Friday, March 31, 2017

Songs About People # 337 Franz Mozart

'Meet the new Mozart. He's in the bed where commerce sleeps with art..'

From Paddy, to Ronnie Spector and back to Paddy. A slightly heart-rending tale of Mozart coming back for a second go at things having learned from the errors he made first time round and aiming for a more modest and altogether less inspired success this time round.. From Prefab Sprout's 2009 album Let's Change the World With Music.

March Review

This month, as Britain transitioned rather wonderfully from winter to spring there was plenty of new stuff musically that caught my ear. good new albums from The Shins, Valerie June, Moonlandingz, Real Estate, Spiral Stairs and on this last date of March the new Goldfrapp record which does the crunchy, cinematic dancefloor things we already know they do rather nicely. Also promising tasters of forthcoming albums from Fleet Foxes and Benjamin Booker, Grandaddy, just fabulous live at the Hoults Yard in Newcastle on Jason Lyttle's birthday, and a wonderful album from Mount Eerie called A Crow Looked At Me, which almost acts as a self-assistance manual, to help listeners cope with                                                                            personal loss.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 653 The Bob Seger System

Song of the Day # 1,167 Ronnie Spector

I was prodded in this direction by the NME article below where Paddy MacAloon selects it as one of his own personal, musical favourites. A 1971 single on the Apple Record Label, written by George Harrison, co-produced by Phil in preparation for an album which never materialised. In typical Harrison vogue it seems to be about spiritual realisation and is quite epic in scale on every level. It was not a hit! Ronnie Spector herself did not rate it. Both she and the general public were wrong in this respect if feel. There's something quite magnificent about its bruised ambition. Bowie was a long term fan of the song and recorded it himself over twenty years later.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Martin Stephenson & Paddy McAloon - Portrait of the Artist as a Consumer - NME November 1983

Songs About People # 336 Giorgio Moroder

Giorgio talks about his life. Daft Punk provide the soundtrack.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 654 James Carr

30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 30 Fred Neil

To finish off this little series one of the best philosophical folk pop songs every written. Made famous of course by Harry Nilsson as the theme tune for Midnight Cowboy, and later covered by Luna, here's the original from the man who wrote it.

March 30th 1950 Lene Lovich

Song of the Day # 1,166 Swimming Tapes

London band Swimming Tapes new EP, the four track Souvenirs is really a rather lovely object. Setting off rather unremarkably into a shimmery guitar haze that's very familiar to anyone who's remotely aware of  Real Estate, Beach Fossils or Ducktails records, they nevertheless do such a fine job of weaving the song into a dream state that by the culmination of each song the effect is rather spellbinding.

All four songs are worth hearing, more to the point, none of them really stand out of the pack either, because the band take a similar route across the course of each. It all seems rather fitting as the weather outside, (at least where I am), takes an upturn and we head into spring.

Here they all cased visually, in highly appropriate pastel beach scenarios. Clearly a band to drift into dream to. They'll probably need to broaden their palette with future releases as this approach alone will not suffice in terms of longevity but for now, and in this short, sweet dose it will very much do.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Songs Heard on the Radio # 195 Jeffrey & Jack Lewis

I suppose we've all been here or somewhere somehow slightly similar. If not, good on you, you're fortunate or just very well adjusted.

Songs About People # 335 Patti Smith

While we're with Thurston, here's the second outing for Patti on this particular series, from Moore's                                                                     1995 record Psychic Hearts.

Thurston Moore - Smoke of Dreams

New Thurston Moore ahead of his new album Rock n Roll Consciousness which is due on April 28th. It's not untypical Moore, working slap-bang within the meter that he's been known for over many years. Things do all rise to a rather thrilling level of guitar virtuosity though.

The Beatles in Asterix in Britain

March 29th 1940 Astrud Gilberto

30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 29 John Lennon


The Heart of Rock and Soul # 655 Elvis Presley

Song of the Day # 1,165 Bhundu Boys

In 1986 John Peel went crazy about The Bhundu Boys. The whole of their album Shabini is just wonderful. Here is just one song from it!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Original Soundtrack Selections # 1 Jean Pierre Mirouze

From a 1971 French film about a married couple who inadvisably decide to start up a sexual collective group. Sure to end in tears. As for the soundtrack, inevitable pre-echoes of Stereolab.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 656 The Beatles

'Perhaps the truest Beatles single of all, since they recorded it twice, changing not only the music but the message. Although it appears on the White Album as a softened up blues with Lennon announcing 'You can count me in,' the real gem is the 45, with its ferocious fuzztone rock and roll attack and Lennon snarling , 'You can count me out,' not a progressive sentiment but as regards those who went around carrying pictures of Chairman Mao he was right. And Lennon self-righteous could be a wonder to behold.'

30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 28 Ann-Margret

The go to Lee Hazlewood cover, almost inevitable, as that man is a real touchstone for a certain kind of taste. This is from the 1969 record, The Cowboy & the Lady which he made with Ann-Margret.

Songs About People # 334 Lou Christie

One more from Rodney. A tribute to Lou Christie, the sixties pop star with the astonishing falsetto.

Song(s) of the Day # 1,164 Rodney Graham

On Sunday afternoon on a lovely sunny day I wandered along Newcastle Quayside wasting time before meeting up with a friend and going to see Grandaddy play (of which more later). I decided to waste some time having a look round the Baltic Art Gallery over the Millennium Bridge in Gateshead. 

Modern art galleries of course are subject to some disdain and sometimes I share this reaction. This time though I was glad I took the detour. Because at the moment two of The Baltic's floor are taken up by an exhibition by Canadian artist Rodney Graham.

Graham specialises in 'staged' photography. Huge pictures featuring himself in wry, self-depreciating, self-conscious scenarios, playing roles, trying on costumes. It was a thoughtful, funny, gentle and altogether rather lovely show.

He's also a musician, in fact he's playing a rare show at The Baltic in a month or so, and yesterday I listened through to his latest album Good Hand Bad Hand as a follow up to my stroll around the gallery

It's wry, funny and self-depreciating and rather lovely too. Graham has a very taking Neil Young lilt to his voice and altogether comes across as a marvelously drawn Wes Anderson character, fictionalising himself for the purposes of his work. He says he finds lyrics difficult because he hasn't really got anything to say. He says it very well nevertheless and I'm now a fan.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Songs Heard on the Radio # 194 Television Personalities

Ghostly! From their debut album And Don't the Kids Just Love it.

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 200 Robert Wyatt

Lets push this one over a slope and into new territory. A nice song to listen to as Newcastle transitions itself into spring and I find myself on holiday.

Songs About People # 333 Jack The Ripper

Perhaps in slightly dubious taste but then when was the taste of Rock and Roll anything but dubious!

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 657 The Stylistics

From Sex Pistols to Stylistics!

30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 27 The Sex Pistols

No direct link but here you go! One of the oddest and most inspired covers in this series. Galaxie 500 did their take on this for a John Peel session.

March 27th 1957 Billy MacKenzie

                                              Would have been sixty today. One of a kind!

Song of the Day # 1,163 Samantha Crain

Wonderful opening track from the new Samantha Crain record You Had Me at Goodbye. Will have to investigate further and report back.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Songs About People # 332 Chester Burnette

From That Petrol Emotion's excellent second album Babble. Chester Burnette, of course, the real name of the man better known to the world as Howlin' Wolf.

30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 26 Michel Polnareff

The obligatory cover of French cool!

March 26th 1944 Diana Ross

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 658 Chuck Jackson

Song of the Day # 1,162 Mount Eerie

Mount Eerie, who I wasn't aware of until a couple of days ago, have a new record out called A Crow Looked At Me, released last Friday. In the couple of days since then it's already racked up sufficient support to shift up to # 12 on albums of the year on The Best Ever Albums website which is a good way of measuring these kind of things and their currency.

The band are essentially the solo project of former Microphones band member Phil Elverum. This record is a particular, one-off mission. An autobiographical charting of dreadful personal events in Elverum's recent life, focused on the death of his wife Genevieve Castree of pancreatic cancer shortly after the birth of their daughter.

The songs on A Crow Looked At Me chart Elverum's mourning process, the random thoughts, emotions and sensations that cross his mind as he tries to cope with his loss but also hold onto the memories of his loved, departed one. It's a strangely consoling album, very much documenting the ticking of time. About death, of course, but also very much about life and the struggles we're all obliged to go through as we transition through it. It's not a record of songs constructed with conventional verses or choruses and that's exactly as it should be. Elverum's off-key but warm vocal delivery give things a strange, poignant potency. Here's one that seems sure to spawn a small, tender legend!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 199 The Fall

There's a story behind every song put on the jukebox at Rosie's if you dig hard enough. It's a small, compact pub in the shadow of the St.James Park football stadium in Newcastle with a jukebox just loud enough to listen to the music if you want to and ignore it if you're equally inclined. Here's the small story behind this particular moment. Milli, who is pretty much the patron centre of the place and the first person I noticed, sat quietly at the far end of the place when I first started going in about ten years back turned up after a long shift of baby sitting for a quiet drink. Unfortunately he wasn't going to have one because there was a pack of loud punters from The Irish Centre across the road already making a row on a stag do at the far end of the bar. They drove him out. I meanwhile went to put a few songs on. The volume got to such a point while I was making my selection that I deliberately put on the loudest but also smartest song I could think of. Nobody noticed. My selection came to an end and the loud guys put on Chris Rea's Lady in Red. I left. Life goes on, somewhere else ,and meanwhile this series is almost two hundred.

March 25th 1942 Aretha Franklin

30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 25 George Harrison

Covered by Galaxie 500 as the last track on their second album On Fire.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 659 War

Songs About People # 331 Iain Duncan Smith

'40,000 years of job club...'

And from the same album, (though this is a radio session version), a 'tribute' to the rather grotty former British Secretary of  State for Work & Pensions. Dystopia it seems, is already here.

Song of the Day # 1,161 The Moonlandingz

I saw Moonlandingz play three nights ago at The Cluny in Newcastle, on the verge of the release of their debut album Interplanetary Class Classics, which came out yesterday. I can't say I enjoyed them greatly, although they certainly put on some show. The aura  of the great British hype rose off them like steam, they come from a place where Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Sigue Sigue Sputnick, Jesus & Mary Chain, The Manic Street Preachers, Birdland, KLF, These Animal Men, Gay Dad and umpteen others have been before them. A well trodden path.

With a lead singer, (Fat White Family's Lias Saoudi, but here Johnny Rocket), topless and with the lower part of his torso wrapped in cellophane with drawn on sideburns and eyebrows, swigging from a bottle and gyrating and rubbing himself against co-vocalist Rebecca Taylor in all kinds of  contortions which verged on the ghastly, backed by a set of stocky blokes from Sheffield's The Eccentronic Research Council, a stern guitarist, Mairead O'Connor and a stage patter that defied explanation. Frankly I thought they were trying too hard and left before they were done.

I am taken by the record though. They know what they're doing. Whereas their stage show suggested The Cramps and The B52's having been sliced and diced and vomited out by a very British blender, Interplanetary Class Classics tells a very different tale. Here you get The Glitter Band, The Velvet Underground, Simple Minds circa Empires & Dance, Joe Meek, the early Human League, The Sparks, Suicide and World of Twist. You get a series of very interesting alternative pop songs, you get Sean Lennon producing, the cowboy from the Village People on a track called, (erm), Glory Hole and finally Phil Oakey and Yoko Ono warbling horribly all over six minute closer This Cities Undone.  And trust me, at least 80% of it is very good. Because they clearly know what they're doing. I'm not particularly fussed about watching them visually again, but the record is just fine. Indie trash!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Covers # 74 The Sandpipers

From The Sandpipers 1966 album Guantanemera. There's something rather inspired about this version of the frat-rock classic.

Songs About People # 330 Julius Caesar

This must be about the man, at least in some obscure sense! The stabbed in the back line of the opening lyrics. Ty Segall garage power!


Album Reviews # 64 Dream Syndicate - The Days of Wine & Roses

  So, while we're here, a re-post for this:

' The early eighties Paisley Underground Scene of guitar-led garage bands was a particular movement. Based around a set of like-minded and mutually supportive souls, looking more to the sixties than the seventies generally, it produced a bunch of good to middling records and perhaps one album that verges on greatness, the debut outing from The Dream Syndicate, The Days of Wine & Roses.

Built around the songwriting and vocals of Steve Wynn, but very much a group effort, it was recorded in a couple of days in late 1982 and released later in the same year. Very much indebted to the methedrine intensity of The Velvet Underground, there's even a slower Nico / Mo Tucker track, sung by bassist Kendra Smith. Wynn became increasingly defensive in response to the inevitable comparisons, (they did after all take their name from the original pre-Velvets grouping), nevertheless, it's certainly much more than mere tribute, sounding very much a West Coast record rather than an East Coast one, drenched as it is in Hollywood paranoia and cinematic angst, A series of well-crafted and impressively delivered songs of guitar adventuring.

The band draw on Punk and New Wave in addition to the sixties. Wynn and lead guitarist Karl Precoda duel in a manner not dissimilar to Television's Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd but their interplay is intentionally more ragged and open-ended, (and occasionally awash in feedback), than that band's recorded output and nods its head to Crazy Horse, Dylan and Creedence too, while The Fall were also an influence that Wynn has repeatedly mentioned in interview.   He was also apparently an avid fan of Postcard Records, Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes. He applies his own, half-spoken, drawled vocals, telling a set of  tales of vague, existential dread of lives spinning irretrievably out of control, played out under the unrelenting Californian sun. In addition to all this, the album acts as something of a pre-cursor to Sonic Youth, who were just forming at the same point and preceded to take things to an altogether more unhinged extreme in the following decade.

The Days of Wine & Roses, seen on its own terms, is a pretty much perfect guitar album. Never quite as inspired as Reed, Verlaine or Young, Wynn's songs nevertheless operate highly efficiently in their slipstream and Precoda's playing particularly elevates the record to its own equisite heights.It very much sounds like the work of a band on the uneasy cusp of adulthood and laying down their own path.

Setting off with the creamy Tell Me When It's Over, each track on here keeps up the pace and occasionally, when the band really let rip, they set down a template that has barely been matched since. Wynn is an observer of life's strange tribulations, troubled, but also detached and occasionally the band lock into an inspired almost jazz like hazy, opiate groove.


Going at cross-purposes to much of the New Wave which was turning on mass towards synth-pop, The Days of Wine & Roses revisits and renews the glorious potential of guitar driven Rock and Roll. The Dream Syndicate were far from alone, at least in the States. The Replacements, R.E.M. Husker Du and The Minutemen along with countless others had embarked along similar roads but they were all very much underground concerns at this point, with the possible exception of R.E.M. who immediately began making chart inroads the same year with the release of Murmur.

The Days of Wine & Roses is a record with limited commercial appeal. The Velvet Underground, regardless of Wynn's protestations, the guiding influence of everything on here, were never meant to top the hit parade. Nevertheless, the record did open up a whole field of exciting possibilities which those with like-minded sensibilities leapt on, in Europe as well as the States.

When I personally started hearing this music myself, round about the time, when I was forming my own taste and starting to buy my first records, it was a revelation. The influence of Punk was beginning to dim, with 1982 and New Pop probably its last direct immediate impact on the mainstream. The Smiths emerged to offer an alternative route along with The Go-Betweens, Prefab Sprout, Aztec Camera, The Triffids and Lloyd Cole & the Commotions but there were also all of these American bands, though, again with the exception of R.E.M. they didn't gain much footing over here except for touring occasionally in small halls to appreciative audiences.

Several of the other Paisley Underground bands were worthy of note. The Rain Parade, True West, The Long Ryders and The Bangles for example. But it was The Dream Syndicate who most successfully built a bridge from the sixties to the eighties with this record. Sadly they never quite matched it, signing to A&M and worked with big-hitting producer Sandy Pearlman on their second album The Medicine Show. In comparison with their first outing, they worked painstakingly on the record's sound but despite having great moments, (it's a fine 'nearly' record, particularly the mighty John Coltrane's Stereo Blues), overall it failed to match the sustained, inspirational peaks of its successor. The Days of Wine & Roses remains the band's definitive statement. It still sounds quite wonderful today, more than thirty years on!

* For an excellent account of the record an its context, see this Uncut Magazine review

30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 24 The Dream Syndicate

From a record very highly rated by Wareham. More Dream Syndicate coming up next!

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 660 Fats Domino

March 24th 1938 Holger Czukay

Song(s) of the Day # 1,160 Philip Lewin

A 1975 Private-Pressing record of only 300 copies now to be re-released on the Tompkins Square Label . A thoughtful and wonderfully crafted album from a singer-songwriter in the Fred Neil, Tim Buckley and Rodriguez vein. Beautifully dappled songs which are meditations on the nature of existence and all that we do, and a quest to make some inroads on what it's all about,  Am I Really Here All Alone, seems a well judged title.

Rodriguez is the comparison that really comes through to me on listening to this. Not all of the songs are perfectly formed, there's a ragged, demo-ish character to them which somehow seem to indicate why Lewin garnered little attention first time round. You can almost visualise Lewin back then, playing to a slightly inattentive audience in a New York Coffee House on a quiet weekday evening.

Those who were paying attention were onto something nevertheless. The sheer quality of the songwriting and delivery here also goes some way to explaining why they're deemed worthy of renewed attention. This would be a purchase that you wouldn't regret. Nice!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 198 Inspiral Carpets

Perhaps the best Inspiral Carpets song. Value for money at Rosie's tonight as we got to witness a jolly good bar fight along with the good conversation and ale.

David Bowie

Songs About People # 329 Bjorn Borg

'Nimble-witted new wave pop and junky keyboard links since 1997'. That's Madison Wisconsin's The German Art Students. Or just plain odd. Dependent on how you look at it.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 661 Chuck Berry

30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 23 The Red Krayola

The Red Krayola, among the ultimate sixties American cult bands, possibly because a lot of their output isn't particularly listenable. Galaxie 500 chose to cover this, one of their most approachable numbers.

March 23rd 1968 Damon Albarn

Song(s) of the Day # 1,159 Valerie June

One of the greatest things about doing this blog for me personally, has been that over the weeks and months that I've been writing it since I started in June 2013 I've gradually become oriented to the here and now in terms of what I listen to and appreciate musically. What began as essentially a nostalgia exercise for me to shuffle through my record collection, jot down my thoughts, ideas and memories about the albums I loved in the eighties, eventually made me more contemporary in terms of what I seek out and enjoy and subsequently post.

Now, I consciously look out for what new music is coming out every Friday and consequently have realised what a broad range of wonderful music is being made in the here and now, an idea I would s probably have been cynical about through ignorance back in 2013. Take Valerie June's fifth album  The Order of Time, (just out), for example. In many ways it's not a 'new' record, steeped as it is in classic soul, cajun and mountain traditions although they're updated skillfully through modern recording values. What brings it all together is Brooklyn based, (does everybody live in Brooklyn nowadays?), June's beautiful lived in voice and wonderful smart and warm and slightly quirky), songwriting talent. Astral Plane, (posted above), is sure to be one of my favourite songs of the year. The rest of the record is brilliant too. An album of consolation for the moments when you need it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Songs Heard on the Radio # 193 The Vasellines

Made famous by Nirvana of course. But The Vaselines version is also pretty good!

Patti Smith

Coming up next month. Billed as Patti Smith's last ever concert in Australia. Supported by Courtney Barnett. Lucky Melbourne! 

Songs About People # 328 Jean Genet

One of the leading icons for twentieth century alternative counterculture lifestyle. Jean Genie was apparently written for him. The likes of Patti Smith and Bobby Gillespie swear by him. Here, Brazilian band Capital Inicial pay tribute on their 1999 record Atras Dos Olhos.

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 662 Marvin Gaye

30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 22 Michael Holland

One of Wareham's more obscure cover selections. 

March 22nd 1958 Pete Wylie

Song(s) of the Day # 1,158 Ron Gallo

Philadelphia's Ron Gallo has a full and slightly forbidding Afro. In the grand tradition of The MC5 and At The Drive In. Their's is a musical seam he definitely mines as well, (lots of seventies New York Punk here also), all loose street, cocksure attitude, which goes back beyond these to the Bob Dylan of Subterranean Homesick Blues and sixties garage which are surely his original sources. 

On his new album, the just released Heavy Meta, (geddit!), he makes a strong case for this stuff being as relevant now as it's ever been. Opening track Young Lady You're Scaring Me sets off with a riff that's pure Nuggets at which point Gallo releases a rock and roll howl that let's the listener know exactly where we all are if we weren't fairly sure already. If you have Richard Hell & the Voidoids, The Cramps or Mink De Ville in your collection, you're going to feel perfectly at home here.

If Gallo is somehow working from a similar template and set of ingredients to Courtney Barnett, (she made this kind of loose garage married to modern sentiment relevant again a few years back), he's is definitely an angrier, grittier Barnett, hailing from downtown rather than the suburbs, and emphasises his edge by adding a bit more blues to the mix than she ever did, some Jack White and some traces of Zep.

It's a record that's a bit pick and mix with regards to my personal tastes. Some tracks work better for me than others but Gallo is clearly a talent and Heavy Meta a record I'm sure to return to. For me he's at his best when he's either at his most punkish or at the opposite end of the spectrum at his most thoughtful and laying off the guitar heroics. The best song on here for my money is final track All The Punks Are Domesticated which I can't post a direct link to but which you can find here, which is pretty much a state of play address for where we find ourselves in 2017. The lyrics say much of what needs to be said!

The Heart of Rock and Soul # 663 Koko Taylor

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Things Found on My Local's Jukebox # 197 Grandaddy

Five days from seeing Grandaddy. Strangely, since we're in 2017, one of the greatest bands on the planet. Still! Odd turn of events.

Songs About People # 327 Ned Kelly

Why was Johnny Cash so good? It's impossible to put into words really. Here the whole Ned Kelly story is effectively told in two minutes and eighteen seconds.

30 Days of Songs Dean Wareham Covered # 21 Young Marble Giants

Bristol's pioneering and defiantly low-fi Young Marble Giants were quite an influence on Wareham. Here's a single of their's, from the early eighties where they articulate that post-nuclear dread that was so prevalent at that point in time.

March 21st 1940 Solomon Burke

Song of the Day # 1,157 Fleet Foxes

The comeback song from Fleet Foxes after six years away. An album is also forthcoming. This is a nine minute track, (or conflation of tracks) called 3rd of May / Odaigahara about the friendship of singer Robin Pecknold and guitarist Skyler Skjelset. It's a thing of rare beauty and seems destined to be one of 2017 most memorable tracks.

Monday, March 20, 2017


New young London band Shame were Song of the Day on here a few weeks back. Here's their new song Tasteless out soon on on Fnord Communications. The band are all nineteen year olds and this is all highly promising! Anger as an energy.