Friday, October 31, 2014

31st October 1963 Johnny Marr

Two minutes forty five seconds!

Dinosaur Jr.

Instrumentals # 17 James Brown

This came into my head inexplicably on my way to work so it's going up here! Must be Friday.

Song of the Day # 286 Young Fathers

This lot just won The Mercury Prize ( a UK award for best album released during the year). It was the first I'd heard of them. Curious, I had a listen. I could have chosen virtually any one of the numerous tracks I listened to. Every one sounded completely different from the one before. The most brilliant, intuitive, original music. The one obvious reference point was Massive Attack. Not because they sounded like them though there are occasional, obvious traces in terms of spirit. But because they recall what it felt like to hear their brilliant records first. Here's Alex Petridis from The Guardian:
'the artists Young Fathers most obviously recall are Massive Attack. The comparison isn't so much a sonic one, although there's vague hint of Blue Lines about the half-whispered vocals of Just Another Bullet, and Hangman's increasingly clammy, claustrophobic atmosphere is the kind of mood that Tricky might have conjured into existence on Maxinquaye, albeit by a different method. It's more the sense that, like Massive Attack 25 years ago, Young Fathers have quietly constructed a strange and intoxicating musical universe that feels entirely their own, while no one else was paying attention.'

Thursday, October 30, 2014

30th October 2014 - Rumble in the Jungle

40 years ago today. A quite remarkable piece of sporting drama which my dad let me stay up and watch on our crummy black and white portable.

Songs About People # 61 Ferdinand De Saussure

A song about the Swiss semiotician and linguist. Just what the world needs. Nice tune too! The bass line is particularly great. Of course Saussure is rhymed with 'so sure'. But also, more unusually, 'bulldozer', 'composer', 'composure and 'Holland Dozier'.

Instrumentals # 17 Felt

I've posted a link to this before but it's worthy of repeated praise. A wonderful instrumental album from one of the most criminally underrated bands of the Eighties which I've just ordered, someone hopefully is in the process of packing and posting for me from a record shop in Germany. I'll treasure it for life!

The Gun Club

Song of the Day # 285 John Lennon

Not the biggest Lennon solo fan but I do like this.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

October 29th 1966 - ? & the Mysterians

The best Garage Punk record ever released was Number 1 in the States today in 1966.

Great Lines # 7 The Go-Betweens

'When the rain hit the roof. With the sound of a finished kiss. Like a lip lifted from a lip. I took the wrong road 'round.'
Grant McLennan must have been unbelievably pleased with himself when he wrote these lines. I thought about just quoting the above lines in this post but then looked at the whole lyric sheet and thought the whole thing just blindingly good, virtually every line deserved attention. I've just recently bought The Go-Betweens' boxset which should come to me at the beginning of next year. I bought it early so am hoping to get one of the 600 books from Grant's personal collection that will go out to the first 600 orders. Here's hoping! Sometimes you can't put a price on things like this.
'A trader in furs living in exile
Boy, what a kook, look at that passport
Stale bread and paper without privilege
If you live here learn the language
When the rain hit the roof
With the sound of a finished kiss
Like a lip lifted from a lip
I took the wrong road 'round
A room in a lighthouse near the park
The ghosts in the next room hear you cough
Time drags on Sundays spent in Mayfair
With all your riches, why aren't you there?
Well, the wind acts like a magnet
And pulls the leaf from the tree
And the town's lost its breath
I took the wrong road 'round
Handsome is good, pretty is better
What was that phrase, grace under pressure?
Blind by the light bulb, blood to the bank
Lost all yours letters when the ship sank
In the disjointed breaking light
The soft blue approach of the water
Makes a sound you won't forget
I took the wrong road 'round
Stranded at low-tide where the river bends
Wouldn't you know it? That's how life ends
Lucky at cards, that's an old lie
Lucky in love, that's how life ends
Well, the turncoats turned around
When they heard the sound of the bell
Dropped their coins into the well
I took the wrong road 'round
Started out Oliver, ended up Fagin
Don't you worry, it's my problem
What's my name, what's my number?
I'm the lonely one
It's just at the end of the day
When the light makes its slow move away
That I know all I can say is
I took the wrong road 'round.'
Grant McLennan

Song of the Day # 284 The Beta Band

My mind's obviously in the Nineties at the minute. I thought of this completely out of the blue a few minutes ago. Haven't heard it for years. Still sounds as extraordinary and un-British as it did all those years back. Six minutes plus and not a moment wasted. Is it on my local's jukebox? Probably not. But if it is, it's going on!

East Brunswick All Girls Choir - Aeroflot

East Brunswick All Girls Choir have already had a song of the day so they can't have another one. But they've definitely got something. Here's a new one from them. And they know how to make videos. Aeroflot was also certainly a song title waiting to be claimed. This guy's voice is not for everyone. 'Overwrought' is an adjective that comes to mind. It was touch and go for me at points during this one. But the sheer quality of the playing pulled it through.

Numbers - 13

This, and everything else on Big Star's #1 Record only really grabbed the attention of music journalists when it came out in 1972. But it stands toe to toe with anything released at that time. While sounding like none of it. Which may go some way to explaining why it didn't sell. Another of those records I can remember clearly hearing for the first time. At my sister's flat in Brighton. In 1991 I'd guess. It wasn't difficult to understand why such a myth had grown around them.

The Modern Lovers

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Songs Heard on the Radio # 13 Sun Ra

Great to hear this coming out of your radio last thing before turning in.

October 28th 1958 Jim Reid

Birthday, today.

Subway Sect

The artwork for Vic Godard & Subway Sect records and gigs is consistently wonderful.

What I Did Yesterday! The Black Lips

I think very highly of The Black Lips. More so after seeing them live for the first time last night. They're the essence of Rock and Roll. Kicked out of High School for being subversive, lowlife 'subculture danger'. What more could you want? I only chanced upon them about six months back to discover they'd been around for ten years and released seven albums during that time. Having bought and listened it their last couple of records I was pleased to see them coming to Newcastle but a bit surprised to find them playing The Cluny, a local venue with a capacity of less than a couple of hundred. They deserve a lot better. But from a punter's viewpoint of course the best possible place to see them.

I think they're a very smart band. Smart / dumb in the best possible way. The same way as The Ramones and The Cramps were. With that same gut level feel and love from where it all first came from and why it will always mean something. A band where every member writes and sings. Where every night on stage needs to matter. Rock and Roll as a calling rather than a career 

And I spoke very briefly to a couple of them. Founder members, drummer Joe Bradley and bassist Jared Swiley who were outside taking the air and having a cigarette before they played. I asked them their opinion of R.E.M. ,(heroes of mine from my youth), as both bands hail from Georgia and was pleased to get a fairly positive response and an anecdote about the band doing Lynyrd Skynyrd cover versions in their early days. Nice guys!

They played a couple of Lou Reed records just before they came onstage. It was the anniversary of his death. They understand. And then they played a great set. I'm not too young but they made me feel younger. I loved it. If you get the chance see them! There aren't many bands like this around anymore. Spread the word. Three gigs in 2014, I must be slowing down but all winners. First Courtney Barnett then The Sonics now this. They'd make the triple bill from heaven. Thanks to Michael for accompanying me and taking the photos.


Song of the Day # 283 Jimmy Cliff

Speaks for itself.

Sonic Youth


Monday, October 27, 2014

October 27th 2013 Lou Reed

Lou died a year ago today.

Song of the Day # 282 Steely Dan

'They have soul and fire, but leave nothing to chance, with superb production and songs.' Melody Maker review, April 1974
 Steely Dan wiped the floor with pretty much everything around them  in the early Seventies. While so many others became indulgent and introspective, they took another line completely and decided to document the bleak, seedy and desperate Nixon's America they saw around them. And wrote some pretty wonderful pop songs while they were at it. I bought their third album Pretzel Logic at the weekend and it's a wonderful record. This gem is almost thrown away, second song from the end of the second side, disproving Robert Forster's otherwise robust theory that the track that occupies this place on a record is always the worst on any album. It's done and dusted within three minutes. The description genius is not far off.
'Three weight ounce pure golden ring no precious stone
Five nights without a bite
No place to lay his head
And if nobody takes him in
'He'll soon be dead
On the street he spied my face I heard him hail
In our plot of frozen space he told his tale
Poor man, he showed his hand
So righteous was his need
And me so wise I bought his prize
For chicken feed

Newfound cash soon begs to smash a state of mind
Close inspection fast revealed his favorite kind
Poor kid, he overdid
Embraced the spreading haze
And while he sighed his body died
In fifteen ways

When I heard I grabbed a cab to where he lay
'Round his arm the plastic tag read D.O.A.
Yes Jack, I gave it back
The ring I could not own
Now come my friend I'll take your hand.'
And lead you home '

The Yardbirds

Sunday, October 26, 2014

October 26th 1951 Bootsy Collins

Bootsy's birthday!

The Seeds

Song of the Day # 281 ABBA

Now this is memory. Not the song so much but ABBA in general. It was virtually the only example of contemporary pop music in the house when I was growing up. Now, almost forty years on, things have come full circle and pretty much everyone is lining up to proclaim their greatness. Maybe my mum and dad were onto something. Watched a programme on Friday where John Grant was saying this was one of the best records ever made. John Lennon, Pete Townshend and Ray Davies were also fans and really they should know. Of course Agnetha's delivery and just the expression on her face as she sings the song are an incredible part of its appeal and resonance. Every time I see a video of the group from this phase of their career it takes me back to falling in love for the first time with a Danish girl when I was 18, staying and working at the hotel below in Locarno, Switzerland on the shores of Lake Maggiore. Nothing came of it. Which makes the whole experience a very pure memory somehow. Of course neither she nor any of the other Scandinavian girls I worked with there liked ABBA at all. I'd still stick by my parents' judgement.

Things I've Found on my Local's Jukebox # 38 The Rolling Stones

 B-Side to Jumping Jack Flash and one of their great obscure tracks.  An early inspiration for Johnny Marr. Not listed here but a great page detailing other songs that influenced his playing style.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

October 25th 1951 - Richard Lloyd

Richard Lloyd's birthday today. I think this is the song on Marquee Moon he had the biggest part writing.

Album Review # 34 The Allah-Las - Worship The Sun


'And I know where I belong. Cause I worship the sun.'
I've never been to California where The Allah-Las hail from. I didn't come of age in the sixties and neither did they. They just make records now that sound like they did. But I do have evocative memories and associations with the time and its music, just as they do. Primarily this. In my first year at university, almost thirty years back,  most Thursday nights, myself and like-minded friends in my block corridor would troop from our halls into Norwich, a trek of a couple of miles if I remember rightly. The object of our pilgrimage was a rundown nightclub in Magdalen Street called Santana's. Thursday night was Sixties Night. It wasn't much to write home about but had some of the inexplicable dark and bleak mystique that holds some kind of spell over your sensibilities when you're turning twenty.
 Invariably when we arrived there were a couple of familiar figures, on the blackened dancefloor. Both were fellow students. One was someone who I came to make into a firm and lifelong friend named Andy who was known, (though he wouldn't and probably won't thank me for broadcasting the fact), as Andy the Hippie due mainly to his shoulder length hair, not a common phenomenon amongst student circles at the time. We later got arrested together in the middle of our first year which only served to cement the bond of friendship, (which has now lasted the best part of thirty years), along with a shared regard for The Velvet Underground and The Doors.
The other was a fat and rather unpleasant fellow named Gavin. Generally unwashed and invariably bedecked in large, loud paisley shirts. The one I remember was fluorescent pink, flaked in black. He would lean vaguely menacingly across the dancefloor at me as I came to greet him, shake his horrid bleached locks, still black at the roots and slur blearily, 'I've just had ten pints and I'm completely pissed.' Later in the year he almost burned his university room down when he left candles burning. Then he dropped out. Oh Gavin. What became of you?
Even this inevitable moment failed to dim Santana's appeal for me. We were there most Thursday evenings for my first two terms. I'd appreciate the chance of one more but the club is long gone. The Sixties was undergoing an unlikely renaissance at this point in the mid-Eighties. Pretty much banished to the margins, apart from Ska, Soul, The Velvets, Stooges and Doors, by the Punk and Post-Punk years, The Smiths and R.E.M. had made it respectable to delve again through these years and admit to its influence.
In R.E.M's wake a group of vaguely similar bands came to the British shores, all of them awash with Sixties reference points: The Dream Syndicate, the Rain Parade, Green On Red, the Long Ryders and True West amongst others who all  tended to be grouped under the Paisley Underground moniker, reasonably enough because they all first came to public attention playing together. None of them really hit critical mass or quite deserved to as R.E.M. did, but they found favour, with Andy and myself amongst others, and for a couple of years they made The Byrds, The Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Buffalo Springfield and Creedence, vaguely respectable names to drop. When, inevitably, the Paisley Underground bands fell from grace, Creation Records, Primal Scream, The Stone Roses, The Happy Mondays and others picked up the baton and ran.
 This Tuesday morning I was reminded of all this while searching around for something to listen to while I planned my lesson. I thought of the Stone Roses first record which I haven't listened to for a long time, it being one of a number of prized albums that have gone missing over the years during my travels. It's a great record undeniably but I found after a few songs on Tuesday, its appeal dimmed and I'd had enough. If you've lived in the UK over the past couple of decades, that record more than almost any other has been played to death. On the radio, on pub jukeboxes, on the TV, exploited not least by the band themselves who recently reformed, still largely on the back of it I suspect to top up their pension funds. They've clearly not quite recovered from making it themselves. So I chose to listen to this instead. The second album by The Allah-Las. Just recently released though you wouldn't think it from listening to it.  I got sufficient pleasure from the listening experience that at the end of day I went and bought it.
When I came to buy the album that afternoon I knew already that it wasn't the best option on the stacks in front of me. There was a Mose Allison record there, amongst others, which I was sure outclassed it in objective terms in almost every respect. This didn't lessen my resolve however. This was the one I wanted. I'm long past the point of buying things to impress my peers. I was after something which I knew would set off pleasant, relaxed well being within me when I listened to it and was already sure that this ticked off the required boxes. Mose Allison can wait.
The Allah-Las might as well be a Paisley Underground group. Their outlook is pretty much the same, filtered through thirty more years of music, almost exclusively in their case on white indie bands drawing from the same well of influences. From the beautifully designed sleeve which screams California at you, this is where the band are from, to the opening bars of the album's first track where it seems certain that the band are going to break into Love's Alone Again Or at any moment.
They don't. But they've already set down their marker. Some of the Paisley Underground bands owed something to Punk as do similarly minded contemporary American bands like The Black Lips and The Grumblers. The Allah-Las owe nothing to Punk. Their debt is to Sixties guitar driven pop, twangy instrumental music and light rock,(the album never gets too heavy, it's far too laid back for that). And in addition bands like Felt, early Primal Scream and yes The Stone Roses two records. Bands that had similar influences, goals and outlooks to The Allah-Las themselves.
Felt are a particular valid reference point. I've been listening to them quite a bit recently. They're a band who never got their due in their day but whose fingerprints can be heard all over all kinds of records made by introspective, independent guitar bands in the decades since. Felt's love of pop music and melody was clear for all to see as were the inbuilt limitations of their horizons and their potential commercial appeal. Both bands' music seems to emerge from an introspective bubble of their own making. Felt were destined never to trouble the charts and the same holds true for The Allah-Las though they seem happier to dwell within the margins of cult obscurity. Lawrence of Felt seemed sure that he was going to be a big star. The influence of Felt here is clear and heartfelt. The album itself surely take its name from the band's early classic I Worship The Sun. This was dreamed up in English Midland's gloom but it's particularly apt to hear it transposed to California's eternal sunshine.
All four band members write and sing lead across the record. It's a noble, democratic principle but it all leads to a variability in quality across the album. Occasionally it's a slightly frustrating listen as you cry out at sloppy laid back playing or wilfully out of tune vocals that you feel could easily have been tweaked and fine tuned to take the band onto a higher plain. To allow them to compete. This however, is slightly denying the record's ambition and the band's driving ethos. It seems they care most about not seeming to care. And I can't really find fault in that.
So Worship The Sun is an undemanding, relaxed and it has to be said, a pleasant listen. I'm glad I bought it, though there's a nagging itch under my skin telling me that the Mose Allison record still nestled on the rack at HMV is superior in every respect objectively speaking. It's a slightly confused incoherent listen at times. It speaks more clearly of Spotify, ipod culture than the vinyl culture of the Sixties. It's quite telling that all four band members used previously to work in record shops and they seem just the types who would interrupt a track midway through and reach for something else saying, 'Hey listen to this.'
Halfway through the record's second side comes the album's title song and it's a very odd experience listening to it. It seems that the Bobby Gillespie of 1986 has been transported forward in time  and stepped up to the mic in his Chelsea boots, leather troosers, polka dot shirt and Byrds fringe to intone once more for the indie faithful. I have to say I enjoyed  the moment thoroughly. It's a faultless recreation of indie underachievement. I think it's the albums most evocative song.
Never having been to California, only having experienced it through the refracted lens of books and records I realise I'm at something of a loss to do Worship The Sun complete justice so I'm grateful for this perspective from someone who probably has and is more aware of the cultural and geographical reference points it's grounded in.
'Allah-Las’ second album, Worship The Sun, expands on the sound established by their maiden effort, honing their fusion of West Coast garage rock and roll, Latin percussion and electric folk. As richly textured and timeless as a Southern California beach break, the songs are evocative of Los Angeles’ storied past. Beatniks, artists, surfers, nomads. Remnants of a bygone Sunset Strip.  Golden tans and cosmic sunsets. One can feel the warmth of the sun, but the band deftly avoids the kitsch so often indulged by lovers of these things. Hints of Byrds, Love, Felt, and those who follow are threaded into the tapestry.

LA’s seminal Ferus Gallery – the home of Wallace Berman, Ed Kienholz, Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston – is paid homage in an eponymous instrumental, broadening the scope beyond mere sea, surf, and sand. The lyrics reveal a new maturity; reflections of a band that has grown together through experiences on the road and in the studio. Worship The Sun is at once the perfect soundtrack for the greatest surf film never made and for a golden hour drive through Topanga Canyon. Yet, while grounded in the Southern California experience, the appeal of the album is not limited by locale. It is a teenage symphony to the sun, for all those who know its grace.'

So Worship The Sun evokes a condition where the waves are always lapping at the shores of golden Californian beaches. Where open topped sports cars are always winding round its hills. Where pop songs are always accompanied by twanging, echoey guitars and 'ba ba' backing vocals. Where the point of the exercise is in not being seen to try too hard. A place peopled by girls called Julie Anne and Susie Lou, the best girls on the block, who you're going to make yours. Sounds and words that take you to other places in your record collection, other memories.  And for me where it's always Sixties Night at Santana's. The band's third album will be out in a couple of years and I doubt very much whether it will stray far from this formula. It clearly works for them. I'm not sure I'll buy it. I have the Allah-Las album I need to achieve the particular kind of relaxed, reflective state they cater for. It's the sixties refracted, skilfully and knowingly through the eighties and I have little doubt that bands will emerge in twenty years time who list the Allah-Las as formative influences alongside Felt and Love. This stuff will never go away, any more than those waves lapping against Californian shores will. 

The B52s


Song(s) of the Day # 280 Smoke Fairies

My latest discovery. Listened to them by chance yesterday and then couldn't stop. So found it difficult to choose between individual songs so I'm posting a few of them. Remarkable, original talents. Kate Bush of course comes to mind. But only in the sense of personal vision. Possibly the best thing ever to come out of Chichester.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Things I've Found on my Local's Jukebox # 38 Donald Fagen

From surely one of the best produced albums ever made.

Animals # 30 Hedgehog

'It's no fun. It's no fun. Reading fortune cookies to yourself. Are you a fox or a hedgehog? Do you care anymore?'
I'm so glad to put this series to sleep. It never was any good. Still it ends with a pretty reasonable song off a very good album, Penthouse by Luna. Sure they like The Velvet Underground but that's one of numerous points in their favour. Also, a tribute to one of the greats of the natural world.

Songs Heard on The Radio # 12 Delta 5

'Can I have a taste of your ice cream? Can I lick the crumbs from your table? Can I interfere in your crisis? No. Mind your own business.'
Nothing quite like having angry, female fronted British independent groups from the early 80s shouting out at you from your radio almost 35 years later.

Josef K

Song of the Day # 278 Le Roux

I surprise myself by choosing this. At my time in life I shouldn't really be trying to get with the herd. But it, and the album it comes from Trouble in Paradise sound very interesting. Possibly the reason I like it is that it makes no conscious attempt to sound 'modern', instead grounding itself very much in the early eighties in the mode of those great early Grace Jones, Heaven 17 and Human League records. It's also not a bad way to start a day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Elliott Smith - Ten Of The Best

While skirting around this morning for something to post related to today I found that Elliott Smith died eleven years ago. It knocked me back a fair bit just to think about it. It's a particularly poignant death and loss for anybody who was touched in any way by his music. He produced an incredibly resonant body of work as I discovered anew when trying to decide on what to post here. This is the merest tip of a remarkable iceberg. I pretty much picked his best known songs and a handful of lesser known things. They're not in any order. I could easily have chosen any other number of others. Perhaps that's for this time next year.
1. Waltz # 2
2. Division Day
3. Ballad Of Big Nothing
4. Junk Bond Trader
5. Needle In The Hay
6. Let's Get Lost
7. Miss Misery
8. St Ides Heaven
9. Between The Bars
10. Roman Candle
Here's a Top 100 for the interested.