h1

Aye Tunes

September 17, 2014

I’ve dithered and swithered over this for a month or so now. Do I keep politics off these pages or do I throw my tuppence worth into the ring of fire and nail my colours to the saltire-draped mast? I’ve never liked mixing pop and politics, even though many of my favourite records, from The Clash to Curtis Mayfield to Bob Dylan to The Smiths are nothing but. If I was to stop and think about it, ALL my favourite records are probably political in some way, but I’ve never been all that comfortable with the serious stuff. I suppose when it comes down to it I just like to dance to records with a message. With hours before the polling stations open, I doubt this piece will sway many voters one way or t’other (and it certainly isn’t intended to), but for what it’s worth, what follows is Plain Or Pan’s man-on-the-street view of the Referendum.

Since the Referendum date was set a couple of years ago, I became a quiet ‘Yes’ voter. I wasn’t a soap box ranter. I couldn’t (still can’t) quote you facts, figures and government misinformation.  But I believed Scotland could be a better place without Westminster rule. Over the past few months and weeks, this feeling has intensified and I’m now a full-blooded, hand-on-heart ‘YES!’ man.

What you’ll read here you’ve read elsewhere. Social media is thick with it. Propaganda, lies, deceit and the odd soundbite of truth are all over it like a big tartan blanket. Like I said, I can’t quote you facts and figures, but I can tell you what other folk’ve said.

My ‘Yes’ changed to ‘YES!’ at the end of last week. The Sunday Times poll put us in the lead for the first time, and much like Scotland scoring against Brazil in Spain ’82, this only served to get the other side really angry. David Cameron, a man who openly cared little for our great nation yet who’d somehow found himself ruler of it, a man who’d previously said he’d let us fight this Referendum business out amongst ourselves, suddenly woke up with a start and along with those other two barometers of democracy and decency Miliband and Clegg, and a train load of worried looking politicians in false smiles and grey suits, turned up in Scotland in a last-ditch attempt to swing the vote.

His promises of more devolution are laughable. Ask most Scots and they’d probably tell you that Devo-Max was the preferred option all along – Scotland get maximum power and control whilst still remaining a part of the UK. But that was a tricky one. Some people might vote for that, they thought. Best just give them the Yes/No option. The powers that be honestly thought it’d be a landslide for No, so now that the race has turned neck and neck, with Yes leading one day to be pulled back by No the next, everyone south of The North is panicking. Their offer is too little, too late and, if y’ask me, not to be trusted one iota.

A couple of nights ago I was asked to appear on The Gist, a weekly podcast broadcast from New York. It mixes politics, current affairs and the odd bit of music. It’s definitely too highbrow for my level of political nous, but they were keen to find a Scottish man on the street with no background in politics. I fitted the bill. I spoke with Mike Pesca, the congenial presenter, for around 30 minutes before my ums and ers and uneducated rantings and ravings were edited into a more palatable 5 minute soundbite. There’s lots they cut out – the fact that seemingly almost the entire population will be turning out to vote, the fact that there are decent and not so decent arguments and counter arguments on both sides for oil, pensions, the NHS, currency (you know all that already), the fact that one of the reasons I was a ‘YES!’ voter was because the UK had been in cahoots with the US over illegal wars and I wanted no part of that (wonder why they cut that bit out?)  But the podcast didn’t have a full half hour to air my spiel. I’m on after about 4 mins…

Another thing that wasn’t fully aired was the story of the oil field not more than 20 miles from where I type. Talking about this recently, my pals and I remembered in the 80s seeing a couple of oil platforms out in the Firth of Clyde, just off the coast of Irvine. They were drilling for oil. And they found oil. 100 years worth, if you’re to believe some of the reports. But the government wouldn’t allow continued drilling on account of the fact that right above the oil field was where the submarines carrying Trident missiles sailed. Trident is based not too far up the coast and no-one could risk a potential disaster if oil drilling was to begin. So it was all packed up, hushed up and forgotten about.

Amongst taking control of our own taxes, decisions and society, one other thing a Scottish government has promised to do is rid ourselves of nuclear weapons. Put simply, the terror threat has moved on and we don’t live under that kind of threat any more. Nuclear weapons are plain and simply a huge waste of money. A Scottish government will re-direct that money to the things that can help Scotland stand on its feet once again. And this would also allow oil exploration to begin once again on the Firth of Clyde.

Aye, it’s a huge leap of faith if you plan to vote ‘YES!’ But Scotland has the potential to be one of the happiest, wealthiest, safest nations on the planet. Who wouldn’t want to live in a place like that?

Who knows how it’ll all go? We find out early on Friday morning.

Buffalo SpringfieldDown To The Wire;

 

h1

Songs For Swingin’ Lovers

September 9, 2014

 bowie lodger kodachrome 79

That there’s David Bowie, doing the wonky pogo and captured on Kodachrome for what would become the cover of 1979’s Lodger LP. A hit-or-miss LP by Bowie’s standards, it’s notable for being produced and augmented by Eno and for featuring a couple of tracks that used the exact same chord structure, sequence and setting as one another.

The opener, Fantastic Voyage was a mid-paced meandering crooner, exactly the sort of Bowie track that leaves you cold on first listen but after, oooh, 20 years or so reveals itself to be a stone cold Bowie belter. What took me so long?!?

David BowieFantastic Voyage;

Encouraged by Eno’s Oblique Strategy cards to ‘Use Unqualified Musicians‘, Bowie made the assembled band swap to unfamiliar territory (although rumour has it that the bass was overdubbed because bass-playing drummer Dennis Davis was rubbish) , cranked things up to twice the original speed and created a metallic squall of post-punk brilliance. Forever on the edge of unravelling at the seams, Boys Keep Swinging is carried along with a nod and a wink and a raised and plucked eyebrow or two to the more flamboyant side of life.

David Bowie - Boys Keep Swinging;

When you’re a boy, other boys check you out,” intones Bowie, all put-on machismo and high camp. That he dressed himself up as a trio of drag-queened tarts in the video only served to hammer the point home – Bowie liked boys who liked boys to be girls who liked girls to be boys….

bowie boys keep swinging

Boys Keep Swinging is right up there amongst my very favourite Bowie tracks. Worth a listen if only for Adrain Belew’s Pere Ubu do the Isley Brothers guitar meltdown at the end, it sits head and shoulders above anything else the mainstream was releasing at the time.

A couple of chancers who liked Bowie’s new single were The Associates. Short of record deal but long on ambition and ideas, they somewhat illegally recorded their own version of Boys Keep Swinging a mere 6 weeks after Bowie’s had been released, and put it out on the tiny Double Hip record label.

associates boys keep swinging 7

Not surprisingly, the record’s existence brought them to the attention of eagle-eared music industry insiders but amazingly, on the back of it, The Associates landed themselves a record deal with Fiction Records. Would that ever happen nowadays? I doubt it.

The AssociatesBoys Keep Swinging;

Billy MacKenzie of the band would a few years later be the titular subject of The Smiths’ William, It Was Really Nothing. Friends with Morrissey, the pair of them spent many an afternoon in the early 80s skirting around one another’s affections. But you knew that already.

*Bonus Track(s)!

Side project of The Cardigan’s Nina Persson, A Camp‘s version is fairly faithful to the original.

A CampBoys Keep Swinging;

Nothing ground shattering, but what a shallow excuse to stick a picture of a beautiful Swedish lassie on these pages.

nina persson a camp

Perhaps more interesting is the story of Blur and ‘their‘ track M.O.R.

Written a la Bowie and Eno with the exact same chord progression as Fantastic Voyage/Boys Keep Swinging, it originally escaped the notice of anyone who deals in these matters. Subsequent releases however credit the track to Blur/Bowie/Eno. Have a listen.

BlurM.O.R.;

You can sing Boys Keep Swinging over the top of it, aye? And Coxon freely embraced the guitar freak out at the end with great gusto. Good, innit?

And any excuse to post Blur’s own tribute to 1979. Blurred Lines, anyone…?

blur blondie

h1

Miracle Worker

September 1, 2014

I’m a total sucker for 60s-70s soul. If you visit these pages from time to time you’ll know that already. I’m more of a Stax man than a Motown man. I’ve always considered Stax to be the rough ‘n tumble, snotty nosed version of its more well-known big brother. If Stax and Motown started school on the same day, it’d be Stax who came home with the knees out his new trousers, while brother Motown’s hair would look the same as it did at 9.00am and the creases in his trousers would still be sharp enough to put new life into an old pencil.

It’s amazing to think that at Stax, it was a relatively small band of musicians who played on much of the stuff. And it was the same at Motown. The Funk Brothers were the go-to band if you needed a recording in a hurry. Between 1959 and 1972 they added their signature breaks, beats and bouncing rhythms to many a radio standard – Baby Love, My Girl, Please Mr Postman, You Keep Me Hangin’ On, Let’s Get It On….the list is practically endless. They were in many ways Detroit’s answer to LA’s Wrecking Crew; seasoned studio pros who went about their business with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of funk.

marv tarplin

Marvin “Marv” Tarplin was never considered one of the Funk Brothers. You might never have heard of him, but you’ll certainly be familiar with his music.

Marv was Smokey Robinson‘s guitar player of choice, discovered when he accompanied a brand-new girl group called The Primettes at an audition for Smokey, then working in his capacity as in-house Motown producer. Smokey encouraged the girls to change their name to The Supremes and helped them on their way to stardom, but at a price – he nicked their guitar player for his own group.

It’s Marv’s clean, chiming picking that opens The Tracks Of My Tears and carries it to the heartbroken crescendo;

(Michael Caine voice) Not a lot of people know this, but Marv’s inspiration for The Tracks Of My Tears came from playing along to Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song at 33rpm. That wee drop in the middle, when it’s just Marv playing a couple of chords? Until I’d heard Steely Dan’s Peg, I was convinced De La Soul had nicked it for Eye Know. (I know, I know…I can practically hear the ‘tut tut tuts‘ from a gazillion sample-spotting soul boys ‘n girls). Someone else should probably nick Marv’s bit. Thinking about it, somebody else probably has.

Back in my days of music retail, I had a loooong conversation with a regular customer over Charlie Parker’s playing style. The customer swore that Parker added little fluttering riffs at the end of the phrases he was playing and that, once he’d pointed it out I’d be able to spot a Charlie Parker solo a mile off. D’you know what? He was right.

As a guitar player, Marv was the polar opposite of Charlie Parker, with seemingly no distinctive style of his own. Clean and clipped, equally at home chopping out barred riffs or picking little runs, Marv’s style could best be described as The Ubiquitous Sound of Motown, which is not a bad playing style to have at all.

His playing graced a gazillion Motown hits – Going To a Go-Go, I Second That Emotion (above), but mainly Motown misses - I’ll be Doggone, Cruisin’, Still Water and many other minor tracks I’d need to Google. He loved a hammer-on with the pinky, he loved a simple-yet-effective running riff up and across the bass strings, and he was part of the reason Smokey Robinson and The Miracles made heartbreak sound so life-affirmingly uplifting. A real Miracle worker, if you will.

It wasn’t only Smokey who benefited from Marv’s guitar…

Marvin GAYE

Marvin Gaye‘s finger poppin’, hand clappin’ Ain’t That Peculiar features Marv’s ringing riffs and clipped guitar. A belter of mid 60s pop/soul, all pistol crack snare, stabbing brass and coo-cooing, doo-be-doo female backing vocals, Ain’t That Peculiar was a favourite of Phil Spector, who heard something in the piano breakdown midway through and went on to model the main riff for River Deep, Mountain High around it. S’true!

 

 

h1

Stax O’ Soul

August 18, 2014

Eddie Floyd was the big haired, big voiced vocalist of such soul nuggets as Knock On Wood, I’ve Got To Have Your Love and Big Bird. An ode to flight, Big Bird was reputedly written by Floyd in Heathrow Airport as he waited to board a plane to Memphis for Otis Redding’s funeral. That’s how the legend goes at any rate.

 eddie floyd

Floyd was also a staff writer at Stax, and co-penned all manner of lesser known gems recorded by the likes of William Bell, the Staples Singers and Carla Thomas. You could do worse than spend an evening digging deep to uncover his work. It’s all terrific stuff, but one Eddie Floyd song stands afro’d head and shoulders above all others.

Eddie’s masterpiece is 1968’s I’ve Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do).

eddie floyd stax 7

A great little slice of call and response Southern soul, it see-saws between major and minor chords, swept along by brass and strings and carried from middle to end by the stolen melody of Percy Faith‘s Theme From A Summer Place;

Played by Floyd with the help of in-house Stax guns for hire Booker T. Jones (who played bass, guitar and keys (!)) and Al Bell, and produced by the MGs Steve Cropper, the song would eventually peak at #2 on the US R&B charts.

As a wee aside, you could do worse than spend another evening comparing Booker T’s guitar solo on this track with much of Edwyn Collin’s Memphis chording on some of those mid period Orange Juice records – the intro to I Can’t Help Myself for example.

alex chilton live

Cult hero to the stars Alex Chilton has recorded a couple of versions of I’ve Never Found A Girl, most thrillingly in Glasgow backed by a Teenage Fanclub who gamely hold steady the backbeat and offer enthusiastic backing vocals whilst he chops out gritty little riffs of electrified southern soul atop it.

Recorded at the 13th Note in 1996, in this pre (for me) internet era, I walked into work the morning after the show to hear all about it for the first time. Nowadays of course, you’d never get a ticket for this kind of thing for sticky fingered touts. But back in the day it was good old fashioned lack of information that meant only the hippest of the hip, with a finger to the pulse and an ear to the ground, got to such events. The bastards.

Alex Chilton & Teenage FanclubI’ve Never Found a Girl (To Love Me Like You Do);

*Bonus Track!

Here’s Al Green‘s version, rather tame by comparison, but nonetheless a worthy inclusion to this post.

 

 

h1

I Found The Piano Player Very Crosseyed But Extremely Solid

August 12, 2014

Few bands have gone through the mill quite like The Charlatans; Jail. Rip-offs. Death. And few bands have managed to subtly change their sound from album to album, forging new ground while sounding instantly familiar and recognisable.

 The Charlatans on Rage

If 1995’s eponymously-titled LP was the band’s stab at swaggering Sympathy-era Stones grooves, all shaky shaky maracas and rollin’ and tumblin’ bar-room piano fills, 1999’s major label debut was The Charlatans’ nudge nudge wink wink love letter to Bob Dylan.

It’s not obvious to many except the obsessive Zim-head, but its all there. The warning signs were already in place with 1997’s Tellin’ Stories LP, an album that featured the soon-to-be single and Dylanishly-titled North Country Boy.

Another track, One To Another, went on to become one of their biggest selling singles, replete with the very Bob ‘Can you please crawl out your window‘ line towards the end.

One To Another:

Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? was a little-known Bob Dylan single from 1965, recorded with The Hawks as backing band during Dylan’s quest for the ‘thin wild mercury sound‘ that he arrived at on Blonde On Blonde. Little more than a footnote in Bob’s history, it remains groovy proof  that the Rayban’d Dylan could do beat music as well as anyone. As Tim Burgess and co. knew fine well.

Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?:

charlatans us and us

1990’s Us And Us Only LP is, for me, The Charlatans’ absolute peak. Weird, wonky but still packed full of hummable tunes, it makes a good Anglophile companion to Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs LP. But I digress.

The key to the weirdness lies in the album’s submergence in mellotron. Where previously the full fat riffs of the Hammond had directed the band’s sound, Us And Us Only is carried along by the gossamer-thin weirdness of the most unlikely of lead instruments. Not on every track, but you don’t have to listen too hard to hear it weave its magical spell throughout. Isolated out of context though, the more straight-forward tunes are secretly in debt to Dylan.

There are three in a row on the first side alone;

Impossible:

That ham-fisted bashed acoustic guitar combined with wheezing harmonica and held together by a nasal vocal singing unnecessarily elongated words – pure Dylan!

Even the lyrics could’ve come from the hand of Bob himself; “I can help you, will you only ask me kindly“, “my freedom is a vision you seek“, “this song kind lady is my only hope“, “Y’know he looks like a plastic surgeon“, “Your new friend he seems to love you, I hope he cries himself to sleep“. It’s all very Bob. I can actually hear him sing it every time it plays. In fact, Impossible might well be the best Dylan track he never wrote. It is a cracker.

Following Impossible you get the waltzing light and heavy shades of The Blonde Waltz.

The Blonde Waltz:

blond waltz

The Blond Waltz (no ‘e‘ in Dylan’s version – see above) was taken from the name of a passage (or chapter? who knows) in Dylan’s answer to the jabberwocky and stoned ramblings of Lewis Carroll. You could call it experimental prose poetry. Or cut ‘n paste stream of consciousness. Either way it’s a frustrating read – if you persevere long enough, brilliant little moments of clarity peek out from behind an amphetamine fug. The Charlatans have read it though.

Tim doesn’t quite sing A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall‘s “where have you been my darling young one” at the start, but you know he wants to. There’s a good chance some of the album’s lyrics came from Tarantula. Pure speculation on my part of course….

A House Is Not A Home takes its cue from ’66 Dylan. Heavy of Hammond and rich of riff, the tune is a clever appropriation of the version of I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met) that a hot-wired Bob and the Band played to a few appalled folkies and a thousand grinning Cheshire Bob cats up and down the UK in the spring of that year. It’s electric in every sense of the word. Judas my arse.

Contrast and compare:

A House Is Not A Home:

I Don’t Believe You (She Acts Like We Never Have Met):

 dylan hawks

The track that follows is called Senses. Stealing its musical cue from the mellotron madness of the Stones in all Their Satanic Majesties Request pomp, it goes on to liberally lift lyrics from Jagger and co’s Sweet Black Angel. Elsewhere, you’ll hear a straight-forward photocopy of Only Love Can Break Your Heart in the intro to I Don’t Care Where You Live and the beating pulse of Another Brick In The Wall in My Beautiful Friend . But those are other stories for other days.

Post Script

You should dig out your copy of Us And Us Only forthwith. It’s a truly terrific album, one that still stands up to repeated plays today. It plays best when listened to as a whole. Aye, you can pick holes in the individual tracks all day long, but the album doesn’t deserve that.

If you don’t have it, on account of thinking The Charlatans were nothing but bowl-headed baggy chancers, now is the time to find out there’s more to them than that.

Post Script 2

Of course, The Charlatans have form for this kind of thing. Talent borrows, genius steals ‘n all that. Step forward Pink Floyd…

h1

Six Of The Best – Model Aeroplanes

August 6, 2014

Six Of The Best is a semi-regular feature that pokes, prods and persuades your favourite bands, bards and barometers of hip opinion to tell us six of the best tracks they’ve ever heard. The tracks could be mainstream million-sellers or they could be obfuscatingly obscure, it doesn’t matter. The only criteria set is that, aye, they must be Six of the Best. Think of it like a mini, groovier version of Desert Island Discs…

model aeroplanes
Number 19 in a series:

Those four fresh faced youngsters above are Model Aeroplanes and with nary a hipster beard nor a tattoo in sight are just about the hottest, hippest most happening name to drop right now. Crowd pleasers at this year’s Liverpool Sound City and both the T In The Park and Wickerman festivals, not to mention the up-coming Belladrum festival, there’s a huge, expectant buzz around the Dundonian four piece.

If I was 18 and sick fed up of Arctic Monkeys’ gradual drift away from their early sound, Model Aeroplanes would be my new favourite band. Featuring the classic bass, drums and two guitars set-up, they play well-crafted, infectious songs that rattle and roll in equal parts.

Younger readers might also hear them as an updated version of a less reliant on effects pedals Foals or Vampire Weekend, with the twin guitar attack firing off chiming African-influenced chattering riffs.

Cynical old gits like me who’ve been around the block more than once (and bought the original t-shirt, not the updated Primark version) are harder to impress. You could play spot-the-influence all day if you like, but there’s no denying Model Aeroplanes are a bright ‘n breezy breath of fresh air.

You know those folk that put half a dozen Mentos into a bottle of Coke then film it for You Tube’s sake? That’s the sound of Model Aeroplanes. Put some elements of the less-precious end of post-punk in the bottle. Add equal parts Talking Heads when they discovered Africa with the expansive skittering widescreen sound of Franz Ferdinand. Dilute the mixture with the pop nous of Haircut 100, who took the Orange Juice blueprint and, with a spit and a polish, galloped with it into the charts. Shake the whole thing up and let it explode. Voila! Model Aeroplanes!

If you’ve pressed ‘play’ above, you’ll know that their whole sound, whilst rooted in the DNA of ‘proper’ indie is as polished as the shine on their smiling wee faces. Underneath the two guitars is a terrific rhythm section, all counter rhythms with tons of cowbell and pitter-pattering percussives.

They’re far too young to remember that old “there’s always been a dance element to our music” cliche, but Model Aeroplanes could say that honestly and proudly with hand on heart.

By the time they get around to releasing an album they’ll be gunning for the charts. They have proper hit-making potential and Radio 1, in particular Edith Bowman and Vic Galloway love them.

The band have built up a rabid fan base who travel to the gigs the way football supporters follow their team the length and breadth of the country and they’ve helped recent release Electricity clock up over 30,000 hits on You Tube.

ma6

 

Plain Or Pan asked Ben and Rory from Model Aeroplanes to lay their influences bare. I have to admit to never having heard 2 or 3 of these tracks before now, but after having MA’s tracks on repeat for the past few days, they make perfect sense. There’s a multitude of polyrhythms and bucketfuls of delay-drenched guitar interplay on almost every track. These are the tunes that make Model Aeroplanes tick;

 

LightspeedTwin Atlantic

We became massive Twin Atlantic fans around the time of Vivarium and are to this day. This just reminds us of being 14 and drinking White Storm Cider at our local park.

You Can Call Me AlPaul Simon

This is one of the most well known songs in existence but even if you didn’t know who it was when you were young, if you recognised it, I’ll bet you went mental at the bass solo.

F.C.P.R.E.M.I.XThe Fall of Troy

Most people, if they listen to our music, would be shocked at bands that have influenced our playing in the past. The Fall of Troy were among bands like The Mars Volta, Meet Me In St. Louis, Biffy and Twin who’s songs we’d learn then mosh out to at practice back in 2010. Anything with a weird time signature was acceptable but ‘F.C.P.R.E.M.I.X’ is in 4/4 and still rocks. We still give it a bash at most practices now so I suppose it’s a sign that playing pop music hasn’t completely taken us over.

MunichEditors

Last August we were given an amazing opportunity to support Editors at the HMV Picture House in Edinburgh. At the time it was the most people we’d ever played to at once, around 1,000 when we went on, but we’ll always remember how nervous we were walking on stage. I could have spewed, we hadn’t really felt nerves like that before and haven’t since to be honest. It’s good to remember. This song is an anthem.

CassiusFoals

One of our older friends showed us this song in 2009, we were blown away. Kieran learned how to play dance-beats and the rest is history.

Black and BlueMiike Snow

(Rory) – I saw Miike Snow on Later with Jools Holland in about 2009-2010 and, for the most part, have listened to them every day since. No joke.

 

Model Aeroplanes are often out and about on the road. In the Autumn they had out as support to Fatherson. Before that, on September 12th they make a *flying visit to Irvine to play the intimate environs of the town’s Harbour Arts Centre. A great place to see them before they make their inevitable climb up the ladder and into the larger venues, tickets are only a fiver. You can get them direct from the HAC 01294 274059 with no booking fee, or via http://www.ticketweb.com, with a small booking fee added. I’ll be there. You should do your best to get alongl too.

model aeroplanes live

 

*I couldn’t go the whole article and not make some sort of aviation-based pun.

h1

When I Say I’m In Love, You Best Believe I’m In Love Ell Yoo Vee

August 1, 2014

new york dolls

The New York Dolls landed on British telly in November 1973; a sloppy, slutty, Stones-in-slap-‘n-stack heels assortment of misfits and ne’erdowells. Their sound was a thrillingly simple souped-up charge of re-hashed Chuck Berry licks and Noo York street-smart shouted vocals, and in this era of prog rock and ‘serious’ music, immediately divided opinions.

Mock rock!” dismissed presenter ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris as he waited patiently for his next fix of good ol’ country rock.

The Dolls gave me a sense of uniqueness, as if they were my own personal discovery,” blurted a foaming at the mouth Morrissey.

Famously, along with being President of the Dolls’ Fan Club, Morrissey had a New York Dolls biography published, which sold steadily in its one and only print. You could argue that The New York Dolls was the catalyst in getting the teenage Morrissey out of his bedroom and into society where he’d meet like-minded Mancunians and ultimately form The Smiths. Now, that may be a bit of a simplified version, but essentially that’s what happened.

On the Doll’s debut album there’s a track called Lonely Planet Boy.

The band’s one attempt (on this LP at least) at acoustic balladry, it teeters metaphorically atop one of Johnny Thunder’s gigantic silver stacked heels, forever on the verge of collapse and falling apart. Coaxed along by a rasping 50s-inspired sax, it was a particular favourite of the young Morrissey. Indeed, a decade or so later when stuck for lyrical inspiration, Morrissey went back to Lonely Planet Boy and appropriated some of the lyrics for the song that would, for some come to define The Smiths.

Oh, you pick me up
You’re outta drivin’ in your car
When I tell you where I’m goin’
Always tellin’ me it’s to far

But how could you be drivin’
Down by my home
When ya know, I ain’t got one
And I’m, I’m so all alone

 morrissey nydolls

And with that steal, Morrissey had galvanised himself into writing the lyrics to There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

A great song needs more than great lyrics, of course. I’ve written about the Johnny’s contribution to it before. Below is the shortened version.

“If we needed some songs fast, then Morrissey would come round to my place and I’d sit there with an acoustic guitar and a cassette recorder. ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ was done that way.”

Morrissey was sat on a coffee table, perched on the edge. I was sat with my guitar on a chair directly in front of him. He had A Sony Walkman recording, waiting to hear what I was gonna pull out. So I said, ‘Well, I’ve got this one’ and I started playing these chords. He just looked at me as I was playing. It was as if he daren’t speak, in case the spell was broke.”

“We recorded ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ in 10 minutes. I went on to add some flute overdub and strings and a couple of extra guitars, but really, the essence and the spirit of it was captured straight away, and that normally means that something’s gone really, really right.

(Flute/strings overdubs demo below);

I have a version of that take with just the three instruments and the voice on it – it absolutely holds up as a beautiful moment in time. The Smiths were all in love with the sound that we were making. We loved it as much as everyone else, but we were lucky enough to be the ones playing it.”

I didn’t realise that ‘There Is A Light’ was going to be an anthem but when we first played it I thought it was the best song I’d ever heard.”

For some of us, it is too.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 178 other followers

%d bloggers like this: