Thursday, August 31, 2006
Alvin Lives in Leeds
Back in March I posted something with a track off this album, and after yesterday's covers episode I found myself in the mood for more of the same. On the subject of which those of you that like cover versions, and I know there are a lot of you, could do worse than visiting the blog of reference Copy Right, where you should find enough to keep you happy. The album I am featuring today is another various artist benefit from 1990 that was intended to raise funds for the Can't Pay Won't Pay campaign. Their reason to be was to fight the Thatcher led Conservative government's new tax laws , which basically was a new tax on people where they lived that gave them the right to vote, obvious this was little more than a way of deterring the poor from having their say.
In terms of music it is a 100% covers album with several name bands and as usual a whole load of lesser known names, but the music is as worthy as the cause was.
Cud - 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Indeed a reprise of the Queen song that everyone bought a copy of way back and then spent the rest of their lives denying it. Don't forget that this was the song that kick started the idea of pop videos. Cud themselves have recently reformed to give their career a second chance, and their version bares little resemblance to the original. Note that the 10 seconds of silence around the 90 second mark was indeed intended.
Wedding Present - 'Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)'. The original being for me Steve Harley's finest moment and the song where he gets the closest to sounding like his hero Bob Dylan, it was also the song that gave him his biggest hit. Again rather different from the original, I'm never quite sure whether David Gedge actually likes the song as he seems to be in rather a hurry to get to the end of it. Cover versions were obviously important to Gedge as in it was in the mid nineties that the Weddoes released a single a month for a year containing other peoples songs
The 14 Iced Bears - 'Summer Nights'. Another song that no one will own up to having purchased though someone must have as it was a big hit taken from the film Grease and interpreted by the films two stars Olivia Newton John and john Travolta. At the time I hated the song and my sister who is eighteen months younger me loved it. As for the band with the childish name I know nothing about them except that were linked to the C86 movement but were a lot less jangly than other bands having a penchant for a fuzzy proto-punk sound as displayed here.
Crocodile Ride - 'I Feel Love'. Yes the Donna Summer song that helped to launch disco and managed to make your parents feel awkward. The band I know nothing at all about though I do like their stomping guitar led reading of the song.
Robyn Hitchcock - 'Kung Fu Fighting'. The original was a big novelty hit for Carl Douglas that very quickly got on your nerves, I have vague memories of him performing this on TOTP complete with, yes, kung fu moves. Despite having little time for Robyn Hitchcock, but that's a long story from a long time ago, I do like this version that is delivered accapella style.
The Perfect Disaster - 'Wandrin' Star'. My favorite from the album and for very personal reasons. The original was performed by the actor Lee Marvin who it must be said was certainly no singer, and is from the soundtrack of the film Paint Your Wagon. The film must be from the late sixties or early seventies, so I was still a boy, I can remember that my parents had gone to see it. The result was that my father who is also a non singer and has no sense of rhythm refused to stop singing this around the house much to the chagrin of my mother. Again a band I don't know, but they do manage to stay true to the original and they put a smile on my face.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
E.C. or Elvis?
I always thought that Elvis Costello was not the best of choices for a stage name, after all E.C. was already taken by slowhand himself and as for his Christian name that had been copyrighted by the end of the 50's by a young lad from Memphis. Despite this confusion I was taken by him the very first time I heard his voice over the spikey beats that were 'Less Than Zero'. The albums came in quick succession with never a dull moment, one could almost say that we grew up together, as his music matured so did my tastes. I only got to see him live the once and that was at the beginning, he was either touring 'This Years Model' or 'Armed Forces' and it was at the Hammersmith Palais (the venue made famous by the Clash song) with Richard Hell as support. I own just about everything he has officially released even the not so great Warners albums. I know that he has a habit of interpreting other peoples material live, quite why escapes me as his real skill is as a song writer. So it seems normal that other artists have tried to stamp their mark on his songs or simply paid homage to the great man. I guess you have realised that today it's going to be cover versions two of which come from the same album 'Peace Together' which was available in 1993. The CD was one of those various artist jobs for a worthy cause, according to the cover it was "an album in which British and Irish musicians focus on strength and hope in the face of adversity", with the proceeds being invested to benefit the youth of Northern Ireland. Quite who was behind this I'm not sure anyway there are some reasonable cover versions on the album including Therapy's take on 'Invisible Sun' and Pop Will Eat Itself revisiting 'Games Without Frontiers' though what is of particular interest to us today are the two Elvis Costello songs 'Peace In Our Time' by Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, a song that strangely enough suits the style of the south London duo and would not have been out of place on one of their early albums. 'Olivers Army' is a rather straight forward cover signed by Blur. Our third cover is not Strictly speaking an Elvis song as it was penned by Robert Wyatt though it is probably the Imposters version that is better known. Dating from 1995 the first War Child album was considered to be so necessary that it was rushed into the shops before a proper sleeve could be printed with the track listing and so part of the enjoyment, apart from donating to a good cause, was for those who purchased the first copies guessing who was who. One of the better surprises was Suede doing 'Shipbuilding'. Now there does seem to be a war theme running through these three songs, so I would like to suggest that if they have pleased you then maybe making a donation to War Child would be a good idea?
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
First up sorry about the title and I hope that no one is offended. What has actually happened is the I've very recently caught up with the latest releases from two Scottish bands for whom I must say I was not too keen on before. Let me try to explain. I've always thought that a Bands name was important, as are the names they give to their releases and the artwork, after all there are literally one hell of a lot of bands trying to grab your attention and your hard earned money. Now there are certain forms of music that have never really done much for me, one of which is the more gentle side to the c86 movement, that has come to be labeled as Twee. Honestly even the name is enough to put you off! Now if you are inclined to this sort of thing I can recommend Tweenet and Indie-mp3 both of which should keep you happy as you realise that you are not the only one. Returning to band names, the Field Mice hardly conjures up an image of Spinal Tap guitars turned up to 11 does it? And their record label, Sarah now what kind of name is that for pill popping indie rock gods? No wonder Primal Scream never signed with them! Another band that has long been pigeon holed, as far as I'm Concerned with the Twee family is Glasgow's Belle And Sebastian, named after a French television show about a boy and his dog that manages to make The Little House On The prairie seem like cutting edge stuff. I always wondered how a band with such a name could come from Glasgow, when I was a kid it was reputed to be one hell of a hard town, and latter in life I got to know a group of Glaswegian brickies living in the big smoke, and I can assure you that he that argued with them was a very foolish, or maybe suicidal man. Now despite these stupid prejudices that I have I will still read the reviews of their records and maybe who knows if they are tempting enough I will maybe just take the plunge and purchase something by them, the problem I have is that my pockets are not bottomless and my resources are indeed limited. It is for this reason that I have been a member of the EMusic subscription service for many years, and after reading the glowing reviews concerning Belle And Sebastian's sixth album 'Life Pursuit' I was happy to see available as a download and got my mouse clicking away. I was not disappointed with the first tracks, one of the undeniable advantages of downloading is that you can purchase song by song, and so I continued until the whole of the album was taking up space on my hard drive. The album manages to mix elements and influences as diverse as glam rock, blues and Mowtown while keeping the feel very much sixties. The end result is very pleasing on the ears and certainly didn't send me to sleep as feared. 'The Life Pursuit' comes highly recommended, check out 'The Blues Are Still Blue' where they mix T. Rex with a little bit of Status Quo to come up with something fresh and lively.
Another (Glasgow) band that have a name that left me cold and as such not really motivated to the check them out is Camera Obscura, I think the name sounded too arty, now don't get me wrong I have loads of unlistenable records in my collection that I keep because they are art, important or something else, and at my age my intellectual pretentions are well behind me. Again good reviews and the album being up for grabs at EMusic means that I am now the proud owner of their third album 'Lets Get Out Of The Country', so called because it was recorded in Sweden? Maybe a little bit more easy going than Belle And Sebastian but definitely has its merits including the country tinged 'Dory Previn' and the tongue in cheek tribute to fellow Scot Lloyd Cole (I wonder where he is now?) 'Lloyd I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken'.
So there you go despite the recent changes at EMusic, the introduction of a European and UK service, for copyright reasons, I would say that the money is still well spent as it allows me to discover new talents, my latest downloads have been Destroyer, Spoon and Centro-Matic for whom I doubt I would never have found the spare 15 euros to buy the albums (I pay about 15 euros a month for 65 downloads) and do believe that we should buy our music and so support the artists that we listen to.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Peel Sessions 20
I've often heard older people asking each other where they where or what they were doing when they heard that Kennedy had been killed. Obviously having just been out of nappies myself this is not something that greatly interested me at the time, but if you want to talk about musicians dying, now that's a subject a little bit closer to my heart. I think the first event that marked me was the early death of Elvis Presley. I was round at Tim's flat, where we often spent our evenings if there was nothing better to do, as chance would have it we were listening to John Peel, who announced the (burger) Kings death. We were much less touched by the event than Peel was, our reaction was to party and celebrate the death of rock 'n' roll as we knew it, one must bear in mind that this was 1977, the so called year zero. In retrospect I would agree that it does seem a little bit childish, though in my defense I would like to add that you should have been there, the times were a changin' as someone once mused.
Another death that had an effect on me was that of John Lennon in December 1980. At the time I was filling a temporary post at medical records at Oldchurch Hospital, I was, as was my habit at the time, living my life to the full, and so would spend half the night partying or something and the other half sleeping, my mother who was probably worried that I'd get sacked would wake me up before she left for work. That fateful day I can remember, I had a hangover that was big enough for a small country let alone my poor head. My mother woke me up with the usual cup of tea and something along the lines of "Get up or you'll be late" only this time she added "John Lennon's been shot" or something similar. Now due to my being in a half coma and half conscious I really was not sure whether I dreaming (nightmaring?) or not. I was late and had no time to catch the news on the radio, and it was too early for the story be in the newspapers. On the bus on the way to work everyone looked as usual and so I was unable to confirm the nightmare, so I had to wait to clock-in and have the dreadful news clarified by my colleagues. I must say they couldn't have given a shit about the Lennon, I think after me the youngest in my office was about 45 and they were all mothers or grandmothers (it must be said that I was very well treated by them). I always though his murder was somewhat ironic, "angry man finds inner peace and gunned down by angry young man!" could well have been the newspaper headline.
The death that really should have touched me was that of Joe Strummer what with him being one of the all time greats as far as I'm concerned. By chance at the time I was holidaying in Corsica, and as this is somewhere I go to get away from things, no radio, no T.V., no newspapers. So it wasn't until I got back home that I heard about his untimely passing away. I was sad as it was a great loss, though at least it has stopped those stupid rumours of the Clash reforming and taken temptation away from those involved.
The other death that touched me was an accident that took place in summer 1977. At the time I was working as a lifeguard at Beckton Lido, now this might not sound very rock 'n' roll, but believe me working there was harder than spending time in a punk mosh pit as Beckton of course is in the heart of London's East End. Living at the time in Ilford and not having a driving license, I commuted on public transport, and what with London being a busy place this took time, often to make things pass quicker I would read a book, the N.M.E. or buy a newspaper. The day that Marc Bolan's accident became news, I had bought the Evening News, to be greeted with frontpage headlines and story detailing the way Gloria Jones, his girlfriend, had driven their purple mini into a tree that refused to give way while heading home after an evening at a London nightspot. This was probably the death that touched me the most as he really was one of the idols that I had as a teenager, which at the time was not that far in my past. I can remember questioning how a 24 carat pop star could be killed in a mini, shouldn't it have been a Rolls Royce a Bentley or something?
Of these four artists only Bolan graced the BBC studios for Peel, Lennon and Presley were not really from the right period, and as for Strummer, the Clash were booked into the studios and turned up but somewhat un punkly cut short the process complaining about the standard of the recording studio, they were never to be invited back! So it falls to old Peel favorite T. Rex to provide today's musical backing with 'Jewel' taken from their October 1970 session. The Peel Bolan story was to end rather sadly when the career conscious Bolan gave up on Peel when things started to take off despite all the support he had received as a struggling artist. Stars!
Friday, August 25, 2006
I've spent the last two days turning my home upside down, rummaging through through my hard drive and searching through the 100's of back up cd's looking for records I was sure that I had! The original idea behind this was to find my copy of 'Spiral Scratch' which has proved to be somewhat elusive. This has really pissed me off seeing as I have already bought 2 copies the first on vinyl back in '77/'78, that I last saw in Italy, and the second was a CD reissue back when I was living in Montpellier.
So what is there to tell about the Buzzcocks that you don't already know? Peter Shelley and Howard Devoto met up while studying in Manchester sharing a mutual interest in music. Having been intrigued by a review of an early Pistols gig, they made their way to London early 1976 to see them play. Devoto claimed that this was a life changing moment and made him want to make things happen and get involved, and so the Buzzcocks came to life. The pair persuaded the Pistols to make the journey to Manchester and promoted their first major gig out of London at the Free Trade Hall in June the same year, followed by a second show in July. These two shows are the sort of thing legends are made from, there was less than 200 people present, though many more have later to have claimed to have been there. Of those that were there we can include Mark E Smith, Morrissey and Steve Diggle who would later team up with the Buzzcocks first as their bassist and then guitarist, infact the modern renaissance of the Manchester scene dates from these concerts. By the end of the year the Buzzcocks were a gigging concern and started touting their demo tape around. They soon came to the conclusion that DIY was the way forward and so they set up their own label, New Hormones, and set about releasing it themselves, in doing so they were the first of the punk bands to release an independent single and in so doing, kick started a revolution that is still felt today. It was an EP called 'Spiral Scratch' which was well received by the press and got air play from John Peel, both of which helped to make the release a success. Just after the January '77 release Devoto decided to quit to return to full time education, Shelley took over vocal duties as the band continued gigging, being early favorites at London's Roxy club, the press interest in the band continued to mount as did the interest shown by major labels and by the end of Summer they had signed with United Artists a deal that gave them complete artistic control. This they pushed to the limit by releasing the radio unfriendly 'Orgasm Addict' as their first single. The fact that pressing plants were refusing to handle the disc did not help and the offending vinyl refused to become the hit it deserved to be. They had to wait until the more accessible 'What Do I Get' was released the following year before they were invited on Top Of The Pops. September saw their excellent debut 'Another Music In Another Kitchen' hit the shops, an album that delivered on the promise they had displayed, with its crisp melodies, driving guitars and Shelley's anguished lyrics about love and other adolescent hang ups. One of the albums many highlights is 'Fiction Romance' built on an addictive mounting guitar riff. As was common at this period bands recorded, gigged and recorded again and so follow up releases were issued very quickly and as was the case with punk bands there were many singles that were not to appear on their albums, the B side of one of their single only releases 'Love You More' has long been one of my favorite songs, from its title to its nonsense lyrics and long instrumental break 'Noise Annoys' a true classic. For me the bands finest moment was to come with their second album 'Love Bites' a true work of song writing genius with melodies and hooks that many an artist would kill for, rightly the the album was a hit. The Title of their third album 'A Different Kind Of Tension' was maybe a little bit too close to the truth as excessive drug and alcohol intakes were starting to show, add to this UA being bought out by EMI who had no real interest in the band and it was good-bye Buzzcocks. Their influence in musical terms is still evident today with many a band from Husker Du and Nirvana through to any of today's melodic pop punk bands.
generally I'm not too hot on reformed bands but the Buzzcocks have proved to be an exception having released a number of good to very good albums since reforming in the late eighties the latest of which 'Flat Back Philosophy' from earlier this year is for my ears the best of the mkII albums, it's a shame that their live sets rely so much on their older materiel. The latest album is available from Cooking Vinyl and for those wishing to catch up with their early work you only need to buy the complete 3cd 'Product' which contains everything they recorded for UA and a live set recorded for London's Capital Radio.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
John, Paul, Sid & Steve
After last Friday's Clash post and yesterday's Damned musings I get the feeling that things are shaping up for a punk (inspired) week, I only hope my heart can take the strain! I guess you could consider that from the first wave that there where 4 front line groups, the two already mentioned, a certain band from Manchester that galvanised that city into action and McLaren's merry band of misfits that started the media train rolling, The Sex Pistols. I can remember, vaguely reading the first articles on the band in Sounds, written if I recall correctly, by Jon Ingham, this article and what followed grabbed my attention and got me talking to my school chums about this 'new' band and music, as was to often be the case my colleagues preferred chart fodder rather than anything left of field. I missed their appearance on the Grundy show, and did not catch up with events until the next day at school when I was branded as a punk and held responsible by my peers for all the ills in the world and have never looked back. Being an honest person I won't lie to you by recounting how good they were as a live force as I don't know. I can remember planning to go and see them at the Brunell University on the other side of London, though truth be told why I never went I can't remember. What I do remember is having purchased the 'Spunk' bootleg at the Lea Valley Trading Estate Sunday Market (just a stones throw from the 2012 Olympic site), I made cassette copies for the rare open minded friend that I had. As you are probably aware this famous bootleg release has recently become officially available for the first time (?), I'm in 2 minds whether to buy it (again) or not. Spunk was a collection of studio demos produced by Dave Goldman, that lacked the Hard Rock studio production given to the official 'Nevermind the Bollocks', its track listing was very similar to that of the then soon to be released official product. Many years later I used to use play the introduction to the Virgin version of 'Holidays I The Sun' at full volume whenever my neighbor's used to piss me of by listening to their insipid watered down disco at exaggerated noise levels, and it worked! I can recall in the 90's having long conversations with friends justifying my point of view as to why we should boycott the reformed Sex Pistols gigs, I must say that seeing the way things turned out I was right.
And so to the music, first up an alternative mix of personal Pistols favorite of mine the sub Doors 'Submission' this originally saw the light of day on the NME cassette 'Pogo A Gogo' and is subtitled the psychedelic mix and credited to The Rainbow Twins? I have no idea whether it has turned up anywhere else but seeing the amount of product available it would surprise me if it has remained a rarity. Next up a live track recorded as the band were burning out on their US tour, 'Seventeen' as heard by the Winterland, San Francisco audience. Last up is a bootleg/mashup by studio wizard Go Home Productions, I would suggest you visiting his site as he has plenty of goodies up for grabs, his tribute to the Sex Pistols is built around the monster riff from 'Pretty Vacant' and parts of 'Hollidays In The Sun' and is called 'Ray of Gob', somewhat surreally Rotten gets to share vocal duties with Madona, now if only.......................
Monday, August 21, 2006
Peel Sessions 19
For those of you who are 20, no probably more like 30 years younger than me the Damned are likely to be a group of little real interest to you unless you are studying musical history, whereas for those whose age begins with a 4, well maybe you can remember when they were an important band. Sadly they have turned into caricatures of themselves, having never been the most serious of the class of '77, it is still a shame to see how Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible have taken the easy road by earning a crust by becoming permanent figures on the punk equivalent of the chicken in a basket circuit. Brian James and Rat Scabies have tried to raise the level by playing under the same name recently at their old London haunt the 100 club to celebrate the 30 anniversary of their classic debut album, 'Damned, Damned, Damned'.
Back in the old days they were important despite their lack of political content in part because they were the first of the new wave of punk bands to release a single and an album. An album produced by Stiff's in house maverick genius producer Nick Lowe, which probably helped to give them a little bit more of a pop edge. A second album 'Music For Pleasure' followed in 1977, almost before the other punk bands had released their first long players. The band had not succeeded in their attempts to get Syd Barett out of retirement to produce the album and so rather strangely settled for Pink Floyd's Nick Mason. The less than favorable reception that the album received led to their splitting in early 1978. Less than two years latter we saw a new version of the band unveiled without guitarist Brian James the role was filled by the Captain. In chart terms 1979-1982 was to be their most successful period, with the trio of well received albums 'Machine Gun Etiquette' (1979), 'The Black Album' (1980) and 'Strawberries' (1982). The sound was a lot less punk by now resembling more a very tight pop rock band with shades of psychedelica, this new approach was also to be rewarded with hit singles such as 'Smash It Up' and 'Love Song'. By the late eighties it seemed as if every 6 months the Damned were out on a farewell tour and since then they have been an on off mainly touring affair, the new albums that were to be released were of little real interest. The 21st century has seen the band existing around the axis of Vanian and Sensible, recruiting musicians as and when needed to play gigs.
John Peel was not to be immune to their charms and the group entered the BBC studios on five occasions to lay down tracks for him. I was going to avoid the obvious choice of 'New Rose' but when listening to it again I was persuaded otherwise by Vanian's changing of the lyrics to include John Peel, the song is taken from their first session in November 1976. Of note the humorous change of the songs introduction from 'Is she really going out with him' to 'Are we really 65 in the charts?'. They went on to record a second session with the original line up in May 1977 from which 'Fan Club' is taken. Peel wasted no time in inviting the reformed band to record for him one of the resulting tracks was 'Smash It Up' from October 1979 and featured ex Saints bassist Algy Ward. Their fourth session was one year later and featured 'Therapy', again there was a change of bassist with ex Eddie & The Hot Rod Paul Gray looking after the four strings. From their final session I have chosen their cover version of the old Jagger/Richards number 'We Love You' a song I've always had a soft spot for with the mocking way the we love is drawn out, and the Damned did the song proud on their cover version. There is a lot of Damned product available both new and used, in terms of compilations I can personally recommend 'The Light At The End Of The Tunnel' which did an excellent job of rounding up those important years '76-'87.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Something For The Week End
Having had the chance to have been 16 in 1977 and to have been living in part of London's sprawling suburbs at the time, I was therefore one of those present when everything changed, what was to be known as the year zero. For this reason I can fairly say that the Clash are my band, having been one of fortunate few who saw them at their prime, and on numerous occasions, but that is another story that I might well bore you with another day. What has surprised me is how I have gone through over 100 posts without mentioning my teen heroes once. What has motivated me today is the news that the Clash bassist Paul Simonon is back making music after many years of absence, though I believe he is keeping an option on his current day time job as an artist/painter. Maybe the biggest surprise is with whom he chosen to make his musical comeback, not with some relic from punks dark past but with with Brit Pop's biggest African music lover Damon Albarn. They are going under the collective name of The Good The Bad And The Queen and also include ex Verve guitarist Simon Tong in their ranks. Being very much a London band it should come as no surprise that they have chosen Nottting Hill Gate as their rehearsal HQ, with an official debut gig, at none other than London's legendary revamped Roundhouse, planned for October as is their debut single with an album penciled in for January 2007. Mojo has described the band as being a mix of "soul, soundtrack,'60's pop with even Robert Wyatt bleeding through", we'll just have to wait and see to judge for ourselves.
Simonon was the pretty boy in the Clash, the person with the least musical training at the start, though with lots of practice and perseverance he caught up with his colleagues, even going as far as penning one of their classic tracks 'Guns Of Brixton'. Brixton was the part of London where Simonon had spent his youth, an area with a large black population and as such he was a reggae fan. Reggae was to play an important role in the Clash, not only were they to write their own reggae influenced songs such as 'White Man In Hammersmith Pallais' but they were also to cover reggae originals. Their debut album contained their version of 'Police and Thieves', here is a dub version from 1976 by Augustus Pablo & the Upsetters called 'Babylon Police Thief Dub'. The whole of the band were big reggae fans and so it was to be no surprise that they themselves got round to trying their own hand at dub, their first attempt was the very convincing 'Justice Tonight/Kick It Over' which was based on their recording of 'Armagideon Time'. Have a good week-end and see you Monday.
P.S. I really don't know where the photo was taken, what I do know is that the band played a number of tours around the period of 'Combat Rock' using flags as stage back drops, and I seem to recollect having seen this one myself but I'll save that one for a rainy day!!!!!!!!!
Thursday, August 17, 2006
A Freight Train Running Through My Head
Some continuity with yesterdays post, today I will be featuring cover versions of a song written by a main stream artist, that also has a penchant for covering his fellow artists, who despite his mass popularity doesn't mind annoying his public if necessary, he wrote one of the best Vietnam fallout songs ever and has also done his bit for aids awareness. So who am I talking about? Bruce that's who the author of one the most punk but then again un punk songs that I know which was part of the soundtrack to my teenage years, though I will admit it took me a lot longer to get into the album of the same name, probably not before the late eighties! The 'Born To Run Single' I had bought on 7" vinyl and despite the 'Future of Rock 'n' Roll' tag that hung above his head I was not amongst the audience of his Hammersmith Odeon gigs. I can remember that at the time of its release I found 'The River' to be a big disappointment. At about the same period I caught the Pointer Sisters on Top Of The Pops performing 'Fire' a song given to them by Bruce, now this was more like it a big upfront slice of sultry sexy pop music, and obviously I was not the only person that liked it.
The song that is being featured today is none other than 'I'm On Fire' that contains the classic line that gives today's post its title, from the first time that I heard these lines I loved them, the image of it really said something to me (too many hangovers maybe). The song originally featured on his breakthroughugh album 'Born In The USA' that turned him into one of the biggest pulls on the worlds stages and has proven to be a firm favorite having been rerecorded by numerous artists including the three that I have chosen today, Big Country with alive version recorded at one of London's more intimate venues Dingwalls that is half country and half hillbilly jig. Another live take on the song, comes from long time favorite signer songwriter of mine Heather Nova, that for my ears does the song more than justice. The last of today's trio is the only cover from an American artist Tom Russell, a pleasing enough straight country run through. Russell himself is a talented songwriter whose compositions have been covered my many big names including Johnny Cash and K.D. Lang. As already mentioned there are cover version available of 'I'm On Fire' by artists as wide ranging as P.J. Proby, Tory Amos, Guana Batz and Little Milton though it should come as no surprise to you that song also turned up in the ever capable hands of Johnny Cash.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
As a youngster I liked a number of things: girls, books, music, drugs, beer and gigs. Often my friends and I would find ourselves at a loose end Sunday night and so it became a habit for us to congregate in a pub, the name of which escapes me, opposite Ilford police station. The good thing about this pub was that it was one of the rare local drinking holes to host live music on Sunday and it was free, though we had to pay for the beer! At the beginning there was something that didn't please me that much, the landlord had a strong preference for country music and I didn't, little by little I managed to shake off the Dolly Parton image of country that I had thanks to my parents and ended up passing many a rockin' Sunday evening often with bands that had more in common with Steve Earle than Jim Reeves. The result is that I'm quite partial to a bit of country be it traditional or modern.
Johnny Cash has long been a favorite, and it gave me much pleasure when he made his comeback under the wings of Rick Rubin on American. One of the things that stood out from this series of recordings was his choice of cover versions, often songs and styles that one would not associate with him and that he managed to make his own. Cash's songs had already been favorites for other artists to cover for many years. The late 1980's saw the release of an exceptionally good compilation of specially recorded Cash covers on the Leeds based Red Rhino called 'Till Things Are Brighter', a title which could well be an allusion to the state of his career at the time. The project was led by the Mekons, who also provided the musical backing, with the goal of raising money for AIDS charities and featured some of the days top indie/alternative artists, infact people rather like myself that you would not expect to be country fans. The album sleeve notes said of Cash that he "was the only Country and Western star to make a stand against the Vietnam war". He was also the only person that author knew that had been arrested for flower picking! All in all sounds like a great man and one hell of a rebel, I've always liked the finger photo taken at one of his prison gigs.
I had a hard time choosing the titles to post from the album and have chosen three tracks, the great man's theme tune 'Man In Black' reverently interpreted by the then solo Marc Almond who was ofcourse better known for singing seedy songs about bedsit life, night clubbing and sex. Another surprise appearance on the album was of Tracey and Melissa the sisters and the vocal chords behind Voice of the Beehive who revisited 'Five Feet High And Risin'. My own personal favorite is from maybe the least likely of singers Mary Mary who some of you might remember as having been the singer from Gaye Bikers On Acid (I know, some bands have better names than they do music) who delivers a suitably manic reading of 'Boy Named Sue'. A very solid tribute album that I seem to remember won over the critics at the time. Often these projects fall flat on there faces with maybe one or two good covers and a load of substandard rubbish, maybe what makes this one succeed is the fact that the music is played by the same people for all of the songs and that they display an obvious understanding of Cash and his music. Needlessly to say this has long been out of print and the going rate would appear to be around the 25 euros mark, good hunting as it makes for a good companion to the original recordings.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Peel Sessions 18
I am rather pleased as during my summer break I actually got round to reading Simon Reynolds 'Rip It Up And Start Again', and it was well worth the effort. Some of the chapters I found disappointing particularly those dealing with Scritti Politti and the Pop Group, why I'm not quite sure as both artists are favorites from my youth, maybe I was expecting more? As far as Scritti is concerned I thought the Messthetics chapter was far too intellectual/pretentious, and despite still liking the early Rough Trade singles it wasn't really until Green dropped all the pretentious 6th form bullshit that the music gelled giving us the band that we know today. By contrast it was the chapters that I thought would be the least interesting that actually turned out to be highly entertaining, I am now much more of an expert on Throbbing Gristle and found the chapter on the San Francisco scene so informative that I will be checking out Flipper and giving Chrome another listen in the coming weeks. My favorite line from the book has nothing to do with music but it put a smile on my face it describes Anglicism as being "non-committal, wishy washy, as close to being agnostic as you can get without pissing off God" seems like a good and witty description to me.
Another chapter that was well thought out concerned the Manchester double act of the Fall and Joy Division, while neither bands and big favorites of mine, I hated the longcoat moody look adopted by Joy Division's followers it reminded me too much of prog rock, I recognise their important contributions to modern music, and am rather partial to certain of their compositions. I hope that no introduction is necessary for Joy Division. During their short life span they released two albums 1979's 'Unknown Pleasure' and the following years 'Closer'. The band both helped to give Factory Records its identity and early financial security. In 1979 they recorded two Peel Sessions the first in January and the second in November, less than six months later Ian Curtis had committed suicide by hanging himself as daylight was breaking. Having recently discovered that he suffered from epilepsy (life in a popular band did nothing to help this) mixed with the turmoil in his personal life proved to be too much. The single 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' was released just after his death and gave the band a belated monster hit, the version here is from their second Peel Session. Ofcourse you all know that Joy Division went on to become New Order and to even bigger success, but that's another story, and so were still Factory's biggest earners.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Nice To Be Back !
Got Back yesterday after my two week break on the Island of Corsica, the above view is what greeted my eyes each morning as I climbed out of my bed. Maybe you can understand why it's my destination of choice each summer, I guess it's a great place for me as I get to revitalise my tired body, it being such a simple life style and the pace is rather gentle add to this the fact that boys love, they get to spend four weeks in their paradise and are not at all happy when they have to come back.
I had treated myself to a 20 giga Archos MP3 player at the beginning of the year, treat really being the word as I don't get to use the thing that much. When we went to Paris in spring this year I loaded up some random songs for the journey, and so I thought this time round I would treat the hard drive to whole albums, now maybe this does sound rather has been but generally speaking this is the way artists intended their works to be listened to. So in no particular order the following is a list of the audio delights that have been bombarding my ears these last two weeks, some of which will be turning up sooner or later on the blog:
Malaria - 'Compiled 1981/1984'
Catpower - 'The Greatest'
Swell Maps - 'International Rescue'
Zounds - 'Curse Of The'
Nikki Sudden - 'The Last Bandit'
Epic Soundtracks - 'Everything Is Temporary'
Fugazi - '13 Songs'
Betty Davis - 'Nasty Gal'
Bettye Lavette - 'I've Got My Own Hell To Raise'
Moose - 'Live A Little Bit Love A Lot'
Delta 72 - '000'
Thea Gilmore - 'Rules For Jokers'
Zen Guerilla - 'Invisible Liftee'
Black Box Recorder - 'The Facts Of Life'
Brian Jonestown Massacre - 'Bravery Repetition And Noise'
Felt - 'Absolute Classic Masterpieces'
Gillian Welch - 'Revival'
Go Kart Mozart - 'Tearing Up The Album Charts'
Jackie Leven - 'Elegy For Johnny Cash'
Jackie Leven - 'Fairy Tales For Hard Men'
Little Axe - 'Hard Grind'
Elvis Costello - 'Imperial Bedroom'
As you can see I had had a good time! For the some of these albums it was the first time I had listened to them, for some it might well be the last time I give it a spin and for certain others it was more a case of rediscovery, and each and every one of of them I listening to in their entirety and in the correct running order, though not necessarily in one sitting.
All through my two weeks I had in mind posting an old song from Harry Belafonte (ask you grandparents who he was) called 'Island In The Song', the only problem being that I don't actually own in it. Then last Friday while listening to Black Box Recorder I remembered their cover version of Terry Jacks (ask your parents about this one) one big hit from 1974 'Seasons In The Sun', I Know it's really about suicide, but I like this version and the original brings back memories of when I was a school boy and had long summer holidays...............................
When I was young the middle East was a trouble spot and as we can see very little has changed, and despite the ceasefire that started today I'm not that optimistic that things are really going to improve. Patti Smith has written a song called 'Quana' about the recent civilian killings that is well worth a listen and can be found here.