Pink Floyd’s Meddle LP was released in 1971, sandwiched between 70’s experimentally textured Atom Heart Mother and 72’s omnipresent, global-shagging Dark Side of the Moon. Sitting between these two LPs, Meddle is more experimental and free-flowing than its conventionally-structured follow-up; There are whoosing wind effects galore, barking dogs (the eponymously titled Seamus, named after recording Steve Marriott’s hound – it’s a howler in every meaning of the word) and one entire side is given over to a self-indulgent ambient collage that, some claim, can be synced in perfect harmony with Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (side 2’s Echoes). If techno-hippies The Orb had played guitars instead of sequencers they might’ve come up with an album like Meddle.
It’s not an album I listen to very often – maybe once in the last 10 years, but I do like track 3 – Fearless. An eastern-tinged, six minute-plus electric skiffle blues played in the sort of open tuning that Jimmy Page might have employed during the writing of Led Zeppelin III, it meanders like the Ganges on a hot day.
It starts terrifically, the recurring, nagging riff underpinned by a sample of the Anfield Kop singing You’ll Never Walk Alone, Gilmour in full-on Home Counties posh boy whisper mode. Throughout, strings bend like bluesy elastic bands, electric guitars intermittently chime, harmonics ping, a piano tinkles, Fab Four backing vocals weave in and out of the rich tapestry of sound….but everything always comes back to The Riff. You should listen to it, you’d like it.
The Charlatans certainly did.
Musicians stealing other musicians’ tunes is nothing new. Pick a month at random from the sidebar on the right there and you’ll find umpteen examples without looking too hard. Right now, you’ll have your own examples bouncing around your head. So we shouldn’t single The Charlatans out for individual attention.
”Here comes a soul saver on your record player…”
Their track Here Comes A Soul Saver has Fearless written all over it. Or rather, it has Fearless written through it like the words on a stick of Blackpool rock, the Pink Floyd track the scaffolding upon which The Charlatans build their magpied groove.
They’ve done a good job of it too – all 1970s Ian McLagan keys and inspired chord changes, but The Riff continues brazenly throughout. “No-one’ll notice,” they probably thought in 1995, “it’s from the Pink Floyd LP that no-one listens to.”
And they would’ve gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for this Meddling kid.
Elvis may have been the King, but Little Richard was certainly the Queen. He’s terrific, isn’t he? The high priest of camp; his pompadoured hair like a Texan oil slick, sticky and stationary above those mad, popping eyes and perfectly plucked brows, the occasional dog-bothering ‘whoooo!’ while his hands pound away on the pianer with all the frenzied dexterity of a teenage boy with unlimited broadband and a lock on his bedroom door. Tee-riffic.
Slippin’ And Slidin’. Tutti Frutti. Lucille. Good Golly Miss Molly. Rip It Up. Long Tall Sally. Every one a throat-ripping, stone cold classic……..the building blocks of rock and roll and all that was to follow. But you knew that already.
‘Before Elvis, there was nothing‘, said John Lennon, but The Beatles owed Richard Penniman a huge debt or two. McCartney for one modelled his whole voice on Richard’s every single time his group broke free from the shackles of balladry and ruffled their rugs to the delight of the watching world – from the backing vocals on The Beatles’ own version of I Wanna Be Your Man right through to the White Album’s Why Don’t We Do It In The Road, the spirit of Little Richard was never far away.
Here’s one you might not’ve heard before:
The Most I Can Offer (Just My Heart) is superb. Released on his 3rd album The Fabulous Little Richard by a slightly twitchy record company after he’d indicated a preference for thumping the bible rather than the thumping boogie woogie of yore, The Most I Can Offer is a mid-paced soul-shaking break-up ballad (of course!), all rasping tenor sax and ding-ding-ding minor 7ths on the keys. It throws me every time. Why? Because it sounds like a duet between a high, quavering falsetto’d voice and a southern souler. Imagine if William Bell had sung with the black cleaner lady who appears from the waist down in every Tom And Jerry cartoon. Except The Most I Can Offer seems to be Richard and Richard alone, his voice alternating between broken-hearted blues mama and a down-on-his-knees tear-soaked gospel bawler. The version I’ve given you is Take 4. Which sounds exactly like takes 1, 2 and 3 and no doubt the master version too. If you have but an ounce of soul you’ll want to play this again and again and again.
And here’s another:
Hey Hey Hey Hey, as reprised on the Beatles For Sale LP by those self-same Little Richard fans mentioned earlier. An out-and-out rocker, this features Richard at his most extreme, extravagant and extraordinary, pompadour bouncing while the piano pumps out primal jive ‘n wail. You can almost see the whites of his eyes on this recording.
And if you think the original’s good, you should have a listen to the Jim Jones Revue‘s outstanding needles-in-the-red version;
Proof, if any were needed, that Little Richard is as relevant today for any musician seeking the mother lode of rock ‘n roll.
The story goes that Elvis’ domineering manager Colonel Tom Parker was a Dutch illegal immigrant to the States and that, once/if the authorities ever found out, he’d be extradited straight back to where he’d come from (“you can leave that phony made-up ‘Colonel’ title at the door, thank you very much, and you better get used to folk calling you Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk once again”). Consequently, poor Elvis never got to tour the world as a recording artist, the paranoid Colonel convinced that somewhere along the way his illegal alien status would be uncovered and the land of the brave and the home of the free wouldn’t let him back in. The only time Elvis saw anywhere other than the States was during his time in the US army based in Germany. But you knew that already.
Here in Ayrshire, any mention of Elvis is met with a slightly smug response. Prestwick Airport, just up the road from where I’m typing, is the *only British soil ever graced by the feet of The King, as he dropped past for a quick wave to his fans while his plane stopped to refuel between Germany and the US, and the folks of Ayrshire have quite rightly been dining out on this pop nugget ever since. For a long time, the airport was a tacky shrine to all things of a Presley persuasion, with his face/image/signature filling up much of the available wall space with all the faded glamour of a 1980′s Butlin’s burger bar. Disgraceland might’ve been a more apt name for it had they not de-Presley’d it slightly during a re-branding programme a few years ago.
*only British soil? Tommy Steele claims to have spent a day with Elvis in 1958, showing him the sights and sounds of the city of London. But, unlike the picture above, there’s no photographic proof that this ever occured, so here in Ayrshire we tend to gloss over the possibility. It ruins a perfect story. And it would be another costly re-branding exercise for our pokey wee airport.
Last weekend you may have caught the show on the telly featuring the nation’s favourite Elvis tracks. No surprises by any stretch of the imagination, but this got me thinking about those Elvis tracks that never get their time in the spotlight. For such a prolific recording artist, Elvis seems to have had his discography squashed and squeezed into an assortment of handy 20 track all-you-need compilations. Well, no. He’s never recorded the classic album, much of his output in the 60s was flowery soundtrack fodder and filler and his 70s material is almost considered a white jump-suited parody, but there’s more to Elvis’ music than you might think.
Who better to ask than pop scholar, member of St Etienne and author of Yeah Yeah Yeah (The Story of Modern Pop), Bob Stanley. I suppose this makes this feature a Six Of The Best of sorts….with Tupelo trainspotter Bob picking 10 rare-ish Elvis tracks and giving each one the briefest of moments in the spotlight. It’s by no means a definitive guide to the backwaters of Elvis (I’d have included Pocketful Of Rainbows and Stranger In This Town. You probably have others of your own,) but it’s a good springboard if you fancy diving into the murky depths of the Presley canon.
1. Blue Moon
Released in 1956, standard ballad Blue Moon was one of Elvis’ first recordings after leaving Sam Phillips and Sun Records for RCA.
Neither rock nor roll, country nor western, its eerie, distant, ghostly vocal and hillbilly clip-clopping rhythm sounds like some extra-terrestrial broadcast from a by-gone era. The fragile yin to Heartbreak Hotel‘s ferocious yang, Blue Moon is Elvis at his most unselfconscious and tender.
Elvis and his movies have always been a bit of a standing joke amongst ‘serious’ music fans who never really recovered from seeing their idol misdirected for a good decade or more through Colonel Tom’s none-too-subtle capitalistic urges in the chase for cold hard cash.
A shame, as there are some stone cold Elvis classics waiting to be discovered amongst the dusty grooves;
1958′s hit ‘n miss King Creole soundtrack included Crawfish, a southern gumbo of a duet between Elvis and Kitty White. Elvis and Kitty might sound like a pair of light opera singers high on hooch ‘n moonshine, but the sparse backing music is not a million miles away from anything Lux Interior would’ve been proud to add his name to. Crawfish also happens to be one of Joe Strummer’s favourite Elvis tracks.
3. Doin’ The Best I Can
Another from a movie, 1960′s GI Blues, Doin’ The Best I Can is perfect Elvis – the waltzing lilt, Scotty Moore’s subtle guitar picking, the brushed drums and The Jordanaires ethereal gospel doo-wop all coating the track in magic dust. The last track on GI Blues, it deserves a wider audience. Play it, love it as you will and pass it on.
4. Animal Instinct
Elvis released three (!) films each and every year in the 60s and Harum Scarum was one of 1965′s offering. Consider the pop landscape for a second – The Beatles were ingesting marjuana for breakfast and on the verge of becoming studio auteurs. Motown was in full four-to-the-floor swing. Elvis was out of touch releasing hokey films accompanied by what many consider to be his poorest musical output.
Harum Scarum (along with the previous year’s Roustabout) suffered the indignity of being ‘promoted’ without the release of an accompanying single. Animal Instinct was recorded for Harum Scarum and although it featured on the soundtrack LP, wasn’t actually used in the film instead. The track itself is a loungecore/exotica/rhumba hybrid, with a moody, kohl-eyed Elvis laying bare his sexual desires in none-too-dressed-up animalistic metaphors. 5. Please Don’t Stop Loving Me
From 1966′s Frankie And Johnny soundtrack.
Look out! Here come The Jordanaires and their measured pitch-perfect harmonies once again. The best sound in music, would you agree?
There’s a tinkling piano in the background and a ‘My Way‘ feel to the guitar riff (I think by Scotty Moore again) as Elvis gets down to full-on ballad mode and gives birth to a gazillion impersonators in the process. You were born… just to be…. in my arms…. in my arms…..your lips were made…just to be… kissed by me….kissed by me. Not a dry seat in the house, I’d wager. 6. Edge of Reality
From the soundtrack to 68′s Live A Little, Love A Little, Edge Of Reality was recorded at the same sessions as A Little Less Conversation. Whereas the latter’s throwaway lounge funk was designed solely for the displaying of the Elvis pelvis, Edge Of Reality showcases an Elvis vocal that verges on the edge of parody, all softly rolled ‘rs’ and a rich baritone croon that channels his inner Scott Walker. Edge Of Reality eventually found its way onto the b-side of If I Can Dream, although the loose-limbed Hal Blaine drum track and orchestral brass section wouldn’t sound out of place on an Isaac Hayes LP. Ain’t nothin’ like Hound Dog, that’s for sure.
7. I’m Leavin’
I’m Leavin’ is a little-known track from 1971. Released as a stand-alone single, you won’t find it on many of the more bog-standard compilations. As such, it’s something of an Elvis obscurity, not helped by it reaching the lowly chart position of 36 on its release. I’m Leavin’ is a masterful Elvis performance. No hysterics, no histrionics, for once he actually sings almost behind the musicians, showcasing his crack band of Nashville sessioneers for what they are. As the title implies, this is Elvis singing about love gone wrong, something he was experiencing in his own life at the time. Indeed, many of the tracks recorded around this era were as autobiographical as Elvis could get, considering he didn’t actually write them…… 8. Patch It Up
Patch It Up is terrific – a staple of his early 70s Vegas shows (see That’s The Way It Is and it’s essential accompanying soundtrack), it’s a riot of fuzz bass, stinging James Burton guitar licks and warm Stax brass. This is larynx-loosening guttural grunt Elvis in full-on remorse mode. He’s wandered, he’s strayed and now he’s back telling the object of his affections that he loves her. Somewhat mirroring his home life with Priscilla at the time, this wouldn’t be the only time Elvis laid his soul bare for all to see, doing it to more dramatic effect on Suspicious Minds. Although, if you watched the telly at the weekend, you’ll know that already.
Trivial fact – One of those roof-raisin’ female voices in the background of Patch It Up is Darlene Love, who’d previously found success recording with Phil Spector. 9. True Love Travels On A Gravel Road
Recorded in Memphis at the duck-tail end of the 60s, True Love Travels On A Gravel Road was also a staple of the Elvis Vegas set. An RnB/country/southern soul hybrid, with a healthy sprinkling of female gospel singers, it’s one of the last great Elvis tracks. The record benefits from a terrific production and Elvis is restrained, soulful and passionate, the complete opposite to the bloated, huffing and puffing performer he could sometimes be at the time. Spare your ears, but I seem to recall a Shakin’ Stevens version doing the rounds sometime in the 80s. 10. Good Time Charlie’s Got The Blues
In 1973, Elvis found himself recording at the world-famous Stax Records studio. Known as the home of southern soul, Stax gave birth to many great artists and tunes – Booker T, Otis Redding, Rufus & Carla Thomas, The Staple Singers….many of the artists that pop up regularly on this blog…..I could go on, but you’ll know them all yourself. A good few duds were recorded in his time at Stax, but Good Time Charlie.. isn’t one of them. An easy listening croon atop a backing that’s fluid and meandering and nothing at all like the Elvis of old, it was perhaps not surprising when it was considered flim flam by the record buying public at the time. However, the appreciation for Good Time Charlie has, like the Elvis girth of the day, grown to generous proportions.
An impressive list. Track them down and you’ve got yourself a good wee alternative Elvis compilation. Add the afore-mentioned Stranger In This Town and Pocketful Of Rainbows and you’ll have a cracker. And if you can add the full-on gospel rockin’ and God-fearin’ Milky White Way…..
…..you might just have yourself Now That’s What I Call The Best, Least-Heard Elvis Tracks In The World…Ever. Uh-huh.
Bob Stanley is currently out and about promoting his book. He might be coming to a town near you. You can check all things Bob-related here.
You can buy Yeah Yeah Yeahhere, plus at all the other usual places. An ideal addition to your Christmas list.
I’m lucky I no longer have to work weekends, so after five days at the coal face of reality, I strive to make my Saturdays and Sundays last as long as possible. Until they invent a pill that enables me to stay up all night and lie in bed all day while my kids amuse themselves, and I still have 15 hours left over in which to carry out the various family/home/leisure pursuits I like to do, I try to trick myself into believing the weekend lasts longer than just two quick days. To use an analogy – anyone who attends football regularly will know that the second half always flies in faster than the first. Especially if you’re at Rugby Park and the home team are chasing a goal that’s never going to happen. Sundays always go faster than Saturdays, it’s the unwritten law of the working man’s land. Saturday night therefore tends to be the night I stretch things out into the wee small hours. Saturday night just gone found me channel hopping, delaying the inevitability of half the weekend drawing to a close. Flicking through the assorted music channels cluttering up my telly I happened upon a live concert of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (that’s one ‘l’ in ‘chili’, school boys ‘n girls). After 2 minutes of glass-at-45-degrees, bleary-eyed watching I had a bit of a lightbulb moment…..
Has there ever been a band as insipid, as derived, as contrived, as shitty as Red Hot Chili Peppers?
No. There has not.
It’s the sweat. It’s the muscle. It’s the jock rock sock-on-the-cock shlock of it all. Four back-slapping, hi-fiving, bro-mancing dudes, at least 3 of whom are no strangers to a set of GHDs, in a display of tops-off, homo-erotic machismo. Goodness knows what Google hits are going to land here now that I’ve said that, but there you go.
(you might need to click for full effect)
I can’t stand the way every second of their existence is presented to look and sound like an extreme workout. Flea (Flea! Gie’s a break – he’s about 63!) plays his bass as though he’s wrestling an angry Amazonian anaconda. He’s the ‘alternative’ one, all purple hair and Hendrix tattoos, equally at home in Thom Yorke’s Atoms For Peace or whatever of Damon Albarn’s side projects are going this week as he is a slap happy Chili Pepper.
And the perma-grimaced drummer – is he not called Chad or Brad or Rad or something equally dudealicious? Gives good face, but he’s not really there for the ‘music’, is he? He’s not really there, full stop. You shoulda seen him, thick as a brick and bashing away with all the grit and determination of someone who has both eyes fiercely set on how his equity bonds are doing on the Dow Jones Index.
John Frusciante. He’s the one it’s probably OK to like. Makes solo records. About 16 a year, by all accounts. Hit and miss, but interesting. He stays on the sidelines, happy to hide behind his hair whilst firing off effortless super-cool rock riffs. Frusciante is the melody man. It’s his tunes that are mugged and mangled by the others who just can’t resist the opportunity of adding in one of those horrible white boy rap sections.
Those horrible white boy rap sections would be the fault of Anthony Kiedis. He really gets on ma goat. If they gave out prizes for turning good tunes bad, he’d win every time. Not content with ruining his own music, he even had the audacity to rearrange Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground into a big pile of backwards-baseball-cap ‘n big shorts wearing mince. He’s in his 50s, for crying out loud. D’you ever see Nick Cave or Paul Weller in shorts?
The have some good tunes. One and a half, to be precise:
Scar Tissue‘s their best. A simple riff. Clean lines. Three instruments not fighting for space. Some sunny Californian harmonies. And no rapping. “Sarcastic know-it-alls“, “Push-up bras” and a perfect wee sky-surfin’ slide guitar part. I bought this when it came out. Played it to death on repeat, and I’ve never tired of it.
By The Way
By The Way‘s almost up there with Scar Tissue but it’s let down by those pointless white boy rap parts. They just can’t help themselves. Another decent riff with a tune and harmonies and everything, Flea goes and spoils it all by revving up the bass line and Kiedis starts going on about “steak knives” and “cash back” and whatever else pops into his head. You can practically see their collective six packs and baby-oiled biceps bulging between the grooves. Even the ever-reliable Frusciante goes all Limp Bizkit funk for half a minute. I bet there’s a great light show whenever they play it live though.
With the exception of the above tracks, they’re rotten really, aren’t they? Walkin’, talkin’, livin’ and breathin’ rock music cliches. To paraphrase Telly Savalas in that old advert – I know that. You know that. But they don’t know that. Someone should really tell them. “Put some clothes on, eh!” Or put them down in a dignified manner, like you would an old stinky dog.
For anyone who needs it spelt out, Aretha Franklin is the greatest female soul singer of all time. Some come close. But no-one comes close enough. There’s a life-lived-full’s worth of hard graft and soul in that free-phrasing vocal of hers. A voice that swoops and soars around a melody; a voice that is in equal parts carried away and controlled, with its ebbs and flows a mirror to the intricacies of her complicated life, Above all else, though, it’s effortless. That’s clear if you listen to any of her records. Aretha is the of Queen of Soul.
Not bad for someone raised in a broken home from the age of 5 by her wanderin’, wayward, women-lovin’ preacher father. And despite giving birth to 2 illegitimate children at the ages of 12 and 14, she was already well on her way to recording success before she was out of her teens.
You’ll know this already, but if you don’t….
Aretha began her singing career essentially playing support act to her father’s holy-rollin’, roof raisin’ sermons. Dubbed “the man with the million dollar voice“, he had friends in high places, and it wasn’t unusual at home for Aretha to be called on to sing for her father’s high calibre guests such as Martin Luther King or Sam Cooke after dinner. It was Cooke who inspired ‘teen mom’ Aretha to pursue a singing career. For six years she recorded jazz standards for Columbia (after, at her father’s insistence, she stopped short of signing for Berry Gordy’s nascent Tamla label – whatever happened to them?). All very polite and safe, but by the mid 60s, pop music had such a hold on Aretha (perhaps she should’ve gone with Gordy after all) and she signed for Atlantic Records. In 1967, she cut 2 LPs with the in-house musicians at the famous Muscle Shoals Studios in Alabama. The tracks she recorded there have since become so fabricated into the rich tapestry of soul music that it’s easy to forget they actually began somewhere – haven’t they just always been around?
That’s the demo for I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You), Aretha at her piano finding her way around the song, as the Muscle Shoals rhythm section allow her the space to express herself.
From here, it was but a mere hop and a skip to creating solid soul gold. Respect, Dr Feelgood, Chain Of Fools, Do Right Woman, Do Right Man, Save Me, Baby I Love You…I could go on and on….
Here’s a few (note – I’ve featured quite a few tracks – every time I thought ‘that’s enough for now‘, another Aretha great would crop up, meaning I had to include it. Really, you should just get yourself to a shop and buy the lot)
Baby, I Love You (from 2nd 1967 LP Aretha Arrives)
Baby, Baby, Baby (from 1st 1967 LP I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You))
Save Me(from 1st 1967 LP I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You))
See Saw (from 1968′s Aretha Now)
A Change Is Gonna Come (from 1st 1967 LP I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You))
Chain Of Fools(this is the complete, unedited Plain Or Pan favourite, all shimmering, twangy guitar and melodrama on the intro)
The relatively unknown but soulful and groovy Sweetest Smile And The Funkiest Style from the Hey Now Hey (The Other Side Of The Sky) LP.
Rock Steady (alt mix from the Young, Gifted And Black LP)
The Weight (Cover of The Band track, with good ol’ southern boy Duane Allman on guitar)
….and this writer’s own personal Aretha favourite – Don’t Play That Song, from her 3rd Atlantic LP of the same name. Soaring, swooping, uplifting, effortless Aretha. Call and response vocals (“a-woo!”) atop a Motownish bassline boogie. A subtle one-chord orchestral swell. Brass that builds up to a mid-song breakdown. It has it all. Aretha in a jar. They might play this when they dispose of my dead body sometime in the future.
Hot Damn! Even the Coca Cola advert she recorded with Ray Charles has more soul in it’s pinky than any of those awful ‘soul’ singers on TV talent shows:
Keeping It Peel is the brainchild of Webbie, who writes the excellent and informative Football And Music blog. An annual celebration of all things Peel, it’s purpose is to remind everyone just how crucial John Peel was to expanding and informing listening tastes up and down the country. Be it demo, flexi, 7″, 10″, 12″, EP, LP, 8 track cartridge, wax cylinder or reel to reel field recording, the great man famously listened to everything ever sent his way, and if it was in anyway decent he played it on his show. Sometimes, he played the more obscure records at the correct speed. Sometimes he didn’t. And sometimes, no-one noticed. John Peel is the reason my musical tastes expanded beyond the left-field avant-garde edginess of Hipsway and Love And Money and the reason why my mum stopped singing her own version of whatever it was I was playing (“Take a ri-ide on the Suga Trayne!”) and started asking me to “turn that racket down” whenever she passed my teenage bedroom door. Thank you, John.
This year’s Peel Session selection features Roxy Music from February 1972. It’s a cracker……..
But first, a history lesson.
1972 was a pivotal year in music. The number of influential/classic albums released in those 12 months is nothing short of staggering (I’d like to say “off the top of my head“, but Google is a handy wee tool now and again).
Take a deep breath and off we go; Neil Young‘s Harvest (and the unreleased Journey Through The Past), Nick Drake‘s Pink Moon, Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side Of The Moon (hey – I’d never spotted that before – Pink and Moon…anyway…), The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot, both by Captain Beefheart (2 albums in one year, nae bother), Todd Rundgren‘s Something/Anything, Talking Book AND Music Of My Mind by Stevie Wonder (2 albums in one year, nae bother), T Rex‘s Bolan Boogie and The Slider (2 albums, one year…), Big Star‘s #1 Record, The Stones’Exile On Main Street, Bowie‘s Ziggy Stardust, the soundtracks to Superfly and The Harder They Come (Curtis Mayfield and Jimmy Cliff), Black Sabbath4, Steely Dan‘s Can’t Buy a Thrill, Greetings from LA by Tim Buckley, Can‘s Ege Bamyasi,Transformer by Lou Reed, Marvin Gaye‘s Trouble Man, and the debut eponymously titled LP from Roxy Music. Crikey! That’s almost a classic album a fortnight! And there’s a ton more I haven’t even mentioned! Oh to have been a teenager with a disposable income in the early 70s……
Roxy Music looked as if they’d been beamed down from the first spaceship from Mars and sounded just as other-worldly. Dressed in a clash of tiger print and tinfoil, faux fur and flares, and with a sound giving as much space to the clarinet and oboe as to yer more traditional rock instruments (and we haven’t even mentioned Brian Eno’s synthesiser), they were so out of step with the fashion of the day (compare them to the list above), it’s easy to see why John Peel would champion them. Between January 1972 and March 1973, they recorded 5 thrilling John Peel sessions. Their session recorded in February 1972 (although not broadcast until 1st August – anyone know why?) is particularly brilliant, featuring the yin and the yang of Roxy Music in two tracks.
A full six months (a light year in 1972 musical terms) before being released as their debut single, Virginia Plain was recorded as part of that February session. Over a minute longer than the released version, the Peel version is a proto-punk glam slam, overloaded with fizzbomb guitars and a seemingly improvised solo, all whammy bar and feedback sturm und drang. Hogging the limelight, Phil Manzanera made sure there was no room for the single’s twangy bass solo here.
Virginia Plain Peel Session, 18 Feb 72
Years later he would indeed be flying down to Rio! but, when he wasn’t purloining other bands’ equipment, I’m sure sticky-fingered street urchin and future Sex Pistol Steve Jones was cribbing notes on Manzanera’s guitar sound during this transmission. A verse sung over 2 open chords….. stray wafts of controlled feedback….. a fantastic, fluid and free-form guitar solo….. a four-to-the-floor jackboot stomp. A full 4 years before UK punk was ‘invented’, Roxy Music were doing it, maaaaan. If this version of Virginia Plain doesn’t make you want to go and learn a couple of chords and start a band in a desperate middle-aged attempt at hipster cool, nothing will.
On the debut album you’ll find If There Is Something, a countryish clip-clopping slide guitar and piano-led song in (prog alert!!!) three distinct parts. According to that bastion of trusted information Wikipedia, it ‘s been said that the first part of the song is a youth wondering about love, the second part adults in the heat of passion and the third part the singer in old age thinking about their past love. Gads. Whatever you think, in length and libido it manages to invent both prog rock and Pulp. Heavily-effected saxophones waft in and out, guitars get fuzzier and quieter as the track progresses and the ending is bathed in synthesised melancholic heaven, Ferry crooning in his collapsed quiff like a pub singer after half a dozen Guinesses.
If There Is Something Peel Session, 18 Feb 72
The Peel Session version is free from slide guitar and twice as long as the released version, clocking in at over 12 meandering minutes, the track ebbing and flowing like the champagne at one of Bryan Ferry’s socialite soirees. A few short years later they’d be making syrupy cocktail dross like Avalon. Remember Roxy from 72; weird, wonky and wonderful, unparalleled and untouchable.
No Roxy Music feature is complete without the funniest bit of telly ever. Johnny Vegas as Eno? Oh aye!
A warm welcome, one and all. Scandinavians. Australians. Asians. Eastern & Western Europeans. North & South Americans. North & South Africans. North, South and East Ayrshirites. Anyone from Kilwinning. And anyone else I've offended by not mentioning. Thanks for dropping by time and time again.
Aye, it's outdated music for outdated people - but you knew that already.
No MP3 links from before March 2012 work anymore. Sorry if you've just discovered Plain Or Pan and found out we had a link to that old forgotten record you were dying to hear again. But take a few minutes and have a read anyway. A splendid time is guaranteed for all.