Wednesday, 27 August 2008
It's funny, how certain times make it impossible to listen to certain songs; and how other songs simply jump out at you. Jump out at you with a force that you hadn't noticed before. There are songs that only fit break-ups, others that only fit celebration. Right now my head is all over the place; constant noise inside.
All last week I had none of my music to hand but all I wanted to listen to was loud guitars. This week back at home I'm after strings and mood pieces. So Paddy McAloon's I Trawl The Megahertz (oh such a beautiful record, especially the title track - go and listen if you haven't) has been on rotation. And the first album by The Guillemots found it's way into the random play.
Sao Paolo has turned up in other blogs recently. I liked it, but it didn't speak to me like it is now. Especially the cacophonous strings and piano which sound like the inside of my head. And the second half of the track "thrown across the water like a stone" just says everything to me right now.
The Guillemots - Sao Paolo
Friday, 22 August 2008
I'm afraid I won't be updating these pages too often for a little while. Unfortunately life has changed forever. My mum has been taken seriously ill and there are more important things to think about than my favourite b-side - however much I love doing that.
I'll still be posting, but I suspect this will be more like a steam valve than anything else.
Take care of yourselves people. And go and give your mums a call for me.
Saturday, 16 August 2008
Another side to the Mod revival: Two Tone!!
Here's the original versions of tunes that were played by some of the main players The Specials, Madness and The Beat!
Prince Buster - One Step Beyond
Dandy - A Message To You Rudie
Prince Buster - Madness
Toots And The Maytals - Monkey Man
Lloydie & The Lowbites - Birth Control
Prince Buster - Judge Dread (400 Years)
Prince Buster & The All Stars - Al Capone
Prince Buster - Enjoy Yourself
Prince Buster - Rough Rider
Prince Buster - Too Hot
Andy & Joey - You're Wondering Now
The Way Out as far as I know only released two singles. Matthew Wiles was the singer/songwriter/guitarist. And as far as I recall his brother was on bass, and Buddy Ascott from The Chords was on drums for this single.
It's a shame they never really released anything else, because they were a great little band, with some great hazy psychedelic new wave pop songs. They remind me now a little of The Icicle Works, with that Rickenbacker power-trio sound. And Matthew was a great guitarist too. Gotta love the screaming feedback over the end of This Working Way!
Any way, Ladies And Gentlemen, this is The Way Out!
This Working Way
Just The Girl
The Direct Hits were Geno Buckmaster, guitar and vocals, Colin Swan bass and vocals, and Brian Grover on drums. They were a South London based trio, formerly known as The Exits (who had a single called Fashion Victim). The Direct Hits released a couple of singles and two albums Blow Up and House Of Secrets. And for a couple of years they were quite possibly my favourite band.
Blow Up came out in 1984. It is, like a lot of their material, very 1966 influenced. Groovy pop that leans into the psychedelic. Touchstones would be The Beatles Rubber Soul, The Who A Quick One and The Jam All Mod Cons. There are close harmonies and backwards guitars and in the 8 minute long Henry The Unhappy Inventor a mini rock opera. It's all incredibly melodic and occasionally verges on the twee, but with a sense of melancholy that never fails to move me. Great music for sitting back and daydreaming. And, for all the obvious influences, The Direct Hits were very much their own band, with a very very individual sound. Live they were also one of the loudest bands I've ever seen!
In the summer of 1984 I almost didn't listen to anything else but Blow Up. The second album House Of Secrets featured some great songs, but it lost the magic a little. And then that was that. I'm not sure what they did next. I know Colin Swan, who sang the majority of the songs, turned up a couple of years ago in a band called This Happy Breed. But apart from that nothing else. It almost makes the band perfect for me. No long slow decline into the ordinary; just a little burst of wonderful pop music that still stands up today.
You can find their music out there if you look hard enough. A compilation called The Magic Attic came out on CD in the 90s and looking through the iTunes store the other day I found Blow Up.
Somewhere it's 1966 all year round, the scene is swinging and The Direct Hits are playing....
Ever Ready Plaything
A Place In The 80s
The Old Curiosity Shop
My Back Pages
Henry The Unhappy Inventor
She Really Didn't Care
Last Night I Saw Sunrise
Friday, 15 August 2008
Well you could argue that it hadn't really gone away. Punk itself harked back to the mid 60s in it's sound; it was all very Who and Kinks in sound and attitude. But in the late seventies there was a return to the style of the Mod, albeit in a fairly superficial way.
A number of factors may have led to this: the 60s influences of the punks, the film Quadrophenia, based on The Who's album about a Mod called Jimmy, and the success of The Jam, Paul Weller's Mod styled trio. Whatever it was suddenly the place was awash with Fred Perrys and Parkas. And loads of bands.
I leave you on this beautiful Friday night with a selection of the biggest bands from the Mod Revival era.
Secret Affair - Time For Action
Secret Affair - My World
Secret Affair - Dance Master
The Chords - Maybe Tomorrow
The Chords - Somethings Missing
The Chords - I'll Keep On Holding On
The Lambrettas - Poison Ivy
The Lambrettas - Page 3
The Lambrettas - Runaround
The Purple Hearts - Frustration
The Purple Hearts - Can't Help Thinking About Me
The Purple Hearts - I've Been Away
Thursday, 14 August 2008
David Bowie could be said to be responsible for a lot of the course of music through the 70s and 80s. Obviously there was the whole Glam thing. He along with Roxy Music and Marc Bolan were the figureheads of the whole thing. A few years later a lot of people on the punk scene talk about Bowie being the vital spark that kicked off their lives. And if you listen to Ziggy Stardust and Pin-Ups there's a lot of similarities between the sound he was playing with and some of the punks. And then the Young Americans album pretty much defined the whole sound of the early 80s. Of course a lot of the people from the punk scene were the same people that created the New Romantics thing so there's not a lot of surprises there.
What gets missed sometimes is Bowie's influence on the Mod Revival. In 1973, partly as a way to close the chapter on the Ziggy Stardust period and partly I think to revitalise his creative juices, Bowie released an album of covers. The songs were all songs he loved during the mid 60s. The album opened up a lot of people's eyes to that music, and led a lot of people to go digging into the whole 60s scene, and in particular the Mod scene.
A lot of the Glam musicians had been around for a few years by the time of their success. Bowie, Bolan and Ferry had a musical history that stretched back through the 60s. A very Mod history. It's no wonder that Glam was so centred on image.
Here's a couple of tunes from Bowie's mid 60s output. One is a repost of a classic Mod pop tune and the other is a bonafide Mod anthem, albeit a sad and sorry tale of the darker side of coming to London to get in on the scene.
David Bowie - Can't Help Thinking About Me
David Bowie - The London Boys
*Coincidentally there is a great post about Bowie and his 60s period over at Another Nickel In The Machine. A fine fine blog which everybody should visit! Check the blogroll for link!
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
One of the original 60s Mod bands. Formed from The Mark Four, The Creation were ferocious. Making Time was their debut single in the summer of 1966 and what a debut it was.
Rolling in on a jagged riff and a very funky backbeat, Making Time was far closer to the spirit of punk ten years later than the Summer Of Love a year later. What was punk anyway, but something of a Mod revival? The Creation's guitarist Eddie Phillips was an excellent guitarist, being the first rock player to use a violin bow, which he does on this to beautifully noisy effect.
"Our music is red with purple flashes" indeed!
The Creation - Making Time
The Times were formed by Ed Ball, ex Television Personality and future Creation Records exec. This Is London came out in 1983 and was one of the first Mod albums I bought. Part Jam and Kinks, part Monty Python, This Is London creates it's own little world. A world where Groovy London stuck around and became twisted.
It's quite twee, but edgy all at the same time. Ed Ball's lyrics are sarcastic and witty, painting a picture of a dirty old town, where hope is losing the fight. There's a lot of Ray Davies here, but it's fed through John Lydon's sneer.
This Is London was one of the first albums I listened to where the lyrics meant more to me than the music, perhaps in preparation for my later obsession with Costello...That's not to say the music is weak. Each track takes something of a different style: This Is London and Goodbye Picadilly are vaguely New Wave in their attack, Big Painting and Goodnight Children Everywhere are more 60s, Stranger Than Fiction is reminiscent of The Who tune The Real Me and Chimes Of Big Ben is ska influenced pop.
"I'm walking in the streets of Battersea in search of happiness
But all I find is misery in this London borough mess
My very best friend deserted me for someone else today
She met a small time insurance broker
And they'll be married by next May"
The Times - This Is London
The Times - Goodbye Piccadilly
The Times - Big Painting
The Times - Goodnight Children Everywhere
The Times - Stranger Than Fiction
The Times - The Chimes Of Big Ben
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
Here are a couple of Purple Hearts rarities.
First up is Just To Please You, which was a b-side of a 1981 (I think) single called My Life's A Jigsaw. I had this track on a compilation called Uppers On The South Downs. It's a cracking little 6ts garage punk number, like early Animals jamming around the bassline from Pretty Woman.
The second track is a very different side to the Purple Hearts, a gorgeous little acoustic ballad called I'll Make You Mine. Originally this was on a compilation put together by Eddie Pillar the founder of the Acid Jazz label, and a prime mover on the 80s mod scene. The compilation was called The Beat Generation And The Angry Young Men and had some corking tunes on it. This was my favourite, due to it's lovely little atmosphere. It's available now on a compilation of Purple Hearts rarities called Smashing Time.
I'll be featuring some more Purple Hearts later on.
Purple Hearts - Just To Please You
Purple Hearts - I'll Make You Mine
Monday, 11 August 2008
The Scene formed out of the ashes of '79 band 007. Unashamedly retro and very well dressed, they performed very speedy little 60s styled groovers, just as if they were some forgotten band from 65/66 that point where things were getting druggier, and darker.
"Something That You Said" came out in 1984. It's a great little single, all ragged Rickenbacker riffs and 'ba-ba-ba' vocal lines. It's kind of reminiscent of The Teardrop Explodes if they'd done less acid. It starts off running and doesn't stop until the last burst of feedback at the end. "Stop-Go" was the b-side, and supposedly live. Listening to it now I'm not so sure it was actually live - there's some crowd sounds at the start and end, and it's a lot less slick than the a-side, but I suspect it was recorded live in the studio...It reminds me a little of early Smiths, but that's mostly to do with the guitar work. All those jangly Rickenbackers.
"Still my head goes around and round, I feel I'm in the wrong part of town, but you know something that I need, now I've got such a taste for speed..."
The Scene - Something That You Said
The Scene - Stop-Go
Friday, 8 August 2008
When I got into the whole Mod thing it had gone underground following it's fashion revival in the late 70s. There were still Mods around, but in London at least they were few and far between.
I first started dressing as a Mod around this time in 1983. I was quite loose about it at first, the odd Fred Perry, Harrington jacket. Then as I got a bit older I bought suits and things. I never owned a parka. I went to gigs. There were a few of us floating around who had the 'habit' so to speak and we would congregate. Eventually the others grew out of it, and finally so did I about 1986/87.
Mostly it was a way of expressing on the outside what I felt I was on the inside. And what I felt on the inside was the music. A whole great universe of music that was mine. That I was discovering for myself, not hearing about on the radio or in the music press or from older relatives. For a few years you had to dig to find this music. And dig I did.
Now I listen to some of that music and it's fun to hear, and the nostalgia levels are high. But some of it simply isn't as good as I thought it was. However, some things have become constants in my music collection and have never lost their favour with me.
The Moment were Adrian Holder (guitar/vocals), Rob Moore (bass/vocals),
and Anthony Lambdon (drums). For their first single In This Town Rob took lead vocals, but Adrian took over vocal duties fairly quickly. He was also the main songwriter. I first read an interview with them in a fanzine called Shadows And Reflections by Chris Hunt (who since became a very successful journalist and writer). The article described them as starting out as a sort of Mod Revival era type band like The Chords, only moving on from that and producing a very modern Mod sound. And that they did, probably because they took influence from music outside of the normally narrow Mod scene. I was intrigued and when their first single came out I searched it out.
I loved the a-side In This Town, which did sound very Chords/Jam. But better still was the Adrian Holder sung b-side Just Once which sounded like a thunder storm brewing. Then the second single One,Two, They Fly came out later that year and I fell in love. Big bright jagged guitars, brass and huge amounts of energy as Adrian and Rob duetted over beautifully melancholy chords.
And it sounded new. There were sixties and punk influences but they didn't control things. And then their only album came out The Work Gets Done. The Moment had developed. Guitars were bigger and more edgy (even Edge-y, in places the guitars verge on the stadium.), melodies were more powerful and even more melancholy. And Adrian's vocals were huge and powerful and emotive.
Added to this was the brass which appeared on several tracks. By this point The Moment were nearer to being a five piece as live they were regularly backed by a brass section (one of whom Steve Rinaldi has become a performer in his own right as Rinaldi Sings). And they were so powerful, strident and driving one minute, soft and tender the next. They sat next to my Jam and Dexys albums perfectly.
(They also provided a huge part of the soundtrack to events mentioned earlier this week in the Yeh-Yeh posting, which I bought on the same day as The Moment album....)
There is a compilation available if you search called Mod Gods that features everything they released, and if you like these tracks then there are others just as good on there.
The b-side to The Moment's first single In This Town, Just Once reminds me of a thunder storm brewing, all tension that never quite resolves. It's all chop and staccato,
"What have I got to show that you were mine?"
One, Two They Fly
The second single with that great opening guitar riff, layered edgy Rickenbackers and acoustics, the melancholy brass, the stop start rhythms, and the joyful "whoo" before the jagged searing guitar solo. Then the stuttering vocal breakdown afterwards that recalls Daltrey's frustration on My Generation.
"I wait in the dark, to stay and wait for luck"
Flag To Fight Behind
This is almost post punk with it's throbbing bass and moody atmospherics. Again there's that sense of tension that almost never releases, and more of those stop start rhythms.
"The songs you sang for us, now nothing else can make us rush to change our ways"
The Tailor Made
This apparently started out life as a Small Faces influenced tune, but it's almost Goth Mod, verging on the psychedelic, (much like The Stone Roses who were apparently huge fans of The Moment, but more on that soon). I love the moody vocal and the almost ballad feel to this. The lyrics are very obscure but full of meaning and I still find the whole thing really inspiring. My favourite part is the very Dexys staccato breakdown after the middle section.
"And I was only running from you"
Sticks And Stones
This features a huge pulsing bass line and some great brass. And one of my favourite vocal exclamations ever in the 'Hah!' that follows the guitar breakdown.
"Five, Six, We're made of sticks to burn us down"
In Front Of Men
Like The Tailor Made this supposedly started off as a Small Faces influenced track and you can hear it in the arpeggios that open the track. But then it heads into that Goth-Mod style that I mentioned earlier. There's some very U2 style guitar chops and a breakdown that manages to remind me of Siouxsie & The Banshees for some reason.
"So she cries out loud once more, it's only hate that made us poor"
The Work Gets Done
A beautiful melody, small P political, heading into full on Redskins territory in the second verse. And then the trumpets that fly over the end of the track, such gorgeous gorgeous trumpets.
"We're never gonna cry these tears again"
Poor Mr Diamond
This was the b-side to their final single from 87-88. Remember mention of The Stone Roses earlier? The Roses started out as a Mod influenced band called The English Roses, went through a vaguely Gothic period, with bandannas and floaty shirts then became The Stone Roses that we all know. But listen to this track. Floaty psychedelic pop leading into a full on funk workout that goes on for about ten minutes. Sound like anything The Roses did a couple of years later? While it's nothing new - after all Hendrix was doing the same back in the 60s - it was enough for members of The Moment to comment on a few years later in the sleevenotes to Mod Gods.
"Poor Mister Diamond - Shine...."
If I had to give away my music there are some I would fight tooth and claw to keep. The Moment are one of the few.
More Mod music from my iTunes random.
The Lambrettas and Da-A-Ance. The Lambrettas were one of the Mod revival bands that came out during 1979/80 after the success of The Jam and the return of the Mod fashion. They were always talked about with a bit of a sneer amongst people I knew, as if they were a little bit plastic. But this track is a perfectly fine piece of power pop as far as I'm concerned.
I love the rhythmic changes, the way it rushes along underneath parts of it then stop starts under others. I love the chords, the melancholy feel and the innocence of it. It reminds me of being 16.
To be honest I think The Lambrettas music stands up a lot better than some of the other Mod Revival bands. There's a lot less of The Jam influencing their stuff and it's dated rather better because of that. In my humble opinion.
The Lambrettas - Da-A-Ance
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
This song is one of a bundle of songs that remind me of my first heart break.
Mixed in with that are snowbound February, rainy March, rainy April, rainy May and the smell of wet paving stones and Benson & Hedges along Old Street. A girl who changed her name four times.
"You Will Pay" by Yeh-Yeh was released in early 1986. Yeh-Yeh were a mod band from Lancashire I think, but I'm not sure. I think this was the only record they released. If you like The Jam and Motown then you'll probably like this brassy power pop tune.
"Now I suppose that it's all over, Well I feel sorry for the next poor boy that you choose I have done my course, Now it's somebody elses turn"
Yeh Yeh - You Will Pay
*Following contact from Andy From Yeh-Yeh, here's somewhere for you to go to see what they're doing now:
Davy at The Ghost Of Electricity has just posted a great tune by The Crystals called Uptown. Coincidentally I've had a bunch of girl group tunes lined up. They are all lesser known tunes, mostly from the later end of the 60s when the earlier girl groups had been pushed aside by the new 'soul' groups. One of which is The Crystals.
Are You Trying To Get Rid Of Me Baby might be more familiar to some as a tune by Candy And The Kisses. Their version is great, but a lot softer and less dynamic. The Crystals version is bigger and beefier and brassier, verging on the funky in places. It's a huge huge sounding record, all strings and percussion and fantastic brass and massive vocals. And now Davy's reminded me of it I had to share it - hey the girl group posting can wait!
The Crystals - Are You Trying To Get Rid Of Me Baby?
Monday, 4 August 2008
We never owned a record player when I was a kid. We got our first one when I was about 12. So up until that point all the music I knew came from either Top Of The Pops or the radio, or from cassettes when the cassette player worked.
Cassettes in the house were either sixties soul, Elvis or country. And a Beach Boys compilation that I obsessed over.
My prized possession was a radio. I'm not sure if it was the one in the picture. I definitely know it was a brown Grundig, and bought for me in about 1975 or 1976. I listened religiously to the chart rundowns, the breakfast show before going to school and Capital Radio in the night when I was supposed to be asleep. Capital Radio for those not from London is still going strong and is a London based station (the clue is in the name...). Their staple sounds on the late night shows were soul or soul influenced tunes and Bruce Springsteen. And when I hear a lot of Seventies soul tunes or Born To Run I just get this huge wave of nostalgia for my old radio.
Hall And Oates were huge Capital Radio favourites too, especially a song like She's Gone, with it's big Philly sounding choruses and moody 'hot in the city' feel to the verses. It would probably have come up as a request tune for some bloke called Gary from Holloway missing his girl Sharon who he'd just split up with. And the DJ all smooth and deep voiced would have said something like "It'll get better mate, meanwhile Sharon, he's missing you love something rotten. This one is for you from Gary. Hall And Oates and She's Gone..."
Seemed like some strange other universe to a seven year old.
Hall And Oates - She's Gone
Sunday, 3 August 2008
Feeling a little bit jazzy today.
First up is the wonderful Gil Scott-Heron with "Lady Day & John Coltrane" beginning things in a not so typical up-tempo style. But then just for Sunday we'll slow things down with Jimmy McGriff's Blue Juice, nice and funky. And to close the beautiful and summery Cease The Bombing by Grant Green, protest music with style from one of the best guitarists ever.
Ever feel kinda down and out, you don't know just what to do?
Livin' all of days in darkness, let the sun shine through
Ever feel that somehow, somewhere you lost your way?
And if you don't get help quick you won't make it through the day?
Could you call on Lady Day? Could you call on John Coltrane?
Now 'cause they'll wash your troubles, your troubles away
Plastic people with plastic minds on their way to plastic homes
There's no beginning, there ain't no ending
Just on and on and on and on and...
It's all because we're so afraid to say that we're alone
Until our hero rides in, rides in on his saxophone
Could you call on Lady Day? Could you call on John Coltrane?
They'll wash your troubles, your troubles away
Gil Scott-Heron - Lady Day And John Coltrane
Jimmy McGriff - Blue Juice
Grant Green - Cease The Bombing
Friday, 1 August 2008
Well, the shuffle on my iTunes seems to be hitting the summer of 1980 at the moment. Xanadu by Olivia Newton John and the Electric Light Orchestra.
I love this, big shiny pop music. Makes me think of hanging out with my old school friends for one last summer before we all went off to our secondary schools. The last summer before everything changed.
Electric Light Orchestra and Olivia Newton John - Xanadu
People ask: you grew up in London? What was that like? And I'll always answer: Quiet. That's right; I grew up almost right in the centre of London, five minutes walk from The City Of London to the south, fifteen minutes walk from The West End, to the...West.
And it was a quiet part of town where I grew up; after five o' clock in the week and all weekend the surrounding parts of the city emptied; the workers went home and all that was left was the locals. These days the area I grew up in is a busy part of town, plenty of pubs and clubs and nightlife. But then we had to go elsewhere for entertainment.
What people forget or don't know, especially if they're not from here, is that London may be a city but it's a mess of small towns. And those small towns are just like small towns anywhere.
But London these days is getting more and more like one city. We're overflowing with people and the city really doesn't sleep anymore. And the more it becomes like that the less space and peace you get. I used to be able to wake up before everyone else did and go for long walks down empty streets. I can't remember the last time I was the only person on a street. It starts to close in on you after a while. Sometimes you just want to get away.
The Jam - The Place I Love
Random Friday; theaudience and their tune A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed, one of those Britpop hits (number 27 apparently!) that would probably be forgotten were it not for the fact that it featured a much younger Sophie Ellis-Bextor doing her best Sandie Shaw impression. Infact the whole thing sounds a lot like Sandie backed by The Smiths. Rather nice!
theaudience - A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed