet?
Oh and love can be so sweet, love so sweet

Richard got married to a figure skater
And he bought her a dishwasher and a Coffee percolator
And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on
And all the house lights left up bright
I'm gonna blow this damn candle out
I don't want Nobody comin' over to my table
I got nothing to talk to anybody about
All good dreamers pass this way some day
Hidin' behind bottles in dark cafes
Dark cafes
Only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings
And fly away
Only a phase, these dark cafe days'
Mitchell (1971)

The Last Song on the Album # 26 - Stevie Wonder - Innervisions - He's Misstra Know-It-All

Seems like Soul Time at the moment. Weekend coming!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Song of the Day # 125 - The Capitols

In tribute to last night's Record Player at Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle where we had an evening of wonder listening to Aretha's I Never Loved a Man and Otis Blue. What's more my team won the quiz and so I'm now the proud possessor of three wonderful Aretha Franklin CDs. This was one song where we got the name of the track but not the artist. Now I know. 


This is fast becoming a Courtney Barnett blog. They're currently blazing a trail up and down the UK. Here's a picture of them playing.

Sun Ra

Sun Ra was born 100 years ago today. This is worthy of note! Here's an interesting article about his life and work.
Listening to him after work. Remarkable. His stuff just takes you to such a warm relaxed space!

The Last Song on the Album - # 25 Otis Redding - Otis Blue - You Don't Miss Your Water

Tonight's Record Player selection at the Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle along with Aretha's I Never Loved a Man. Pretty much a perfect combination. Listening to my vinyl version of Otis now. It's jumping. And I'm not happy!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Song of the Day # 124 Shoes

Powerpop band from Zion, Illinois. From their great 1977 album Black Vinyl Shoes. Small town and anonymous, but somehow special nevertheless. Perhaps because they are small town. Don't call them The Shoes!
"Much ink has been spilled debating the meaning of the band’s name. John absolutely insists that he was unaware of a CBS News interview from February 10, 1964, in which John Lennon, dismissing a similar question about their moniker, quipped, “It means Beatles, doesn’t it? But that’s just a name, you know, like ‘shoe’.” Paul McCartney immediately chimed in, “The Shoes, you see? We could have been called the Shoes for all you know.” But if the band’s name was intended to be an intentional evocation of that moment, there would certainly have been a “The,” which there isn’t. Asked why, John says, “I guess Shoes just sounded right…like ‘look at those cool shoes’ or ‘where are my shoes?’ … it was like Sparks or Wings or Faces or even Big Star….. The first time we heard the ‘the’ was from a writer…we winced and corrected him. ‘No, no…it’s just Shoes.’ … The Shoes just rubbed us wrong.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Animals

Fifty years ago this week The Animals recorded The House of the Rising Sun in one take. Here I am in Newcastle all this time later, having found my way from Zimbabwe where I started, one short of my own fiftieth. Gulp!

The Last Song on the Album # 24 Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band - Safe as Milk - Autumn's Child

I've just realised that all these years of playing Safe As Milk, I was playing it under the understanding was Side 2 was actually Side 1. So here's the record's last song not Electricity after all. And Yellow Brick Road is not the album's first song. Put's a whole new spin on it.

Song of the Day # 123 Ben Harper

From his fine 1997 album Will to Live

Joey Ramone

I have more time for this band with every passing day. When I was in my supposed prime in the mid-eighties they barely registered on my radar. I was so enthralled by Patti Smith, Television etc. and their obvious spawn The Smiths, R.E.M and so forth, Ramones didn't even figure. Now they do. It took the best part of twenty years to sink in.

The Last Song on the Record - # 23 The Violent Femmes - The Violent Femmes - Good Feeling

A very sweet ending to as turbulent a record of teenage angst and confused emotion as you could ever want to hear. One of the great debut albums. It came out at a similar time to R.E.M's Murmur and I remember it getting almost more attention with the UK media. Quite a cracking record! Listening to it right now takes me back to when I bought and listened to it first at 17 at the top of my parents' house in Teddington. Uncanny. Good Feeling is different in tone to anything that comes before. The rare moment of calm on the whole thing. Almost Jonathan Richman.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Song of the Day # 122 - Strawberry Switchblade

Early Orange Juice fans, they took their name from an Alan Horn fanzine intended to publicise that band which never actually came out. They signed to the Korova label, a subsidiary of WEA which also housed the Bunnymen. Had a Top Ten hit with Since Yesterday in 1985. That's a good enough song, but I prefer this, their first single. About lead singer Jill Bryson's agoraphobia. This came out in 1983 on Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant's 92 Happy Customers label

Vinyl Purchase # 12 Cate Le Bon - Mug Museum

Windows, Newcastle - 18th May 2014. About 15 quid. I've lost the receipt.
The second of the magnificent 3 I bought yesterday. I really doubted myself as I purchased this. My bank account was surely in deepest grief. I haven't been brave enough to check. I still had a week to go 'til payday. My hand was groaning, ok not literally, under the weight of two vinyl records I'd already gone out without the vaguest intention of buying, (so why in that case do I proceed like a sleepwalker to vinyl stores and stalls). Now I'm holding myself at ten past eleven the following evening from doing expressive, interpretive dance moves to an album that was surely never meant to be moved to except for vague swaying on the sofa. Open your heart to Cate Le Bon. She's nothing to do with Simon!

Songs About People # 3 - Joseph McCarthy - R.E.M.

About betrayal. And patriotism. The right sort. R.E.M. hitting the nail on the head. One of their very best songs too. Typewriter intro.

Jonathan Richman

Jonathan Richman's 1973 letter to Creem Magazine. Slightly reminiscent of the style of letters Morrissey wrote to the music press in the UK at round about the same time and later.Quite beautiful records both of course!

Getting it Wrong - Nick Kent on The Slits

Nick Kent's memoir, Apathy for the Devil is a strange read. Sometimes he gets things entirely right. Captain Beefheart, Lou Reed, Al Green, Stooges, Television. Sometimes he misses the target altogether.
'Those who gleefully recast the time as one long happy-go-lucky punky reggae party evidently weren't present at the same events that I beheld. Or maybe it's just that we come from such different perspectives. Take for example The Slits. Others viewed them as a bold and liberating feminist clarion call. I thought they were a bunch of talentless exhibitionists. Watching them in the early days shrieking and stumbling cack-handedly through their tuneless repertoire was as grim an experience as going to get my wisdom teeth removed by an incompetent dentist. How had this concept that you could legitimately stand onstage holding a musical instrument even though you couldn't actually play the thing taken root and why was no-one else viewing it as a musical version of the emperor's new clothes.' 
Because they were right and you were wrong Nick. Even those who weren't there.

Ziggy Pop

'DIANE: You're not getting any younger, Mark. The world is changing, music is changing, even drugs are changing. You can't stay in here all day dreaming about heroin and Ziggy Pop.
     RENTON: It's Iggy Pop.
     DIANE: Whatever. I mean, the guy's dead anyway.
    RENTON: Iggy Pop is not dead. He toured last year. Tommy went to see him.'

From Trainspotting of course. Iggy Pop is still not dead. Long may he endure.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Last Song on the Record # 22 Kate Bush - The Kick Inside - The Kick Inside

No I don't have tickets. And yes I am bitter!

Song of the Day # 121 - Peter & the Pirates

They may not be real pirates. Churned out some great songs a few years ago then folded and some of them are coming back in Teleman with a great sounding debut album to be released in a few weeks. This always reminds me of the sheer melodic energy of those early Teardrop Explodes singles.

Paul Simon

As a hat wearer myself I can't help but feel that Paul is letting the side down here.

Vinyl Purchases # 11 Randy Newman - Little Criminals

£5.00 Newcastle Quayside Market 18th May 2014
A beautiful, blindingly sunny and warm day. Bought three records, quaffed beer, read. All three albums seem like gems. The first listen through to this and it seems destined to go up there amongst my very favourites. I have a CD greatest hits of his but have barely listened to it. I'll listen to this. Clearly such a layered record in a similar way to Tom Waits early albums. The Warner Brothers label has those palm trees lining each side of the road on a sun drenched Californian avenue.

James Brown

Just listened to Iggy's outstanding radio programme on Sunday afternoon on BBC Six for Music where he selected this song and outlined a horrific story from Brown's youth related to white men blindfolding black youths and making them fight each other for their entertainment. These Battle Royals are very well documented by writers such as Ralph Ellison and Adrian Matejka amongst others. Here's Brown's account.
 "In a battle royal they blindfold you, tie one hand behind your back, out a boxing glove on your free hand, and shove you into a ring with five other kids in the same condition. You swing at anything that moves. I'd be out there stumbling around, swinging around, swinging wild, and hearing people laughing. I didn't know I was being exploited."

The Last Song on the Record # 21 The Psychedelic Furs - The Psychedelic Furs - Flowers

The Psychedelic Furs first album is a great, neglected record. A suburban dream of being The Velvet Underground. It's impossible to talk about it at all without mentioning The Velvet Underground. Not all of it works, sometimes it drones and not in a good way,  but there are a handful of truly exciting tracks. They are from Teddington in Middlesex which always endears them to me. I spent my mid to late teenage days there. This is where that sound comes from. Wanting to get out of this and to the heart of things.,-0.337685,3a,75y,45.2h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sLPsEt76I0UGEz-u7czCc8A!2e0

Great American Bands of the Eighties # 10 - The Meat Puppets

In 1985 R.E.M. made the cover of The NME for the first time for the release of their third album Fables of the Reconstruction. In the article writer Andy Gill classed them as one of the four most important American bands of the time at a point when there were a lot of great American bands. The others were Husker Du, The Replacements and The Meat Puppets. If memory serves me Sonic Youth didn't make the list. High praise for The Meat Puppets. They were the most eclectic of the bunch. I have a vinyl copy of their third Up on the Sun winging its way to me as we speak. This comes from their second II which some would say is their classic. Nirvana later covered two songs of this record. I don't like it all but love this!