Sunday, 21 December 2014

Clarinet Factory

Radio 3's Late Junction is one of the finest radio programmes currently on the airwaves. I guarantee that whatever your bag is you will find it a veritable treasure trove of musical delights. Working away this week I pitched up at a faceless hotel at the wrong end of the country; so on Wednesday night, just after 11:00, I turned the dial like a professional safe cracker on my little travel radio and immersed myself in LJ's eclectic mix.

I know nothing about Clarinet Factory other than the fact that I will now be seeking out their recordings from wherever I can. They grabbed my attention on Wednesday night. I hope they grab yours now. Here they are at St. Mary of the Snow Cathedral in Prague.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Tree

The tree went up today: it had to, it's the last Saturday before Christmas - Medd folklore is binding.

Die Hard: Christmas movie?
I tell people I don't like Christmas and that I don't like snow. I also tell people I don't like mince pies. Well, two out of those three statements are true; but when the tree goes up and the lights are switched on, I start to get a bit misty eyed and can't help thinking back to Christmases past. Despite the Black Friday & Cyber Monday nonsense and Nigella's kitchen fakery, I shall look forward more than ever to this festive season and the homecoming of The Number One Son on Christmas Eve: gifts will be exchanged, glasses will be raised, turkey will be devoured and the perennial Die Hard will be watched and dissected - is it really a Christmas film? And, thanks to our Anglo-German friends, Andy and Monika, back in Nottingham, the music of Bugie Wesseltoft will be omnipresent over the next few days.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Fly me

Mandy Rice-Davies (1944-2014)
In 1960, and barely sixteen, model Mandy Rice-Davies was draped over car bonnets at Earls Court Motor Show. A couple of years later, with fellow showgirl Christine Keeler, she would rock Harold MacMillan's Tory Government to its very foundations amid tales of sex, sex and more sex. No wonder the tabloids loved her. They'd never seen the like before; words like mistress, lurid, scandal and of course, sex, could now be strung together in the same sentence and increase readership faster than you could say Profumo.

Rice-Davies summed it up perfectly many years later: 'In a world full of deference, I had none.' Well, she would say that wouldn't she?

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Twenty Flight Rock


Birmingham has never been pretty. In the late sixties they were pulling down their slums and erecting shiny new skyscrapers. And it wasn't just Birmingham, it was happening in every other major city in the UK. But no matter how hard you tried to shine Birmingham, it never sparkled.

There was a cross over period when they hadn't quite finished knocking down the old and they hadn't yet finished building the new. John Bonham would have been able to tell you all about it if he was still with us: in 1968 when Wimpey built Butterfield Court in Dudley, he was one of the first to move in. In fact a lot of Led Zeppelin fans think it was the drummer's tower block that appears on the inside sleeve of Led Zep 4. It is in fact Salisbury Tower in the Ladywood district of Birmingham; both equally ugly. They've knocked a lot of these eye sores down now. People, it would appear, given the choice, prefer not to live up in the air.


Thursday, 11 December 2014

Robin Who?



My good friend Mark and his bin lids went to see The Who in Nottingham last Friday night - and I'm grateful to him for letting me use these fabulous photographs.


That Townshend and Daltrey are still dragging their caravan around the country in 2014 barking out lines like ‘Hope I die before I get old' is nothing short of amazing. But are they still The Who? It's Pete and Rog playing classic Who numbers, that's for sure. But, for me, the band finally died when John Entwistle pegged it in 2002.

I’ve seen them live. Twice. The first time was in 1976 with Keith Moon, the second with Kenney Jones not long after Moony bought the farm. Were they any good? Of course they were. At Charlton they were spellbinding. Next time around they didn’t really do it for me; despite a laser light show that lit up half the night sky. But The Who have always been a live band - they never could bottle what they did in a live situation and capture it on vinyl; even Live at Leeds falls under the ‘you had to be there’ category.

But I mustn't carp. Anyone who still hasn't seen them and gets the chance to witness a couple of real rock legends (even in their dotage) really should go along and see what all the fuss is about. The Number One Son caught them at Glastonbury in 2007 (he spent the entire gig leaning on the barrier down the front with 250,000 people leaning on him) and said they were definitely worth getting trench foot for.  

Friday, 5 December 2014

Kashmir

   It doesn't matter where you live in the developed world, if you turn to the What's On guide of your local paper this evening the chances are you'll see a listing for a Led Zeppelin tribute act playing just up the road from your house.
   You've just had a look haven't you? And was I right or was I right? It seems there are as many tributes to Led Zep as there are to The Beatles - scary stuff.
   Now, go back to those local listings and check if the band in question are one of the following. Even if they aren't I'll wager it'll be a derivation or some equally contrived Zeppelin type pun. (I may have dropped a couple of my own in there.)

No Quarter
Houses of the Holy
Whole Lotta Led
Fred Zeppelin
Ramble On
Led-Hed
Get the Led Out
Zoso
Turn the Page
Prezence
Heartbreaker
Letz Zep
John, Paul Jones, Robert & Titch
UnLEDded
Swan Song
The Rubber Plants
Mr. Jimmy
Led Zep Again
Hats Off to Led Zeppelin
Bled Zeppelin
Planted

   And, of course, Kashmir. This isn't them, but it's probably the best cover version of Kashmir you'll hear this weekend. And there's not a bare chest or Gibson Les Paul in sight. The song remains the same? Only just.



Wednesday, 3 December 2014

'Til the wheels come off

Guy Garvey made me laugh on Desert Island Discs the other day. After painstakingly choosing eight favourite records he was asked what luxury item he would like to take to the island. Quick as a flash he replied: 'A radio.' Garvey's total missing of the point of the programme was soon glossed over by the lovely Kirsty and a pair of nail clippers or somesuch was hastily requested instead.

7/8 of Mr. Elbow's selections, however, all paled into insignificance compared to this beautiful song from Tom Waits. The line 'I'm gonna love you 'til the wheels come off' is, quite simply, perfect.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Taxing times

   When George Harrison quoted the Taxman: 'there's one for you, nineteen for me' he kiddeth not. In 1966 the top rate of income tax was 83% on earned income and an eye watering 98% on unearned income.
   Five years later and Mick Jagger and Keith Richards could stand it no more: in 1971, and facing a massive bill from what we now know as HMRC, they buggered off to France and became rock and roll's first tax exiles. But not before playing a short UK tour; comprising mostly small halls and colleges it was their first proper tour in years. Jagger had yet to become a parody of himself and in Mick Taylor they'd got the best guitarist the band had ever employed.
   The penultimate date of the tour, March 13, was Leeds University. It was recorded by the BBC for posterity. And the band had never sounded better.
   Ladies and Gentlemen, The Rolling Stones.



Saturday, 29 November 2014

Groovy

She used to be Posh, apparently
   On a Saturday afternoon in December 1997 I remember chaperoning a friend of mine's daughter and taking her to see Spice World - The Spice Girls Movie. She loved it. I had the newspaper with me as we went into the Odeon, thinking I'd be bored rigid. But, strangely, I found myself looking up from time to time and tapping my foot to their catchy brand of bubblegum pop. Say what you like, but they had some good tunes. And everyone knew they couldn't act for toffee; the film was nominated for worst picture, worst screenplay and worst actress (which they won en masse) and was quickly consigned to the turkey farm.
   I mention this for no other reason than I recently stumbled upon Victoria Beckham's final solo release: This Groove, her 2003 single, comprises the artist formerly known as Posh brazenly stealing The System's 1987 soul classic Don't Disturb This Groove. This Groove, the video, comprises Beckham brazenly writhing around on a bed wearing very little in the way of clothing. It's really rather good.

Here she is:


And this is where she nicked it from:

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Knees up


Pictured above are two significant women in my life. What you can't see in this photograph are their knees. Good job; no, they're not knobbly. Nor have they drawn smiley faces on them. But both pairs are, at this moment in time, not performing as they should. Normal service will, I'm sure, be resumed a soon as possible.

In the meantime I'd like to wish the young lady on the left a Happy Birthday.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Melody Maker, January 20, 1973

The Sweet: backs against the wall time

In January 1973 The Sweet were on the verge of glam greatness. They'd just released Block Buster! their clarion call monster of a single which would go the the coveted Number One slot. A couple of weeks earlier, however, they were giving the press a sneak preview at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club of all places.


For some obscure reason, Chris Welch of The Melody Maker was tasked with providing 1000 words about the event for the paper. And anyone around in '73 would know that The Sweet were definitely not a Melody Maker band.


Sweeties!

   What goes on inside the mind of a man who wears eye shadow, silver boots and sports voluptuous red tresses? Does he indulge in the kind of excesses that put years on Dorian Gray?
   Many strong men upon viewing the elaborately clad youths who make up Sweet, might be forgiven for believing that this highly successful pop group, represent a progressive collapse in the morals of modern society and the final proof that Britain has reverted to the perversions of Ancient Rome.
   Most glamorous of all the glam rock bands, Sweet have a kind of outrageous vulgarity that can arouse the ire of the rock press as much as they upset Len Biggles, manly, beer swigging ruffians with biceps of steel. They expose daring amounts of skin, spend as much on cosmetics as they do on guitar strings, and camp about like a row of bell tents. As they flounce on stage there is a great tickling of bottoms and laying of hands on hips.
   And yet the great effect created is not so much debauched night at the cabaret in pre-war Berlin, but rather a giggle at the new town hop. Sweet underwent the gruelling experience of appearing before the press at a special reception in their honour at, of all places, London's Ronnie Scott's jazz club, last week. Photographic portraits of Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Getz peered, somewhat shaken, from walls impregnated with sounds of bebop, while photographers, journalists, PRs and record executives jostled for a good view of the band.
   Not only were Sweet to receive a brace of gold discs; they were to perform for our pleasure and display the kind of stage set that turns on their army of fans in ballrooms the length of the land. It was gruelling because Sweet have an act that is difficult to adapt outside the context of mass approval. They found that extracting the 'yeahs' and the 'hey, hey heys' and handclapping almost impossible from the ranks of men and women, who as Kit Lambert once put it, have observed 'one million, five hundred thousand groups.'
   They listened and clapped politely, and were in the main unimpressed. But Sweet weren't bad. They weren't awful. They had more guts than one might expect from a band that sing about wams and coco-c0. They put a lot of energy into their brief showcase , and seemed desperately anxious to please, which is more than can be said for a multitude of their heavier brethren.
   Their musicianship is not of a particularly high order, but they have dragged themselves, by the silver bootstraps, out of the rut of the average soul-disco band, stomping for the dancers, into a hit making combo.
And not forgetting Mick Tucker on the drums
   As the stage lights dimmed, Sweet came bouncing onto the stage normally occupied by the giants of jazz, and launched into a barrage of noise designed to wake up the back rows of ballrooms. This was the 'intro' and lasted several minutes, threatening to shatter glassware and damage hearing.
   Then came the first number Done Me Wrong Alright or the B-side of Co-Co, as it is usually known. There seemed to be lots of changes in tempo, which gave even smiling Mick Pucker [sic], a chance to boogaloo with some dexterity.
   Unfortunately Andy Scott's lead guitar was hideously out of tune for the first few bars, which lead to a certain exchanging of glances among the musicians, but this was swiftly corrected, and the band launched into 'Summertime Blues', a tune normally guaranteed to break the ice.
   Unfortunately the audience remained immobile, perhaps tapping a foot here and there, but unprepared to fling themselves into an orgy of rock and roll revival. Brian Connolly their lead singer, resplendent in a red zipper suit, and sporting a large cross around his neck, was moved to explain to the audience what should have been happening.
   'You'll have to help us out. We're not used to this...' he said with heart warming candour. 'We're used to screamers...'  But they ploughed on regardless, with commendable valour. Andy the guitarist, in silver pants and black cloak, hurled himself into a deluge of notes, and proved himself a respectable funky wailer.
   A rock medley developed that would doubtless lead to mayhem at the average Sweet gig, ranging from Great Balls of Fire to a version of New Orleans in which they placed great emphasis on the 'Mississippi QUEEN'.
   'This is very difficult, you're not there are you' said Brian, nevertheless keeping an even temper. Steve Priest, the buxom wench on bass guitar, tossed his red locks and seemed oblivious, doubtless hardened by far worse experiences at the hands of active jeerers and booers. (Although Sweet do insist that apart from the splash of beer thy receive very little barracking.)
   'Start the sirens!' commanded Brian. 'Come on!' A few seconds later, a siren began to wail around the club, signal for their final number and latest palpable hit, Blockbuster.
   As the piece thundered to a conclusion, Sweet fled the stage, leaving amplifiers feeding back in a painful crescendo that could have been interpreted as a raspberry to their critics, And yet one felt they had very well under difficult circumstances. Nervous and breathless they returned to receive their gold discs for Poppa Joe from RCA boss Ken Glancy.
   'We're not going heavy' said Andy later in Scott's club office, sniffing with a heavy cold that I first interpreted as an emotional relapse. 'All we are saying is don't knock what we do. We've made a few mistakes in the past and we've learnt a few lessons. We started out as a cross between Marmalade and Spooky Tooth. We also did a lot of Motown. We went on to a bubblegum image and it didn't go down too well. After Funny Funny we thought we were finished. Oh well, that's the end of Sweet. But then we had a big hit with Co-Co. And at the beginning of '72 we had to change with the scene.'
   If they were going to be camp, then they would go the whole hog. 'We elaborated on the make-up and clothes and it has all got a bit out of hand. But the kids like it and expect it. We know where we are at.'



Friday, 14 November 2014

Dooooo!


Quite how many Os should appear in the spelling of today's post is really up to Paul McCartney. Or, indeed, Stevie Riks - the one man Beatles*.

'Paul McCartney makes a cup of tea' has been staple viewing at Medd Towers since I first stumbled upon it on Youtube (where else?).


Riks has, without doubt, studied Macca, complete with all his facial tics and mannerisms, in the same way David Attenborough might study a rare species of insect in the Serengeti. As for the 'Doooo', it obviously has its roots in Get Back: fast forward the link to 2:32 and there it is. Moving on a handful of years and here it is again in its first non Beatles setting: 'Wings - the band the Beatles could have been' - as Alan Partridge once said. It's first spotting is at 1:19.



And then as a more recent example we see it rediscovered in a solo performance. Dance Tonight, his Radio 2 friendly mandolin waltz, has a rather special Doooooo clocking in at 2:08. Also, look out for Mackenzie Crook doing his best Postman Pat impression.


* I'd love Stevie to do a one man read through of my Beatles two hander I wrote a while back.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Watching the Detectorists


Detectorists: must watch TV

I must extend a big thank you to the Bright Ambassador for pointing me in the direction of Detectorists. I don't really need to add much more to his succinct critique of the programme. Only that Toby Jones and Mackenzie Crook, intentionally or otherwise, make for one of the funniest double acts I've seen in a long time. No, what I wanted to mention was the original music BA refers to: Johnny Flynn, in true Dennis Waterman style, both writes and sings the delightful theme tune. And it is so good and so near perfect that you really can't imagine the show working without it.



And as well as being a nu-folkie Flynn is also something of a thesp. He's no stranger to The Globe and The Royal Court and has bagged a fair bit of TV and film work along the way too.
Here's another one of his tunes. Stylishly shot in black and white, and complete with noises off, it's an acoustic version of the title song from Flynn's Country Mile album. Go get yourself a copy. And, while you're about it, catch up on Detectorists - they're all still up on the iPlayer.