Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dust & Grooves

A wonderful vinyl focused website. Recommended.

Gypsies of Bohemia

This takes me back to Katowice, Poland in 2002 and a late friend of mine, Ollie's pub Limerick's. It didn't sound quite like this though. Here's a picture of myself with the man.

February 28th 1998 Cornershop

Cornershop went to Number 1 in the UK. I had drunks outside my window at the University of Greenwich singing 'Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow' round about this time. A very odd moment in time. 

Song of the Day # 406 The Bronzettes

A spot of quality Northern Soul.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Leonard Nimoy

Instrumentals # 21 The Quests

Now we're talking. If you have to sign off from work on a Friday afternoon and go down the pub you might as well do so to the sound of Singapore's Sixties response to The Shadows.


Some backstory behind the best band in the world today.

Songs Heard on the Radio # 42 The Dillards

Short, sweet 1965 single.

Song(s) of the Day # 405 Houndstooth

'The Portland (OR) band Houndstooth have just released their first album, Ride Out The Dark, and through our jeweler’s loupe, we spy a gem.  It captures that magic moment in 1966 when folk bands all went electric and their ace guitarists began noodling at length, as the female vocalist swayed at the front of the stage.  Or maybe it captures that magic moment in 1976 when Richard Hell had left Television and some hipper-than-thou Downtown rock crits put ‘em down as  a Southern boogie band, just because Verlaine and Lloyd liked stretching out the songs with gorgeous psyche fretboard wandering.'

'They can do no wrong.'
Marc Riley about Houndstooth, February 2015

Who's the best band in the World? It's a meaningless question at this point in time. Once, heading back into increasingly distant memory it was a conversation that could be had. It was The Beatles or the Stones. After that The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan & The Band, Sly & the Family Stone, The James Brown Band, The Stooges, Creedence and Led Zep had their turn. Then perhaps it was David Bowie and his Spiders. Roxy. Then The Wailers, The Pistols, The Clash or The Ramones. Throughout the Eighties The Smiths or R.E.M. staked a claim. Public Enemy perhaps. No mention of U2 or Guns & Roses here. As the Eighties became the Nineties, Nirvana were perhaps the last band who might have achieved some kind of global consensus. Soon afterwards, Oasis brought the whole question into deep disrepute by threatening to be being sued and having to reach settlement, not with The Beatles who they shamelessly and self-confessedly aped and stole from, but with The Rutles. Since then I don't think the question could be honestly asked, never mind properly answered.

I first heard Houndstooth two nights ago on the radio. They're a truly small time band out of Portland Oregon where every other decent group seems to emerge out of  at this point in time if they're not from Austin, Texas or Australia. Two of Houndstooth actually hailed originally from Austin before relocating to Portland which seems to have become the capital of 'Cool America' for some while now. They certainly have some claim to attention right now as they move from Album One to Album Two.

Houndstooth take their name from a duotone textile pattern. Bands have to scrape around somewhat when naming themselves nowadays. They've moved into textiles and fonts as we become ever more self-referential and shift towards some impenetrable, internal area. But this is a group of people who sound deeply immersed and aware of the lure of the open, American highway. They have a truly remarkable, virtuoso guitarist in John Gnorski who grabs each song and makes it sing at some point during its duration. They also have a deeply thoughtful singer in Katie Bernstein who drops great lines everywhere that resonate and ripple outwards and inwards in pretty much everything they play. I've seen her writing compared to Alice Munro short stories on the net today and that makes some sense to me. The rest of the band play their part fully though from what I've heard Gnorski and Bernstein are the driving force behind whatever's happening in Houndstooth. Listen to the songs here. And this, my own personal favourite, the opening cut from said, forthcoming record that doesn't as yet have a direct link on YouTube but should soon at which point I'll post it again. You'll be able to hear echoes of all kinds of favourite things from your collection but unlike so much that's around now, they're ploughing their own furrow.

As I said they're currently underway from their first long-playing record to their second. I was catching up on their first album, 2013's Ride Out The Dark at work yesterday. Listened to it twice, when it paid rich dividends and will give it further spins in the day ahead. Their next record, No News From Home will be out at the end of March. Can't wait to hear and purchase that. At which point I trust and hope that they will come on tour and visit Newcastle where I'll be able to go and see them. They currently have 1,777 likes on Facebook. They'll soon have more. They might have a while to go before they edge ahead of their namesake material design in terms of hits on a Google search but from that point on nothing should stop them. Houndstooth are for today the best band in the World, at least the one I inhabit. Feel free to listen and disagree.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Simple Minds

When I was sixteen I used to go back home after school and listen to New Gold Dream with my parents Fidelity speakers clasped to my ears. A truly awe-inspiring album. It still stands up. From a Guardian article linked to the Rocks Back Pages website.

Simple Minds' Jim Kerr: 'I’d rather see De Niro than David Bowie or David Byrne'

Simple Minds’ album Sparkle in the Rain gets a reissue next month, so let’s revisit a Smash Hits article from September 1982: Jim Kerr’s Glittering Dream – now resurrected courtesy of Rock’s Backpages
Simple Minds
‘You really need courage to dream’ … Simple Minds, looking a bit cold. Photograph: Virginia Turbett/Redferns
Jim Kerr and I have just started talking over a cup of tea in London’s Hyde Park, when a girl comes rushing up.
“Excuse me. Me and my friends have had a bet. I reckon you’re from Ultravox and they don’t. Are you?”
“Yeah I am,” Jim replies.
“Can I have your autograph then, please?”
“No, I’m not really.” Jim points at me. “He is, though.”
The girl looks uncertainly between us. “Can I have both your autographs then, please?”
“Actually,” Jim continues, “I’m from Roxy Music.”
Deciding she’s not going to get any sense out of this mystery man, the girl shakes her head and rejoins her friends. She knows she’s seen him somewhere
“It’s not the first time that’s happened,” Jim chuckles. His parents once saw Ultravox’s Billy Currie on Whistle Test and were convinced it was their son. Now you come to mention it, the resemblance is striking.

Jim’s in quite a good mood this sunny afternoon, despite having spent all morning in the bath doing phone interviews for Australian magazines. Simple Minds are going to tour there shortly. Before that, they’re visiting Finland and afterwards, hopefully, India.
They’ve just finished work on their fifth album, New Gold Dream, from which the single Glittering Prize is taken. Jim’s proud of it. “I wouldn’t knock the last two albums, but they have got one atmosphere all the way through. With this one we’ve nine or ten songs that stand up on their own. I’d also like to think that we’ve got songs that would sound good on the radio or in a disco or on a Walkman. I think it’s important that it works on different levels.”
Jim likes the term “ambient dance music” that I come up with to describe their recent material, and he’s pleased that I spot certain rhythmic similarities with American avant-garde composer Philip Glass. Simple Minds listen to him a lot, apparently, and both John Leckie – one of their earlier producers – and the current man at the controls, Pete Walsh, are “Philip Glass freaks”.
“But we’re nowhere near as technical as we often get credited for. All the rhythm patterns come from playing about. When something happens we just tape it and it becomes the seeds of a song.”
They’ve also been making a couple of videos to tide British audiences over in their absence. “We’re learning with videos, but there’s still quite a lot of paranoia because of the cost involved and because it’s still a fairly young thing. It’s come so far so soon, and already it’s cliche-ridden.”
Jim sighs. He’s been working hard recently. “This year’s gone so fast! Every day has just whizzed past. I can’t believe it’s September already. Is it September? [He glances out over the park.] I have to look at the trees to tell. But I don’t know, for years we seem to have been planting seeds, and now it’s all coming right up – here, in Europe, Canada, Australia – and suddenly there’s a million and one things to do.”
Jim Kerr’s a thoughtful, likable bloke. He’s a bit of a dreamer, as he’d be the first to admit, and sees nothing wrong with that. He’s also a realist who finds the world endlessly fascinating and is happy to talk about any and every subject.
Our conversation in the sun goes on for about two hours, taking in everything from riots and assassinations to movies and moving about. Here are some excerpts:
Do you think you’ll ever reach a point where you’d feel you could retire?
“I don’t think so. It’s all day-to-day, really. Sometimes I’m like the most selfish man in the world. I want everything … everything material. Other days I might wish I had everything just so I could give it away.”
You seem to enjoy travelling.
“Yeah, I do. I love it. People say you must get tired of touring, but there’s a lot of educational things you can get out of it if you keep your ears and eyes open. I go out on my own when we’re abroad and if anyone asks what I do I never say I’m in a band. Anything but that. You can make things up. People you meet in bars can turn out to be the greatest philosophers in the world.
“Often we’ve been in cities where there’ve been great events. We were in New York when Reagan was shot. We were also in the States when the hostages came back. These are really exciting times we live in. It was the same all through Europe: turmoil everywhere. I’m fascinated by it all.
“I still get this incredible rush when I cross borders. Travelling by car I get into thinking about all kinds of things. If I see a house I think about what the person who built it might have been like, what his life was, or what it might have been like, and how it would have been staying there 20 or 30 years ago. Interesting thoughts and pictures happen, and I write them down.”
Do you go home often?
“If I have the time. I haven’t been there this year since Easter. But we were playing in Germany a few months ago and I took my dad out there for a few days. It was great. He didn’t blink an eyelid at some of the things that were going on.
“I like to keep in touch because this thing could stop next year, you never know, and it’s nice to know I could go back there. I phone them a lot, and they let me know what’s going on. My mother works in a sweet shop and all the school kids come in and tell her what they think of the new record.
“My dad works on building sites. Most of the band did that too at the start, to get money to buy equipment. At that time there was a lot of work in Glasgow.
“We’ve always had an art school tag, which I didn’t mind but I thought was really funny. I don’t even think there’s an art school in Glasgow. If there is they certainly wouldn’t have us.
“It’s funny. In Glasgow there’s a lot of unemployment. Now I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but people are fed up because they haven’t any money, but there aren’t many people saying they wished the factories or shipyards would open up again. Everyone wants to do something with a bit more self-expression. That’s great, but I don’t know if it can work really …”
“Only movies. I value seeing movies and actors more than I value listening to albums or other bands. I love people like Jack Nicholson and Robert De Niro. I’d rather go and see De Niro than I would David Bowie or David Byrne, to be honest. When people ask me about my influences, I can’t talk about musical ones unless I mention films as well.”
What’s Glittering Prize about?
“It’s about getting a glimpse of something and going out on a chase for it against all the odds. If you’re after something, or something’s really beckoning, just go for it. Sometimes I’m not sure what a lot of our songs are about. I’m not sure what I’m searching for. Is it a theory? Is it a person? Is it a god? Is it a new pair of shoes?”
Do you meet many other people in bands?
“I never used to, and I didn’t really like it when people started talking shop. But this year, we’ve met a lot of bands and done a lot of talking. It’s good. There’s been no snobbery or bitching. It’s all people our age, from the Martin Frys to the Julian Copes, and although we’re all doing different things, our backgrounds are almost identical. You talk about favourite albums and favourite films, and it all links up.
“There’s a new realism just now in the pop world. I hope it gets even more realistic as it goes on. I don’t mean everybody wants to be like the man in the street – it’s always good to have oddballs around – but if you sit in our hotel and listen to bands talking, it’s like being in a band is a respectable profession these days. When kids go up to their parents and say ‘I want to be in a band’, their parents should say, ‘Why, son, that’s great!’”
Would you describe yourself as a dreamer?
“Yeah. There’s a line in the film Fitzcarraldo: ‘Only dreamers can move mountains.’ I thought that was great. Dreamers have got a bad reputation, people say, ‘He’s a dreamer, he’ll never do anything.’ You really need courage to dream.”
Where would you like to be by the time you’re 40?
“I really don’t know. It’s taken us quite a time to get where we are now, and in the meantime so many young faces have come, had hits, and gone. We’re really wary of that. On the one hand we do want all that can come, but on the other I’m not sure about the duties of being a so-called public figure. I’d like to be just a bit more private about it. I haven’t got a flat or a girlfriend right now because I keep thinking if I do then I’ll bland out and get really settled and it’ll show in what I do. I’m scared of that.
“I’m really glad we’ve got the nervous energy and urgency we’ve got now. I still feel there’s a lot of confusion inside me – healthy confusion. If I see signs of that burning out, then I’ll start looking at the future and what I’m going to do. You know, in three years we’ve done five albums – six if you count the compilation. In a few years it’ll be ten. It makes us sound like Genesis or someone.”
As Jim chuckles quietly to himself over that comparison, the band of autograph hunters who made our acquaintance earlier get up to go.
“Bye-ee!” they chorus.
“See you,” says Jim, and then calls after them: “Vienna!”
Sooner or later, they’ll realise who they were talking to.

© Dave Rimmer, 1982

Takuya Kuroda

Here's a tip from my Jazz, Soul and Funk loving colleague and friend Joe. Came out last year on Blue Note and I like it.

February 26th 1932 Johnny Cash

It's Johnny Cash's birthday. This still seems important. Here he is talking about Beck. Passing on the torch!

Songs About People # 79 Paul Verlaine

'Paul Verlaine' rhymes with 'porcelain'. 'Day' rhymes with 'alleyway'. At least it does here. In a 2010 album track by a Zombies indebted London based band. Pass the absinthe!

Song of the Day # 404 Moon Duo

Actually now a trio. Like so many great bands just now they hail from Portland Oregon. They wear their influences on their sleeve. This is part late phase Velvet Underground, part Modern Lovers, part Suicide, part Neu and sounds just great for it. From their latest album.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Beck and Thurston Moore from MTV, 1994

An incredibly affected interview from one hipster to another.

Songs Heard on the Radio # 41 Dusty Springfield

A quite beautiful take on Rod McKuen's translation of Brel's original. Good old Marc Riley!

Roxy Music

Nice Top 10 selection by The Guardian from their early phase. Personally I would like to have seen Ladytron, 2HB and Beauty Queen amongst the list.

Roxy Music: 10 of the best

There are two Roxy Musics – and our 10 deals only with the first, those abrasive musical insurgents, not the smooth balladeers of later years
Roxy Music
Roxy Music … Modelling M&S’s ‘glam rock art student’ fashions, 1972. Photograph: Brian Cooke/Redferns

1 Re-make/Re-model

As mission statements go, the very first Roxy Music song on their self-titled debut album couldn’t be any more effusive or less idiosyncratic. Not since the Jimi Hendrix Experience had any one band sounded this good playing over one another in an almost competitive manner, though the glaring difference was that Hendrix’s trio were virtuosos to a man. Aside from steady rhythm powerhouse Paul Thompson, it’s fair to say the Roxy of 1972 were musicians finding their way, and Brian Eno on the VCS3 synth notoriously couldn’t really play a note (he still can’t, not that that’s hurt his career any). The gloriously egalitarian nature of pop means ability can come in a variety of different guises, and County Durham’s Bryan Ferry, with his trembling voice, turned apparent shortcomings into strengths. He also approached the serious art of songwriting with a dadaist playfulness, in opposition to the prevailing trend in the early 70s of earnest confessional singer/songwriters. Bryan also had a lovely head of hair, and still does. Re-make/Re-model is a relentless, pulverising, sonic car crash of a song, and one of the cars in the pile up bears the number plate “CPL 593H” (sung repeatedly as the song’s only chorus), apparently driven by a beautiful woman Ferry noticed in the rear-view mirror on the way to the studio. The outro features a post-modernist smash and grab, the band chopping up bits of Richard Wagner, Duane Eddy and the Beatles and mixing them all together in their own irreverent musical scrapbook.

2 Virginia Plain

What a difference a couple of months can make. The first album unexpectedly climbed as high as No 10 in the UK charts, and then out of nowhere appeared the single Virginia Plain, fully formed and swaggering, peacock-like, somehow sounding light years ahead of its nine predecessors. If the first album is a triumph of will and dilettantism, then Virginia Plain is a genuine slab of pop alchemy: cool, catchy and cutting-edge as hell, with an undercurrent of exoticism and sexual adventure. With its staccato keys, thrilling stop/start motion and noises from the future, it is suave to the point of decadent, sweeping you off your feet and flying you down to Rio. “We haven’t got any further than this; it’s a disgrace,” Brian Eno commented in reference to the Walker Brothers’ 1978 album Nite Flights, when filmed for the Scott Walker: 30 Century Man documentary in 2006, and it’s hard not to feel similar sentiments about Virginia Plain, released a whole six years earlier. Mine the annals of music history if you will, but you’ll be hard pressed to find another compact three minutes of pop more perfect than Roxy’s first single proper.

3 Do the Strand

Roxy Music kicked off their masterly For Your Pleasure album with the ebullient Do the Strand, a song about a made-up dance craze that tipped a chapeau to the fashionable London thoroughfare of the same name. Ferry’s words are daringly dandyish and frivolous, as he throws references aplenty from La Goulue (the French Can-can dancer) to Nijinsky (the Russian ballet dancer), artworks such as Guernica and the Mona Lisa, and even a witty play on words involving King Louis XVI (“Louis Seize he prefer laissez-faire le Strand”). His confidence as a lyricist was exploding as he became ever more tongue-tied and shifty in interviews, a problem compounded by Eno’s charisma and genius gift for the soundbite. There’s little doubt that Ferry was also cheekily referencing the “you’re never alone with a Strand” cigarette slogan. The black-and-white advert featured a companionless chap taking succour from a fag on a wet London street; famously the Lonely Man Theme by Cliff Adams charted, while sales of Strand cigarettes plummeted and the brand was soon taken off the market. Themes of desolation are explored throughout For Your Pleasure, as well as companionship of a more risque nature, as we’ll see from our next song.

4 In Every Dream Home a Heartache

Ferry studied fine art at Newcastle University, and in 1964 his lecturer for one year was the pop artist Richard Hamilton, an influence that cannot be underplayed in regard to early Roxy Music; Hamilton used to joke Ferry was his “greatest creation”. There’s little doubt that Hamilton’s actual most famous work, Just What Is It About Today’s Homes That Makes Them So Different, So Appealing?, directly inspired In Every Dream Home a Heartache, though while Ferry continued the pithy commentary on rising consumerism, he also took the emptiness and delusion to its furthest logical extreme. Over an isolated keyboard wave, the singer eulogises his “penthouse perfection”, but cracks soon begin to emerge and something entirely more seedy emerges as the song develops. “Plain wrapper baby,” croons Ferry, “your skin is like vinyl … deluxe and delightful, inflatable doll.” He continues to coo to his pliable love interest as we become more and more uncomfortable, until finally the words “and you blew my mind!” are ejaculated forth as the music bursts with prog-like ecstasy to the conclusion. There’s a school of thought that Ferry doesn’t get his due as a lyricist, with Dream Home perhaps the finest collection of words in his vast, undervalued repertoire; Ferry doesn’t so much write songs as paint them. “Other bands wanted to wreck hotel rooms,” he once said. “Roxy Music wanted to redecorate them.”

5 Street Life

With the dandyish Eno deposed and Ferry’s concomitant solo career looking ever backwards, it was somewhat inevitable that Roxy Music would plough a more traditional furrow going forward, though the change between For Your Pleasure and Stranded isn’t as radical as some like to think. Even Eno somewhat magnanimously claimed the latter was the better album (though not many other people think that, and he might not either). It was a severed alliance as significant to the 70s as Morrissey and Marr’s was to the 80s and Anderson and Butler’s was to the 90s, with the latter offering up often spooky parallels: both Roxy Music and Suede were perceived by many to have lost an irreplaceable creative member after the cult favourite second album; both shared a similar creative trajectory over the first five albums, scoring their mightiest commercial success with their third album; both had a song called Trash and an album cover designed by Peter Saville. You suspect some of this might have been deliberate on Suede’s part, who also recorded their own Street Life on their underpar A New Morning album. It couldn’t lay a glove on the Ferry song, a swashbuckling paean to walking the mean streets to avoid nuisance phone calls. The rambunctious Stranded opener immediately told us three things about Roxy 2.0: first, that they were a band that now cooked (especially guitarist Phil Manzanera); second, that new keyboardist and auxiliary musician Eddie Jobson would be a worthy and capable – if very different – replacement for Brian Eno; and third, that Bryan Ferry had plenty left up his beautifully tailored shirt sleeve yet.

6 Mother of Pearl

Mother of Pearl is a welcome conundrum and a song that bridges the wild structures of the first two albums with the windswept balladry that would epitomise the latter career. It comes in two parts, the first strangely antecedent to the rockier elements of REM’s early work, anticipating them by a whole decade. The second is a gobsmacking serenade to the iridescent nacre, again with a lyrical tapestry of beautifully whimsical poetry and highfalutin references such as Nietzsche’s Zarathustra (Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra was also popular with David Bowie, inspiring both Quicksand and The Supermen). Ferry told Uncut in 2013 that he’d started writing Mother of Pearl while holidaying on a Greek island with a battered bass guitar, with Eddie Jobson providing much of the ornate “musicality”. Producer Chris Thomas was blown away when Ferry unfurled his lyric sheet and delivered the completed song in the studio, according to; up to that point it had been a well-rehearsed instrumental with the second section repeating the same three chords over and over for five long minutes. Suddenly Ferry laid down the words and an instant classic entered the world.

7 The Thrill of It All

Can any other band or artist in history lay claim to having as many exhilarating tracks opening their albums? Roxy Music’s first five introductory numbers are surely unassailable, and out of these magnificent starters, there’s a case for The Thrill of It All from Country Life: The Fourth Roxy Music Album, being the most exhilarating of all. The production packs the power of a jet engine. It is enormous in the way so much British rock was in 1974, six-and-a-half minutes long and ripe for the US market. It was no secret Ferry was interested in breaking America – Rod and Elton had just had No 1’s and Bowie and the Bee Gees were making inroads – but it would be a territory where sustained success would ultimately elude him as both singer in Roxy Music and as a solo artist. The song was even released as a single across the Atlantic and nowhere else, and while it failed to chart, Country Life did crack the Billboard top 40 for the first time. It was the kind of well-structured, straight-ahead rock leviathan that arch critic Bob Harris (who’d been so sniffy when the band had played Ladytron on The Old Grey Whistle Test two years previous) might have found himself tapping his foot along to despite himself. The best thing about the song, though, is Ferry’s debonair delivery: languorous and elastic, playful and cute; he slides in and out of the blue notes and compels you to hang on to his every word.

8 Bitter Sweet

Written with Roxy oboe/sax stalwart Andy Mackay, Bitter Sweet is a startling show tune that finds Ferry remodelling Brechtian cabaret with such panache that one wishes he’d attempted it more often. Delicate vibes and gentle piano strokes at the outset are violently cast aside by a thunderous, portentous bass sound, denoting that there may be trouble ahead. The titular oxymoron is appropriate, with Bryan bitterly berating the hardhearted subject of the song over the sweetest of verses: “Lovers you consume my friend,” he complains, “as others their wine.” Then, just as we’re settling in, the Weimarian oompah of the chorus kicks in, with stabs of disorientating, spiky guitar; when the chorus comes around a second time and we’re prepared for it, Ferry delivers yet another surprise by switching to abrasive German. According to David Buckley, author of The Thrill of It All: The Story of Bryan Ferry & Roxy Music, the Country Life tour wasn’t without controversy, with Ferry taking to the stage in “riding breeches and what looked like jackboots”, as well as “raven hair parted to the side”, and all in front of an “RM” logo emblazoned on velvet drapes set into eagle’s wings. While the visuals were almost certainly for aesthetic reasons only, one can only imagine how Twitter might react were a band of Roxy Music’s stature to settle upon such style choices now.

9 Love Is the Drug

If Eno’s ejection from the band seemed cruel, then spare a thought for Roxy Music’s bass players, numerous and never afforded the status of being actual members. Eno couldn’t complain – he took off around the country with his first solo album, Here Come the Warm Jets, in 1973, and only gave up touring because his lung reportedly collapsed from too much shagging. The plight of the Roxy bassist is less sordid or glamorous, with the brilliant John Gustafson – used as session musician on three albums – going largely unnoticed except by your more devoted fan. “Gus”, who died in September last year, played with Ian Gillan, the Big Three and Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett during a productive career, but his defining moment might just be his funky, iconic bass riff on 1975’s Love Is the Drug, a song that finally cracked the top 30 of the Billboard charts and is arguably their best-known song (or at least the best-known song from Old Testament Roxy Music). Love Is the Drug is often described as Roxy Music’s disco tune, but the rhythms are so emphatic that they practically border on Cuban funk. It’s a song that’s been covered by all sort of artists, the great Grace Jones included, and it packs plenty into its four minutes, including the sound of someone walking on gravel and a car starting at the outset, and then Ferry’s insatiable, colluding and suggestive narrative throughout. The title, too, is unbeatable.

10 Whirlwind

You may be wondering where More Than This or Avalon are? The most commercially fruitful period in Roxy Music’s career came from 1978 to 1982, after an enforced sabbatical. Ferry had only really reformed the band because his patrician image was at such odds with punk and his career needing galvanising with the brand that had once so exemplified cool. The West Sussex manor and the hobnobbing in high society was bound to have some bearing on the Thomas Cromwell of pop and his music, and it was fortuitous that as he was enveloped into the bosom of the aristocracy that he hit on a formula to write the same oleaginous ballad over and over again to handsome remuneration (play Dance Away and Slave to Love back to back and you’ll see what I mean). They’re still good songs, especially compared with the output of lesser mortals, but they belong to that other Roxy Music, the one owned by the mainstream that has no perception of the abrasive musical insurgency of the past. The first era ends in 1975, and the final trace of the “orchid born on a coal tip” as Ferry described himself once, the last remaining sign of the fuliginous grit of the north-east, can be found in the battle cry of Whirlwind and that opening “Maaaydaaaaaaay!” line that so emboldens. “There she blows!” he howls a bit later in this nautical adventure perhaps inspired by Moby-Dick, though Ferry would see himself less a Captain Ahab and more a Captain Cook, a derring-do nobleman originally born a commoner. When Roxy Music got together again in 1978, their album Manifesto would be a strange mix of new-wave experimentation that didn’t quite work, and sentimental songs that opened up a whole new demographic they’d pursue to the bitter end via the weak Flesh + Blood and the cocaine avarice of Avalon. Whirlwind, then, is the last great Roxy Music rocker, a little bit unloved and under-appreciated, despite having such impressive seafaring legs.



Quite the oddest set of band names.

Song of the Day # 403 Meatbodies

Full on Rock and Roll from one of Ty Seagall's stable of affiliated San Francisco groups.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

February 24th 1975 - Led Zeppelin

Released forty years ago.

Songhoy Blues

And to follow that up, a recent Guardian article giving background info on the formation of the band. All power to their elbows!

Songhoy Blues: the lost sound of northern Mali emerges from civil war

Africa Express's latest album was recorded in Mali and includes the 'desert R&B' of Songhoy Blues – a band determined keep the country's music alive in the face of pressure from Islamists

Songhoy Blues and Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Songhoy Blues with Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who collaborated with the band on their track Soubour. Photograph: Roland Hamilton

Garba Touré and his guitar were a familiar sight on the streets of Diré, a dusty town on the banks on the Niger, upstream from Timbuktu. But when armed jihadists took control of northern Mali in the spring of 2012, he knew it was time to leave.

"The first rebel group to arrive were the MNLA [Mouvement National pour la Libération de l'Azawad], but they weren't against music, so there was no bad feeling between them and the population," he tells me over the phone from Bamako, Mali's capital. "But then Ansar Dine [a local armed Islamist group, whose name translates as "followers of the faith"] came and chased them out. They ordered people to stop smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and playing music. Even though I don't smoke or drink, I love the guitar, so I thought: 'This isn't the moment to hang around. I have to go south.'"

Like thousands of refugees, Garba grabbed a bag, his guitar and boarded a bus to Bamako. His father, Oumar Touré, a musician who had played congas for Mali's guitar legend, Ali Farka Touré, stayed behind with the family. The hardline Islamist gunmen drove music underground. The penalties for playing or even just listening to it on your mobile phone were a public whipping, a stint in an overcrowded jail or worse.

"When I arrived in Bamako the mood wasn't great," Garba remembers, "Different army factions were fighting each other. There were guns everywhere. All we heard was the scream of weapons. We weren't used to that."

Garba and some other musician friends from the north decided they couldn't succumb to the feeling that their lives had been shipwrecked by the crisis. They had to form a band, if for no other reason than to boost the morale of other refugees in the same situation. "We wanted to recreate that lost ambience of the north and make all the refugees relive those northern songs."

That's how Songhoy Blues was born. "Songhoy" because Garba Touré, lead vocalist Aliou Touré and second guitarist Oumar Touré, although unrelated to each other – Touré is as common as Smith or Jones in northern Mali – all belong to the Songhoy people, one of the main ethnicities in the north. And "Blues" not only because northern Mali is the cradle of the blues and its music is often referred to as "the desert blues", but also because Garba and his mates are obsessed by that distant American cousin of their own blues. "My father used to make me listen to Jimi Hendrix. He's one of my idols. But I also listen BB King and John Lee Hooker a lot."

After signing up drummer Nathanael Dembélé from the local conservatoire, Songhoy Blues hit the Bamako club and maquis (a kind of local spit'n'grit bar restaurant) circuit with their raucous guitar anthems dedicated to peace and reconciliation. People flocked to see them, not only fellow Songhoy, but also Tuareg and other northern ethnicities. Even southerners came.

Anybody familiar with the enmity between the Songhoy and Tuareg peoples left behind by Mali's recent civil war will appreciate how inspiring it must have been to see Tuareg and Songhoy youth wigging out together in a Bamako bar.

In September, an uncle told Garba that a group of European and American musicians and producers were coming to town under the banner of Africa Express. Garba called Marc-Antoine Moreau, one of the Africa Express organisers, and – after passing an informal audition – Songhoy Blues were introduced to Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

"Marco told us that Nick was a big American guitarist and asked us to collaborate with him. So the next day we went into the studio and did some takes with Nick. Everything went well, no problem. He's a very simple person; a great guitarist but really modest." The word "simple" is just about the greatest compliment a Malian can pay to another person. In the Malian French patois it means honest, down-to-earth and solid as a rock.

"We just walked into the studio not knowing what to expect," Zinner recalls. "There was just one amp between all of us, so it was like: 'What are we gonna do here?' But then they showed up, sat down, said 'Hi', and 30 seconds later they were playing music, amazing music."

One result of these sessions is a track called Soubour, which means "patience". "We're asking the refugees to have patience," Garba explains. "Without patience, nothing is possible." A video of Sobour featuring Zinner and friends has now gone viral. It is the rawest, spikiest and most electrifying dollop of desert R&B you're likely to hear this year or next, but it remains proudly Malian and African.

Working with musicians who had just seen music outlawed in their homeland was a humbling experience for Zinner. "It's impossible for a westerner like myself to imagine it," he says. "Like, truly unfathomable. And knowing the reasons why a lot of the musicians that we were working and hanging out with had come to Bamako added another dimension to the whole experience. Like … a real intensity."

Like the majority of Malian Muslims, Garba has no truck with the attitude to music taken by hardline Salafist Muslims. "The world without music? It would be like a prison, right?" he says. "Music causes no harm and what's more you can educate an entire population using music. Maybe in previous generations, music could have been condemned by religion, but not now."

Africa Express has invited Songhoy Blues to London to appear at the launch of Maison des Jeunes, the album of recordings made in October during the Bamako trip. Songhoy Blues and other emerging Malian talents, such as the seraphim-voiced Kankou Kouyaté, who is also appearing at the launch, feature alongside Damon Albarn, Brian Eno, Ghostpoet, Zinner and an eclectic mix of other artists and producers. To Garba and his fellow band-members, the experience has been like a dream.

Africa Express at Maison des Jeunes, Bamako, Mali
Musicians and producers at Maison des Jeunes, Bamako, Mali, a youth club that became a temporary recording studio for Africa Express. Photograph: Manuel Toledo
"There we were living in the north," he says. "We were told that if we played music we could get our hands chopped off. Then we arrived in Bamako, in a state of emergency. We had to go to the ministry of the interior to ask for permission to play. But then, by the grace of God, the atmosphere returned. Africa Express came and we were invited to play in London. Really and truly, it's an explosive joy for us, an explosive joy! We can't even begin to explain that joy."

Song(s) of the Day # 402 Songhoy Blues

A group of musicians whose time seems to have come. Exiled from their native Mali by a music ban, they're gathering momentum in the UK. Their debut album is produced by Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It's interesting to see the influence of Western Rock musicians such as Led Zeppelin, Talking Heads and the like from the Seventies coming back. They played the 6 Music Festival at The Cumberland Arms in Newcastle a couple of hours away from me on Saturday and I missed them. More fool me!

Monday, February 23, 2015

400 Songs, 400 Days

  1. Andrew Oldham Orchestra
  2. Dion & the Belmonts
  3. Big Youth
  4. The Left Banke
  5. The Undisputed Truth
  6. Ted Taylor
  7. The Real Kids
  8. U-Roy
  9. The Regents
  10. The Nits
  11. The Velvet Underground
  12. Jacques Dutronc
  13. Aretha Franklin
  14. The Lovin' Spoonful
  15. The Shins
  16. Carl Orff
  17. Minutemen
  18. Peggy Lee
  19. The Chambers Brothers
  20. The Thompson Twins
  21. R.E.M
  22. Louis Armstrong
  23. Bugsy Malone Soundtrack
  24. Dennis Brown
  25. Charlie Rich
  26. Roky Erikson
  27. Richard Harris
  28. Fleetwood Mac
  29. Ricky Nelson
  30. Linda Lewis
  31. The Breeders
  32. XTC
  33. The Byrds
  34. The Isley Brothers
  35. The Swinging Blue Jeans
  36. Al Green
  37. Warren Zevon
  38. Cal Tjaeder
  39. Tim Hardin
  40. The Creation
  41. The High
  42. Melvin Van Peebles
  43. Yamasuki
  44. Nina Simone
  45. Cowboy Junkies
  46. Black Blood
  47. Ride
  48. Friend & Lover
  49. Chicory Tip
  50. The Psychedelic Furs
  51. Elvis Costello & the Attractions
  52. Os Mutantes
  53. Nico
  54. The Paragons
  55. Dmitri Shostakovich
  56. The Au Pairs
  57. The Sir Douglas Quintet
  58. Gregory Porter
  59. Pharell Williams
  60. Television
  61. Miriam Makeba
  62. Billy Fury
  63. It's a Beautiful Day
  64. Simon & Garfunkul
  65. C.W.Stoneking
  66. Derek & the Dominos
  67. Grace Jones
  68. New Order
  69. Ivan
  70. Darrell Banks
  71. Los Saicos
  72. Dr. John
  73. Dalek I Love You
  74. The Mynah Birds
  75. Bonny & Sheila
  76. The Aristocats
  77. The Flamin' Groovies
  78. Broadcast
  79. The Blue Orchids
  80. Desmond Dekker
  81. Love
  82. The Rolling Stones
  83. Guided By Voices
  84. Parquet Courts
  85. The Screaming Trees
  86. Neil Young
  87. Kate Le Bon
  88. Patti Smith
  89. The Black Lips
  90. Mighty Hannibal
  91. Nyuyorican Soul
  92. Vernon Green & the Medallions
  93. Cornershop
  94. Dorothy Ashby
  95. The City
  96. The Smiths
  97. Subway Sect
  98. Deerhunter
  99. Black Merda
  100. Scott Walker
  101. The Charlatans
102. Magazine
103. Lush
104. The Stoney Poneys
105. The Allman Brothers
106. John Cale
107. Toni Harper
108. Tammi Lynn
109. Althea & Donna
110. Bobby Womack
111. Japan
112. The Strangeloves
113. David Bowie
114. The Handsome Family
115. Echo & the Bunnymen
116. Grant Lee Buffalo
117. The Jim Carroll Band
118. Waylon Jennings
119. Carl Douglas
120. Otis Redding
121. Peter & the Pirates
122. Strawberry Switchblade
123. Ben Harper
124. Shoes
125. The Capitols
126. Dusty Springfield
127. Fats Domino
128. Buddy Holly & the Crickets
129. Josef K
130. The Feelies
131. The Heptones
132. Minnie Ripperton
133. The Go Betweens
134. France Galle
135. Loretta Lynn
136. Half Pint
137. Death in Vegas
138. Sun House
139. The Liminanas
140.  The Organ
141. Gladys Knight & the Pips
142. Viv Albertine
143. The Ikettes
144. The Ronettes
145. The Fresh & Onlys
146. TV On The Radio
147. Grizzly Bear
148. The Jimi Hendrix Experience
149. 23 Skidoo
150. Nicodemus
151. Serge Gainsbourg
152. The Moles
153. Devo
154. The Go! Team
155. Kim Wilde
156. Brian Eno
157. The Langley Schools Music Project
158. The Cure
159. George Jones
160. The Gun Club
161. David Hemmings
162. Sugar Chile Robinson
163. John Phillips
164. October Country
165. Lloyd Cole & the Commotions
166. Francois & the Atlas Mountains
167. Dexys Midnight Runners
168. Andy Williams
169. Kraftwerk
170. Jackie Mittoo
171. Martha
172. The Chills
173. Richard Barrett
174. Mazes
175. Strawberry Alarm Clock
176. Bruce Springsteen
177. J.D.McPherson
178. Elliott Smith
179. Liz Phair
180. East Brunswick All Girls Choir
181. Future Islands
182. Split Enz
183. The Walking Who
184. Townes Van Zandt
185. Bill Callahan
186. The Mantles
187. Sam & Dave
188. Aztec Camera
189. Jimmy Scott
190. Reigning Sound
191. Sparks
192. Rosetta Hightower
193. Big Star
194. Crime
195. Johnny Cash
196. Moby Grape
197. Katty Line
198. Sinead O'Connor
199. Ultimate Painting
200. The Kinks

201. Jan & Dan
202. Santigold
203. The Boomtown Rats
204. Tim Rose
205. Toots & the Maytals
206. Bobby Darin
207. Billy Swan
208. Marcia Griffiths
209. King Creosote
210. Led Zeppelin
211. Hortense Ellis & Prince Weedy
213. The Pogues
214. Twin Peaks
215. The June Brides
216. The Nips
217. Kate Bush
218. Midlake
219. The History of Apple Pie
220. Dr Alimintado
221. Dr. Savannah's Original Savannah Band
222. White Reaper
223. Orange Juice
224. The Bangles
225. The Allah-Lahs
226. The Exciters
227. Ty Segall
228. Agincourt
229. Baxter Dury
230. The Tyde
231. The Pretty Things
232. The Pastels
233. The New York Dolls
234. Life Without Buildings
235. Felt
236. Sugar
237. Bo Diddley
238. Music Go Music
239. The Troggs
240 Mark Mulcahey
241. U2
242. Hiss Golden Messenger
243. Nilsson
244. Spacemen 3
245. Buffalo Springfield
246. Immigrant Union
247. The Fall
248. Phil Phillips
249. Scritti Politi
250. Slapp Happy
251. Phosphorescent
252. ATV
253. Caitlin Rose
254. Opal
255. Frank Sinatra
256. Lena Horne
257. Hookworms
258. Urge Overkill
259. Jeff Buckley
260. Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66
261. The Sundays
262. The Monochrome Set
263. Joan As Policewoman
264 Bradford
265. The Growlers
266. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan
267. The Who
268. Marcelo Carmelo
269. The Wipers
270. Eric Burdon & The Animals
271. Mission Of Burma
272. Thurston Moore
273. The John Steel Singers
274. Pixies
275. Brigitte Fontaine
276. Tindersticks
277.McGough & McGear
278. Le Roux
279. Yo La Tengo
280. Smoke Fairies
281. ABBA
282. Steely Dan
283. Jimmy Cliff
284. The Beta Band
285. John Lennon
286. Young Fathers
287. Lou Reed
288. Beth Orton
289. Julian Cope
290. Tuff Love
291. John Denver
292. Leonard Cohen
293. The Beach Boys
294. Jim Noir
295. James
296.. My Bloody Valentine
297. Barrington Levy
298. Spectres
299, Fun Boy 3
300. The Saints

301. Grandaddy
302. Eleanor Friedberger
303. The Delgados
304. Villalog
305. My Morning Jacket
306. Miaow
307. Vampire Weekend
308. The Shop Assistants
309. Francoiz Breut
310. Alice Coltrane
311. Blonde Redhead
312. The Shirelles
313. Cass McCombs
314. Creedence Clearwater Revival
315. John Grant
316. Bobbie Gentry
317. Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band
318. The Unthanks
319. Slim Cessna's Auto Club
320. Jessica Pratt
321. The Faces
322. Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside
323. Warpaint
324. Dandy Livingston
325. Ex Hex
326. Ought
327. The Delines
328. Kings of Leon
329. Morton Valance
330. The Twilight Sad
331. Michael Head & the Strands
332. The Czars
333. Sun Kill Moon
334. Woods
336. Tricky
337. Adrian Crowley
338. Caravan
339. The Vacant Lots
340. Tommy James & the Shandells
341. Charlie Brown
342. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
343. Eurythmics
344. Judy Collins
345. Fraser A. Gorman
346. The B 52s
347. Courtney Barnett
348. Benjamin Brooker
349. The Cartoons
350. Joanna Gruesome
351. The Embarrassment
352. Uncle Tupelo
353. Sleater Kinney
354. Tess Parks
355. The Brian Jonestown Massacre
356. Panda Bear
357. Sons of Bill
358. Gold-Bears
359. Curtis Harding
360. Simply Saucer
361. Liam Hayes
362. Cowboys International
363. Natalie Prass
364. Thin Lizzy
365. The Rails
366. Aldous Harding
367. Belle & Sebastian
368. Waxahatchee
369.Django Django
370. Half Japanese
371. Can
372. Julie Discoll
373. The Supremes
374. The Stems
375. .Unknown Mortal Coil
376. Robert Wyatt
377. The Oh Sees
378. Ryley Walker
379. Twerps
380. Alasdair Roberts
381. Dick Diver
382. D'Angelo & the Vanguard
383. Sammi Smith
384. The Jaynettes
385. Viet Cong
386. Duke Garwood
387. Peter Tosh
388. Darren Haywood
389. Blank Realm
390. Richard Dawson
391. Death & Vanilla
392.Heidi Berry
393. Speedy Ortiz
394. Momus
395. Gregory Isaacs
396. Prince Fatty
397. Jesus & Mary Chain
398. Shack
399. Toro Y Moi
400. Lefty Frizzell

Things I've Found on my Local's Jukebox # 59 The Dream Syndicate

Quite an odd thing to chance upon at Rosie's. The whole of their essential first album, The Days of Wine & Roses is on there. Makes a change from Stone Roses.

Song of the Day # 401 Summer Cannibals

Onwards and upwards to 500 and beyond hopefully. This is new, from a Portland Oregon band who I think take their name from a Patti Smith song. They have a bit of the spirit of Patti, some Cramps, some B52s, some Breeders and more of their own. Most of their songs seem to be 2 minutes 40 long at most. A good thing. Their second album is out in March.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

February 22nd 1936 Ernie K. Doe

Song of the Day # 400 Lefty Frizzell

Inspired to post this by a great programme I watched last night, Reginald D Hunter's Songs of the South. This featured in a section about the Southern Gothic. This was covered by Johnny Cash, Burl Ives, The Band, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Sammi Smith and Bruce Springsteen amongst numerous others. Here's the original.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Nina Simone

Just because it's there!

Song of the Day # 398 Shack

I've already played Michael Head. Now here's a song from his band Shack and their famed early album Waterpistol.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pub Series #2

A couple of hours ago, I put these songs on...

1. Bob Dylan - Tangled Up in Blue
2. Talking Heads - Heaven
3. The Doors - Waiting for the Sun
4. R.E.M. - Dont Go Back to Rockville
5, Marvin Gaye - That's the Way Love Is
6. The Velvet Underground - I'll Be Your Mirror
7. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds- Red Right Hand
6. The Clash - Capital Radio
9. Gram Parsons - She

A Brief History of Killings #5 Tina Charles

The beauty of this story is that it keeps bringing in non-reggae hits that were big and important at the time of the narrative. Here's the woman, mentioned in the text, who was always in the charts and always very visibly pregnant on Top of the Pops towards the end of the Seventies.

G Stands for....

The Boxset has finally arrived. It's a beautiful object and it's mine but fraught with memories. Good and bad ones. Love the Go-Betweens and now have a book from Grant's collection.