Friday, 16 February 2018

Maybe the next one is yours

Maybe...
Standing on a freezing cold platform the other night waiting for my train home, I found myself singing Pete Morton's beautiful song to myself; I'd had a drink, so can't vouch for whether I sang it in my head, or I really sang it. It could explain why nobody sat next to me in coach. I stayed awake anyway, that's the main thing. One of these nights/mornings I suspect I'll wake up in sidings in Sheffield. Or Leeds.

I know I've written about this song before, but, hey, my bat, my ball, my wicket. I've met Pete on a couple of occasions and he's one of the nicest fellas around. His songs move me (and I'd be surprised if I hadn't told him that on at least one occasion), none more so than this:

Pete Morton - Another Train


As a footnote, and after recently finding this bit of film, I may have to start a mini-series of singers who wear shirts to match their backdrop. What possessed Pete to wear a brown stripey shirt in the first place is one thing, but then to stand in front of a brown curtain for two hours...

This is for anyone who doesn't know where they're going at the moment - get on the next train. You know you want to.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Girlfriends


Anna and Marie. Marie and Anna. Best friends. For Life. They met when they were both nine. That's gotta be 25 years in anyone's language.

They looked out for each other then, and they look out for each other now. I love them both.





They told me on Friday they're going to Ibiza. Fueled by gin, and both in charge of heels higher than your average skyscraper, it could get messy. I think they may need a chaperone - my rates are very competitive.




Dave Edmunds - Girls Talk

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Cry for Help

Lush
Karen Carpenter died 35 years ago this month. Her unique vocal stylings made the Carpenters one of the biggest selling acts of the 70s. There just aren't enough zeros on your calculator to comprehend how many kajillion records they shifted when they were at their peak. But Karen couldn't understand what all the fuss was about when their fans, and critics alike, would go into raptures about her phrasing, her timing and that sense of warmth and assurance you got every time she opened her mouth. "I'm just a drummer who sings" she once famously said. Yeah, right.

But the Carpenters were never hip; never a bedroom poster band. Your mum and dad liked them, for God's sake; that's how uncool they were. But, so what? It may have taken some of us a little longer than others to realise just how bloody good they were, but I think we're all on the same page now.

It's doubtful that they ever trashed any hotel rooms whilst on tour, even more doubtful that they will ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But their body of work has stood the test of time, nonetheless. Massive hits like Close to You, We've Only Just Begun and Yesterday Once More are revered; as is their interpretation of the Lennon and McCartney song book: Nowhere Man, Ticket to Ride and Help never sounded so lush.

Karen Carpenter's premature demise - she was only 32 when she lost her battle with Bulimia - has only magnified just what a unique gift she had. Hers is a tragic story interspersed with blinding moments of joy.

The Carpenters - Help!


I still can't get my head around singing drummers. It just looks so...wrong.

Karen Carpenter (1950-1983)

Thursday, 8 February 2018

What's Shakin' on the Hill

I went out for dinner last night with a friend of mine. At about half past eight a group of middle aged men (all sporting plaid shirts) walked in carrying flight cases: the house band, seemingly.
Man alive, they were good; how many bands do you see the fiddle player doubling up as the trombonist? Not even Bellowhead, can I just tell you.

And I've not seen many people tackle Nick Lowe's 'What's Shakin' on the Hill and live to tell the tale.

This is for James. It's his birthday today - he'd have enjoyed it last night.

Nick Lowe - What's Shakin' on the Hill



Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Piece of cake

Amsterdam - Meet the New* Flag (1975)
Amsterdam. Everyone's got an Amsterdam story; I'm no exception. However, this is, in all honesty, probably neither the time or the place to share it. Suffice it to say I lost two days of my life the last time I was in the Dutch capital. It was Scary Mary! In my defence, I was just a boy. Giving it all away.
But that was then. This is, well, now. And I'm currently booking a return visit. 'Is that sensible?' I hear you cry. "Can you be trusted?" Good questions both. To which I'd come back at you with "Of course it is" and "Hell, yeah." Well I would say that, wouldn't I? Let's hope my travelling companion thinks so too. More details to follow, I'm sure.

David Bowie - Amsterdam (1973 B-Side)


* Same as the old flag? Not quite - this is what it looked like pre-1975

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Animals

Pigeons. In holes*
Hands up if you know what Big Room House is. Mmm, thought so. That's the thing with pigeonholing music. So, let's suppose you own a physical copy of Animals by Dutch DJ Michael Garrix - where are you gonna file it? Answers on a postcard.

To these (ahem, mature) ears, it sounds like Popcorn's great grandson. Hot Butter, anyone? I was at school in 1972 when kids would try and do the sound effects to this early piece of electronica using nothing more than 'finger drums' to the side of their face. Forty years on and I suspect it's a similar story. However, drugs may be involved these days; allegedly.

Martin Garrix - Animals


* Note to self - I really must stop using Urban Dictionary

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Remember

A really good friend of mine has just put me on to the Sunset Sons. They were on the support bill recently and blew the main band (Imagine Dragons, I think) away. I love it when that happens. I can't believe how good they are. And unbelievably cool.

In 2016 (remember 2016?), they put out an album entitled Very Rarely Say Die.

This track is from said record. It's glorious.

It really is.



Sunset Sons - Remember

Saturday, 27 January 2018

It's his time

It can't be easy being Baxter Dury. His dad's legacy must follow him at every turn; when he releases a new record, goes to a party, or even when he just nips to the corner shop for a pint of milk. Until now, that is. I commented recently that with his latest release, The Prince of Tears, he's finally Baxter Dury. No longer Baxter Dury, son of Ian. The shoes that once seemed impossible to fill, fit perfectly now.
He goes out on tour in the Spring. Firstly under his own steam, and then opening for Noel Gallagher. I'm gonna try and get along. I think his time has finally come.


Here he is performing Whispered, Pleasure and Palm Trees from his 2014 album It's a Pleasure.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Does the light from the stars mean you're not born?

What I wouldn't give to write a line like 'Does the light from the stars mean you're not born?' And to then drop it into a song simply called 'Fuck It' is genius. Pure genius.

As you can imagine, the Lovely Eggs (who released Fuck It as a single in 2011) are very route one. And very clever. And very funny - yes, very very funny. Take a look at their mission statement (left): 'Some of our songs are 10 seconds long. Some are four minutes long. We don't care.'

They're touring soon, and for some of their dates I think they've got good friend of the Medds, Phill Jupitus, opening for them - Jenny is currently asking Phill which gigs they'll be; two birds, one stone and all that.





The Lovely Eggs - Fuck It

Thursday, 18 January 2018

For Your Babies


Everywhere I turn people are having babies, and making babies. And not just real people - Pip Archer has just driven (yet) another nail in her dad's coffin by announcing she's pregnant with Toby Fairbrother's seed. Good on her, that's what I say. The villain of the piece (Ambridge's bad boy and very own gin distiller) will probably pay maintenance by way of a few bottles of Scruff; mother's ruin indeed.

But back to people who really do exist, and not just in a fictitious village south by south-west of Birmingham. Our friends Liam & Suzie, Jim & Debs, and Ross & Jenny are all counting down to when they go from being two alone to three together. Our love and best wishes go out to all of them. And to Pip & Toby too, what the hell.

Simply Red - For Your Babies

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

The faintest ink is better than the best memory

The older I get the more I write things down - I always carry a pad and pen; a pen, anyway (you can write more on a napkin or beer mat than you'd think). And I always have my camera with me wherever I go - so much better than a phone. I like to record things. Words and pictures. Hence this blog, I guess.


But do I fear for my memory? Am I getting more forgetful? Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. Let's put it this way, if I was running a bath I wouldn't trust myself to turn the taps on, leave the room and come back five minutes later. Is that normal? Who knows. My mind wanders, that much I do know.


When my dad came over for my birthday recently I had a nightmare flash forward, a vision of me in 25 years. James was here at the same time and he probably looked at me and thought the exact same thing. In fact I know he did - we spoke about it. And had a laugh about it. I do remember that.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Two sides to every story

I love unsung heroes. Especially in the music biz. Those foot soldiers who are quite prepared to sit in the wings while others, more worthy or (often) not, receive the plaudits. One such hero is Phil Wainman.

Without Phil Wainman there would be no Sweet. He's like a poor man's George Martin: he believed in the band from the time they played at his wedding in 1969 - back when they were a struggling little bubblegum band traipsing up and down the country in a beat up Commer van.

He took them under his wing, introduced them to (the go-to songwriters of the seventies) Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, secured them a recording contract deal with RCA and ended up producing *all* of their Top Ten singles.

In the film below he talks about his charges very touchingly ('the boys') in a wide ranging interview that spans all aspects of his illustrious career - Wainman was also at the helm of all the Bay City Rollers' anthems, twiddled the knobs on Next by Alex Harvey and even produced Generation X's debut album.

But his tour-de-force has got to be The Ballroom Blitz (fast forward to 37:48). Not surprisingly, as a drummer, for him it was all about the tub-thumping pagan skins. It was a song built around Mick Tucker's relentless syncopation; I know that, and you know that.


However, the way Andy Scott (the Sweet's axe man) tells it, it's all about the guitar. Drums, what drums? The rest of the band appear to have been airbrushed out of the story altogether. Guitarists, eh?


Name checks abound - Sandy Nelson, Chuck Berry, The Beatles - but, interestingly, neither he nor Wainman reveal the true identity of the inspiration behind their 1973 monster smash (#2 in this country, #5  in the US where it was released a couple of years later).

So where did Ballroom Blitz really come from? Take a listen to this. A Saturday night record, if ever I heard one.

Bobby Comstock - Let's Stomp (1963)

Monday, 8 January 2018

Challenging

"James, Brunel, reading Mathematics. And the NME"
When Tony James (pictured above left), formerly of Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik introduced himself on last week's University Challenge (a Christmas themed version featuring distinguished alumni) he said that he read Mathematics in the seventies at Brunel University, and the NME. Judging by his woeful performance (and that of his fellow postgraduates it has to be said) I think they must all have been sagging off and reading the NME in the pub round the corner.

Generation X - reading the dots

It's quite fitting that they only scored 45 (they were absolutely mullered by Reading) - Tony James being no stranger to writing the odd hit single.

I also recently discovered this fabulous interview he did on Soho Radio a couple of years back with Gary Crowley (I'm sorry, Jeremy Paxman and Gary Crowley in the same piece). James talks candidly about punk, the Pistols, Malcolm McLaren, Bernie Rhodes, Mick Jones and, of course, his songwriting partner in crime Billy Idol.


(Fast Fwd to 50:10 for the interview)

And how refreshing to hear Wild Dub on the radio. Gen X, along with many other first generation punk and new wave bands, were massively influenced by reggae. For those of you who don't know it, it's on the B side to Wild Youth (and for some inexplicable reason turned up on the US pressing of their first album) and must be played at full tilt. Until your chest hurts. A heavy heavy dub, punk rockers.


Generation X - Wild Dub