Saturday, October 31, 2015

October 31st 1963 Johnny Marr

One of the greats.

Song(s) of the Day # 650 Roisin Murphy

This is not generally my kind of thing, but Roisin Murphy's album, Hairless 
Toys, released this year, is an undeniably brilliant record. It's what you'd call 'rich' from first note to last. As The Guardian says of it, it sounds like she's 'singing from the bottom of a champagne glass' throughout.

Alex Petridis, leading music journalist of the same paper, compares her to David Bowie, Prince and Bjork, leftfield artists who managed to create odd, inventive pop music while still inhabiting the mainstream, which is where Murphy should be but isn't.

Perhaps that has changed slightly since the release of the album. It's been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, always a source of controversy in the UK in terms of what's included and what's left off. It sits well there and though I'm not familiar with all the other records on there, I hope it wins. It's a sleek, deep, sexy and thought provoking album.

Murphy, when interviewed about the genesis and influences behind the album, talked about the influence of the early nineties New York ball scene. The sound of the record is all moneyed,  stylish, dance surface, with all along the sense that somebody is experiencing something of an overwrought, intense nervous breakdown somewhere behind the beats. What I love most about it is the unmistakable echo of Dusty Springfield, one of the greatest torch singers of all, in Murphy's voice and delivery. The first song I've posted here, House of Glass, is all about female fragility and how we find a way to survive all that life throws us. This theme pervades the whole record and Murphy pulls it all off quite beautifully. It's a wonderful album.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Covers # 33 The House of Love

The Chills new album Silver Bullets, their first for almost twenty years, comes out today and halfway through my first listen of it, it seems a wonderful, ringing, melodic object indeed. Will get back with more on it no doubt but in the meantime here is a House of Love cover from the Girl with the Loneliest Eyes 12 inch of their most famous moment and, (from this very subjective perspective), one of the best songs ever written.

Pulp - Different Class

Another anniversary. Different Class released twenty years ago today. A masterpiece. Puts Martin Amis to shame in terms of social commentary in terms of how British society organises itself in terms of class, sex and money. Oh and the tunes are great as well.

October 30th 1939 Grace Slick

Song(s) of the Day # 649 Anthony Newley

Anthony Newley in his day was an international star and screen. Perhaps I'm being unfair, but now when you listen to his stuff it seems most notable as the formative guiding influence for the early style and persona of David Bowie. Hearing the spoken sections on Pop Goes the Weasel below for example and the resemblance is uncanny.

His straighter, love related stuff seems less  of interest now than his comic, mock cockney stuff, but this is where The Laughing Gnome came from. And I'd have to say, that's a good thing.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 94 The Duke Spirit

Yes, you know where it's coming from. But it's coming from a good place!

The Doors meet Steptoe & Son

Just because it's there. Though you have to be British I think to really understand the irony of this. Steptoe & Son was the biggest British sitcom of the sixties and early seventies. Here's its original theme tune. 

October 29th 1966 ? & the Mysterians

Went to Number 1 in the US on this day in 1966. Surely one of the most leftfield songs ever to occupy that position. I will never tire of this!

Song of the Day # 648 Boomgates

This couldn't be anything other than Australian. Something about the frontier sound here that is so distinctive. From two years back. A Melbourne band made up of players from Dick Diver and Twerps among others.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Songs About People # 138 Queen Elizabeth II


B Sides # 47 The Auteurs

Still fiery B Side to their first release, On the 12 inch of Showgirl,

October 28th 1957 Stephen Morris

Mix Tape Songs About Trains # 27 Emmylou Harris

Side 2 Track 13 4 mins 48 secs. This series comes to its final destination. In the most dignified manner possible. The songs here don't quite fit into the allotted ninety minutes of the given cassette but this is virtual and it's also in the time honoured tradition of these things that you  have one song over-running at the end of the side.

Song of the Day # 647 Hidden Ritual

My current favourite song. This band would have to hail from Austin, Texas, where this kind of distorted noise appears to come out of the taps. Here's a live version, the only thing available on YouTube. You can find the recorded version on Spotify. All of the venom and drive of the early Doors, 13th Floor Elevators and Suicide. Also something of the first two Bunnymen albums in the psyched nature of the sound here. From their recorded debut Zebra Bottle, (whatever that is), which you can get a find a stream of here. Or you can buy it on cassette only. Cassette!?!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lou Reed

Beginning of the day, end of the day. Same theme. Though it was quite inadvertent and I didn't realise the significance when I posted The Jades as Song of the Day, first thing this morning. How very odd! Lou died today a couple of years back. Will never forget how shocked and affected I was by the news.

Songs Heard on the Radio # 93 Joanna Newsom

Still undecided about Joanna Newsom. Make up your own mind! Lovely painting though.

Instrumentals # 40 Khruangbin

I'm a bit behind on this one. Came out last year. An Albatross for the new ears. 

October 27th 1964 Sonny & Cher

They got married on this day.

Mix Tape Songs About Trains # 26 The New York Dolls

Side 2 Track 12 4 mins 22 secs. Staying in New York City but going underground. The first subway song on here. No room for The Jam's excellent Down in the Tube Station at Midnight.

Song of the Day # 646 The Jades

The first record Lou Reed every featured on. And a classic on its own merit.

'On April 14th 1958, one month after Lou's sixteenth birthday veteran produced Bob Shad signed The Jades to Mercury Records. This was their first and only single featuring tenor saxophonist King Curtis of "Yakety Yak" fame and guitar icon Mickey Baker. Between "Leave Her For me" and its B-Side "So Blue" Lou received about three dollars in royalties, partially due to payola schemes. Before they graduated to playing shopping malls and beach clubs across Long Island, one of their first performances was at a dive bar in Freeport, their home town, which was disrupted when the local color started throwing bottles. " we had to stand by one of those stupid fences to keep the bottles from killing us," lead singer Phil Harris recalls of the night.'

Monday, October 26, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 93 The Pretty Things

Second in this series within a couple of hours but it has to be said that it's not very often that this happens!

B Sides # 46 Franz Ferdinand

I don't really know what to make of Franz Ferdinand nowadays. They seem irredeemably arch ten years after their inception while leader Alex Kapranos seems to have morphed into a rather odd indie Cliff Richard figure. But I listened to their first album from ten years back this morning and it still sounded fresh with attitude and ideas, as does this, a re-working of Fall attitudes from their first release, the Darts of Pleasure EP.

October 26th 1951 Maggie Roche

Songs Heard on the Radio # 92 The Chemical Brothers & Flaming Lips

Probably my favourite track featuring both of these bands as I'm not a huge fan of either. This works for me though!

Covers # 32 The Peddlers

Over the Rainbow. Probably the most covered song of all. This from The Peddlers. A wonderful British band in the Georgie Fame/ Jimmie Smith line of things who are brightening up my Monday morning with their 1967 album The Fantastic Peddlers.

Mix Tape Songs About Trains # 25 The Gun Club

Side 2 Track 11 2 mins 12 secs. Probably not a dissimilar journey to that taken by The Cramps on their Drug Train.

Song(s) of the Day # 645 Parachute Men

Late eighties British indie. more hit singles from an alternative universe.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Another 100 Albums

Another 100 records that I own. The second hundred. Once again the same rules. No repeat of artists. In no particular order again. Things get more eclectic. And quite arbitrary and possibly in need of further revision. The next hundred will be more difficult still.

101. The Thelonius Monk Quartet - Monk's Dream
102. Neil Young & Crazy Horse - Zuma
103. Moby Grape - Moby Grape
104. The Blue Orchids - The Greatest Hit
105. Ride - Nowhere
106. John Coltrane - A Love Supreme
107. Jane Weaver - The Silver Globe
108. Link Wray - Link Wray
109. Sugar - Copper Blue
110. 13th Floor Elevators - The Psychedelic Sounds Of...
111. T. Rex - Electric Warrior
112. Tindersticks - Tindersticks
113. Deerhunter - Final Frontier
114. Rufus Wainwright - Want One
115. Simple Minds - New Gold Dream '81,'82.'83, '84
116. Nas - Illmatic
117. Vashti Bunyan - Just Another Diamond Day
118. Primal Scream - Screamadelica
119. Pavement - Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
120. Jesus & Mary Chain - Psychocandy
121. Saint Etienne - Fox Base Alpha
122. Radiohead - The Bends
123. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles - Time Out For...
124. The Fall - Live at the Witch Trials
125. The Replacements - Let It Be
126. Leonard Cohen - Songs of Love & Hate
127. Heaven 17 Penthouse & Pavement
128. Richard Hell & the Voidoids - Blank Generation
129. Nina Simone - Forbidden Fruit
130. Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow
131. Pylon - Gyrate
132. Melanie - Born to Be
133. Meat Puppets - Up on the Sun
134. John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band -John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band
135. The Lemonheads - It's a Shame About Ray
136. Elton John - Captain Fantastic & the Brown Dirt Cowboy
137. The Selecter - Too Much Pressure
138. The Flamin' Groovies - Teenage Head
139. Michael Head & the Strands - The Magical World of the Strands
140. Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
141. Townes Van Zandt - Townes Van Zandt
142. Orange Juice - You Can't Hide Your Love Away
143. Richie Havens - Electric Havens
144. The Yardbirds - Over Under Sideways Down
145. The Monochrome Set - Strange Boutique
146. The Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks
147. XTC - Black Sea
148. Mission of Burma - Vs
149. The Charlatans - Between 10th & 11th
150. The Afghan Whigs - Gentlemen
151. Dillard & Clark - The Fantastic Expedition of...
152.Free - Free
153. Cat Power - Moon Pix
154. The Breeders - Last Splash
155. The Beat - I Just Can't Stop It
156. Black Lips - Arabia Mountain
157. New Order - Power Corruption & Lies
158. Belle & Sebastian - If You're Feeling Sinister 
159. Associates - Sulk
160. Steel Pulse - True Democracy
161. The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
162. Rage Against the Machine - Rage Against the Machine
163. Julian Cope - World Shut your Mouth
164. Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream
165. That Petrol Emotion - Manic Pop Thrill
166. The Soft Boys - Underwater Moonlight
167. Opal - Happy Nightmare Baby
168. Augustus Pablo - King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown
169. Pale Saints - The Comfort of Madness
170. Stevie Wonder - Innervisions (I have a very crackly copy!)
171. The Roches - The Roches
172. Randy Newman - Little Criminals
173. Nick Drake - Bryter Later
174. The Woodentops - Giant
175. Earth Wind & Fire - I Am
176. The Left Banke - Pretty Ballerina/ Walk Away Renee
177. ABC - The Lexicon of Love 
178. Lee Perry - Cloak & Dagger
179. Nilsson # Nillson Schmillson
180. Iggy Pop - Lust For Life
181. Teenage Fanclub - Bandwagonesque
182. Scritti Politti - Songs To Remember
183. Propaganda - A Secret Wish
184. Let's Active - Cypress
185. Siouxsie & the Banshees - The Scream
186. Syd Barrett - The Madcap Laughs
187.Led Zeppelin - II
188. Hoodoo Gurus - Stoneage Romeos
189. The Dream Syndicate - The Days of Wine & Roses
190. Happy Mondays - Bummed
191. The Only Ones - Even Serpents Shine
192. Galaxie 500 - On Fire
193. Aswad - Live & Direct
194. The Monkees - Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd
195. Blondie - Parallel Lines
196. Bill Callahan - Dream River
197. Country Joe & the Fish - Electric Music For The mind & Body
198. Allah Las - Worship The Sun
199. Alice Coltrane - Journey in Satchidananda 
200. Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

Mix Tape Songs About Trains # 24 The Andrews Sisters

Side 2 Track 10 2 mins 52 secs.

October 25th 1951 Richard Lloyd

Song of the Day # 644 Love, Peace & Happiness

Seems a good way to start a clocks back Sunday morning.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Covers # 31 Allah Las

A recently re-released cover of one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands. Allah Las change precious little from the Kevin Ayers original, (why would you need to, the song speaks for itself), except by psychedelicising it slightly and adding suitably gloomy solos and orchestration. The other songs are worth hearing too. Come On by The Jesus & Mary Chain and I Cannot Lie by Cass McCombs also covered. Allah Las still carry the flame!

Mix Tape Songs About Trains # 23 The Yardbirds

Side 2 Track 9 3 mins 26 secs. Train as metaphor for Blues and Rock and Roll.

October 24th 1936 Bill Wyman

Not the nicest man in Rock and Roll. Nick Kent writing in The Dark Stuff about encountering him in the mid-seventies whilst on tour with The Stones:

'The very wretched Bill Wyman was moaning away in a corner putting everybody else down. God, what a deeply unattractive mean-spirited little man he was!'

Still, it's his birthday, so Happy Birthday Bill!


Song(s) of the Day # 643 The Districts

During this summer's Glastonbury, TV coverage cut to The Districts, a young American guitar band I'd never heard of before, playing 4th & Roebling the finely named opening track from their recent album A Flourish & a Spoil. The  band didn't really hold my attention for the duration of the song. Generic might have been a word echoing around my head. It all seemed rather glum. I activated my democratic prerogative and zapped elsewhere.

I got back to them a few months later this week, giving their album a few plays while at work. It's a flawed record, though by no means without its virtues but it's mired most obviously in its musical and literary influences, known or unknown and the fact that what it's saying has been said before. Musically, most of all it reminds me of The Walkmen, a fine underrated band who I saw play an excellent set in their native New York City alongside Interpol in 2000. The Districts certainly bear the fingerprints of that wonderful scene directed and led most obviously by The Strokes that seemed to burst from nowhere at the time. 

The band are a four-piece just out of their teens who hail from Lititz, Pennsylvania. A Flourish & a Spoil would not probably be something that its tourist board would care to use to attract visitors. It's classic smalltown stuff. Nothing to do. Little in common with those around you. Hanging round on street corners and in basements, unable even to dissipate the bored emotions welling up inside a local bar knocking back beer because you're under age. Yearning most of all to leave and start to live. Nothing new. This stuff goes back to Holden Caulfield and probably beyond. Disgust at all around them and really self disgust most of all.  Teenage emotions. Valid ones sure, but probably things that it's better to work through your system before your insides start to rot.

In their album review Pitchfork do a finely tuned assassination job on the record its sound and the emotions it conveys. I'll quote the first paragraph to give you the general idea.

'The Districts’ appeal lies in how you can call them a "rock band" and have a typically vague term mean something specific. Or, maybe, they’re a throwback to the last time "rock band" meant something. All four members are under 21 years old and they play bar-friendly rawk with the irreverence and impatience of kids who still have to get drunk in the parking lot, replacing the classic rock and blues with mannish-boy punk vigor. They’re from Lititz, Penn., a town whose closest metro area is Lancaster, but they evoke New York in 2002, which itself evoked New York during a non-specific time in the late-'70s; think "Welcome to New York" with Taylor Swift swapped out for Julian Casablancas and Hamilton Leithauser and Paul Banks, a fantastical guided tour of art-damaged, post-punk, Koch-era NYC minus the clear and present danger. They’re a "the + plural noun" band. For those who felt the "New Rock Revolution" was exactly what its name promised rather than a revival of old aesthetics, the Districts' A Flourish and a Spoil signifies a restoration of order. For everyone else who simply likes rock bands, it's actually kinda quaint.'

A great piece of well phrased, deeply cynical music criticism, if a tad cruel. On their website the band themselves write, rather less cynically: 

'We're The Districts.We're from a little town called Lititz, Pa. We write honest music and are passionate about doing so.' 

Who could possibly object to that? It's what artists or those aspiring to become artists ought to do. In the couple of interviews I've read with them they are all teenage enthusiasm for the music they love and that inspires them. Much less jaded than their record occasionally sounds which bodes well.There's some definite, novelistic talent on A Flourish & a Spoil. As I've implied already it's their small, imperfectly formed Catcher in the Rye and I imagine they'll improve on it in terms of finding their way towards their own voice over the years and their career to come. They've already done the difficult bit. Fought their way out of Lititz, PA. Onwards and upwards!

Friday, October 23, 2015

B Sides # 45 The Charlatans

B Side to How High.Getting round to writing something about The Charlatans and Ride over the next few days if things go according to plan. Please don't hold it against me if they don't!

October 23rd 1953 Pauline Black

Coincidentally I put the first Selecter album on yesterday while getting up and getting ready to go to work. Great way to start the day!

Mix Tape Songs About Trains # 22 Ben Harper

Side 2 Track 8 3 mins 32 secs. Came upon this by chance last night. Ben Harper pretty much always hits the spot.

Song of the Day # 642 The Method Actors

Talking of great clanging sounds. Important players on the great early Athens, Georgia Scene that spawned The B52's, Pylon and R.E.M. among others.. Hearing this last night led me to put on Mission of Burma who produced a similarly wonderful sound

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 91 The Rolling Stones

Because hearing this coming out of my radio now, took me immediately back pretty much thirty three years to a teenage party when I was seventeen and hearing their great clipped, clanging mid-sixties singles chiming from a record player in a cool flat in Teddington, Middlesex. I refer you to the quote from Nick Cave at the top of the page.

Songs About People # 137 Bela Lugosi

Another CBGB stalwart, Mick Farren, journalist, activist, singer and general British countercultural phenomenon from the sixties onward. This comes from his 1978  album Vampires Stole My Lunch Money which had one of the great record covers (see below). This song documents Lugosi's much reported drug struggles and is a wonderful track in itself.

October 22nd 1956 Stiv Bators

Bit of a CBGBs theme today so far. Stiv Bators. One of the more remarkable names in Rock and Roll. Would have been sixty.

Mix Tape Songs About Trains # 21 The Cramps

Side 2 Track 7 - 2 mins 40 secs. Another train coming round the bend. And hey, it's the Drug Train.

Song(s) of the Day # 641 Lizzy Mercier Descloux

A face on the CBGB's Punk scene, Frenchwoman Lizzy Mercier Descloux met and mixed with the other main players, set up Rock Magazine, and later signed up as an artist on  Ze Records, went out with Richard Hell and made TV appearances with the likes of Serge Gainsbourg as I posted yesterday.

Her records are great. The clip of Torso Corso about is abridged, as is the track below,  but you get the idea. It's full of that hip New York funk energy that poured into the No Wave movement at the end of the seventies.She sounds like a more wired, weird and slightly dangerous French equivalent of Clare Grogan. Hear more on the recently re-released No Color.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Songs Heard on the Radio # 90 Love

Never a bad way to start a radio show. As has happened just now.

October 21st 1941 Steve Cropper

Happy Birthday to one of the greats!

Covers # 30 Lizzie Mercier Descloux

Great clip from French late seventies television with Lizzie Mercier Descloux virtually rubbing shoulders with Serge Gainsbourg before and after performing the Arthur Brown classic. More from her tomorrow.

Songs Played on The Strawberry's Jukebox # 1

On the horns of a dilemma. Last night following some time at the Tuesday night Jazz Caff Jam on Pink Lane in Newcastle I fancied some songs and a last beer at Rosie's. Went there to discover the jukebox broken down altogether so went round the corner in a huff to the pub opposite St.James Park which has the same jukebox. It works, always, and you can download songs as you please something you haven't been able to do at Rosie's for four months. Fix it you good for nothings!!! Rosie's is my local but really. May have to change my end of the working day beer stop until it's done. In the meantime, here were my selections at The Strawberry:

1. Ride - Leave Them All Behind
2. Neil Young - My My, Hey, Hey
3. Television - See No Evil
4. The Byrds - So You You Want to Be a Rock'N'Roll Star
5. R.E.M. So Central Rain
6. The Velvet Underground - There She Goes Again
7. The Jungle Book - Bare Necessities
8. Love - Stephanie Says

Mix Tape Songs About Trains # 20 The Velvet Underground

Side 2 Track 6 3 mins 23 secs. From Floyd to more familiar territory. Lesser Velvets song from Loaded. But even their lesser songs are better than pretty much everybody else's. Hear Sterling Morrison's guitar chug and howl.

Song of the Day # 640 Pink Floyd

'You say the hill's too steep to climb...'

If anything this blog is a journey of discovery for me as much as anything else. The other day, reading up on Ride I chanced upon this, a recommendation by guitarist Andy Bell for a Pink Floyd track, from Meddle, their 1971 album. And it's great. I've found a Floyd song of the Gilmour/Waters era that I can get behind. The snippets of The Kop chanting and singing are also a neat touch and I'm sure endeared the song to John Peel at the time. Not sure I'll be delving much further in search for more Floyd nuggets but I tip my hat to them for this. Here's Bell:

'The song that reminds me of Oxford
‘Fearless’, Pink Floyd: “I associate the Pink Floyd album ‘Meddle’ very much with Oxford, and if I had to pick a song from it, it would be ‘Fearless’. Something about this very easy-going, lazy era of Pink Floyd music is very Oxford.”

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

B Sides # 44 Ride

I saw Ride on Sunday at The Newcastle Academy. And they were magnificent. In anticipation of writing more about them which I will this weekend here's one of the tracks, (a B Side of sorts) on their Today Forever EP from 1991.

Mix Tape Songs About Trains # 19 Harry Belafonte

Side 2 Track 5 3 mins 59 secs. This song has featured before but not in this series! It's a good 'un anyway. One of umpteen versions of this folk traditional and Bob Dylan numbers among its players. Thought to be the first time he features on a recording.

Covers # 29 Buffy Saint-Marie

Morrissey favourite Buffy the Cowboy Slayer does a jaunty take on the Joni classic on her 1967 album Fire & Fleet & Candlelight. This also plays over the credits of counterculture classic The Strawberry Statement which came out three years later. This certainly has a spring in its step somewhat lacking over the rest of the original album it hails from much of which is somewhat worthy and dull. I saw a copy of said album in the window of a record shop in York a week and a half ago and debated over whether to buy it. It was one that got away and my instinct might have served me well on this occasion. Still The Circle Game and 97 Men in This Here Town from the record are worth tracking down. 

October 5th 1950 Tom Petty

Tom Petty is 65 today. One of the most distinctive looking rock stars of all. Though I might find it slightly difficult to listen through to a whole album of his, (even his much touted 'classic' Damn the Torpedoes), I never have a moment's difficulty listening through to this, when he synergised all of his obvious influences into something undeniably special. I imagine this gets put on a jukebox somewhere in The States every couple of seconds. Quite right too! I'll also give you this which fits into the same category.