Archive for the ‘Get This!’ Category

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No, No, No. (Yes, Yes, Yes)

April 11, 2014

December 1970 Sheet 772 frame 5 San Francisco, CA

Bo Diddley. Doesn’t/didn’t get the credit he deserved when it comes to the foundations of rock and roll. Yer Chuck Berrys and Little Richards are undeniable founding fathers of the thing that brings us all here, but so too was Bo. It’s amazing how many bands/records have been influenced by his flat scrubbed approach to the blues. (Off the top of my head) without Bo no Not Fade Away. No Willie & the Hand Jive. No I Want Candy. No Magic Bus. No How Soon Is Now? The list is endless, and some proof at least that Bo was a giant among mortals.

bo diddley

Bo’s 2nd single Diddley Daddy had a track called She’s Fine She’s Mine on the b-side;

She’s Fine She’s Mine is all reverb, shimmer and twang, a three chord blues carried along by rudimentary maraca percussion and a wailing harp. Borrowing heavily from it, Willie Cobbs‘ cut his own hollerin’ dustbowl blues version, re-titling it You Don’t Love Me. The young Brian Jones was certainly listening closely by this point, as was Buddy Guy who re-wrote it as You Don’t Love Me Baby in 1965.

By the late 60s, with The Kinks, Beatles and Who reaching a creative peak, the sticky-fingered garage bands were listening closely enough to appropriate the best bits, with not one but two bands taking You Don’t Love Me and creating terrific slices of angst-wridden melodramatic teen pop, allowing their efforts to escape the confines of the dusty garage long enough in order to be commited to the confines of 7″s of dusty vinyl. Vinyl that would ultimately be unloved and for the main part vastly unheard by almost everyone.

Kim And Grim‘s swingin’ alley cat version of You Don’t Love Me adds Hannah Barbera-style backing vocals and replaces all brass riffs with the same melody played on scratchy twangin’ guitar. Richard Hawley must surely be a fan of this record. Great music to sweep floors to as well;

The Starlets‘ version is wee a bit rougher around the edges, and a whole lot more thrilling for it. A pre Glitter Band caveman stomp of handclaps and brainless tub thumping it adds some terrific ear-splitting guitar that would appear almost note-for-note one year later on The Other Half’s Mr Pharmacist (later done in almost note-for-note fashion by The Fall. But you knew that already).

barbara and browns

Fast forward into the next decade and the song had grabbed the attention of the Stax recording studio. In 1971, Barbara & the Browns cut a fine southern soul version, incorporating both twanging guitar riffs and brass underpinned by electric keys and a backing section (The Browns) that shoo-be-doo and ad-lib like a low-rent end of the pier Supremes tribute act. Which is a compliment, obviously.

dawn_penn

20 or so years later and the song hit the charts once again, this time as a dubby, skanking Jamaican reggae track. Dawn Penn took her version to the Top 10 of umpteen countries around the world, doing the decent thing by ensuring Willie Cobb received an equal writing credit (though not Diddley). As he should. Although, while the skeleton of Penn’s version is undoubtedly based on Bo’s original and Cobb’s arrangement, musically it is on another plain.

 

I wonder if, back in the 50s, Bo Diddley knew just how far his wee song would travel. I doubt it. That’s the power of music folks. And it just goes to show that nothing’s original, no matter how much you might believe it is.

 

 

 

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It’s All Right Marr, I’m Only Bleeding

March 20, 2014

I got my first real six string when I was 16. Bought it second hand from a wee guitar shop in Irvine that disappeared the day after I paid my £30 for it. The guy who ran it was never seen again. About 2 days later, indulging in a spot of fat-fingered She Sells Sanctuary riffing, the pick-up gave me an electric shock and a temporary Sid Vicious haircut.  That guitar was a right temperamental block of wood, but I loved it. I played it till my fingers bled. To paraphrase even further, it was the Summer of ’89. That’s when I realised I’d never be Johnny Marr.

I’ve always loved Johnny Marr. In The Smiths, he wrote an obscene number of brilliant, inventive tunes. Lazy writers would go on about his ‘chiming‘, ‘jangly’ guitar sound, but there was far more to his arsenal than that.  There was always, even in the Smiths’ most tender moments a bite to his guitar. He could fingerpick. He could play inventive chord patterns. He could fingerpick and play an inventive chord pattern underneath it at the same time. With 10 fingers sounding like 25. ‘Like Lieber and Stoller piano lines playing alongside the guitar‘, to misquote him from the early days in The Smiths. Then there were the open tunings, the Nashville tunings, the hitting strings with knives to get the desired effect. He reinvented the wheel.

Johnny was (and probably still is) my idol. Even though he dyes his hair. And runs over 50 miles for fun each and every week.

Slightly on the wrong side of cocky (and so would you be if mercurial quicksilver tunes like those fell off your fingers and onto the fretboard as effortlessly as a bride’s knickers), he’s not much older than me, yet he’s done a ridiculous amount of music. Previous posts on here have gone on at length about all the non-Smiths stuff he’s done. There’s literally hundreds of things he’s been involved in. Not always up there with the vintage riffing of yore, but always fresh-sounding and never anything less than interesting. Clearly, he’s the guitarists’ guitarist, the one they call when they need a bit of magic sprinkled on top.

Last week when he broke his hand, my first thought was, “I wonder if I can play ‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’ better than him now?

Probably not, is most definitely the answer. One of my favourite non-Smiths Johnny moments is on Electronic‘s Forbidden City, from the patchy Raise The Pressure LP released in (gulp) 1996.

It runs the whole gamut of Johnny’s guitar attack. A heady rush of major and minor chords played on an acoustic guitar here and electric guitars there, Johnny picking his trademark arpeggios atop some mid-paced strumming. He plays terrific little 2-string run-downs and fills between the singing that are concise and snappy and perfect. On the chorus he lets the right notes ring out at the right times. In a lesser pair of hands, it all might sound a wee bit lumpen. But Johnny knows just how to make his guitar sparkle and sing. By the middle eight, he’s flung in a backwards bit and dooked the whole lot in a bath of feedback before coming back to the song in a ringing, shimmering blaze of glory. The whole track is, of course, carried along brilliantly by a Bernard vocal that recalls New Order at their uplifting, melancholic best. And I believe that’s Kraftwerk’s Karl Bartos on drums as well.  What’s not to like?

johnny marr bang

In a typically Marresque coda to all of this, Johnny’s broken hand was put into a special sling that’ll allow him to perform his day job without compromise. Broken hand or not, no-one plays guitar like Johnny.

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You Can Call Me Al

February 27, 2014

Green and Brown. My colour blindness wasn’t apparent until Primary 7 when, as you do in Ayrshire schools, the class created a Robert Burns Tam O’ Shanter frieze. My job was to do the tree next to the bridge where poor Tam’s horse has her tail yanked off by the pursuing witch. My tree had, yes, brown leaves and a green trunk and I had no idea why I was the laughing stock of the school for the next few weeks. An official colour blindness test proved this a few months later. Now I know.

al green

Here I Am (Come And Take Me) was a top ten hit for Al Green in 1973. A brilliant piece of tight ‘n taut southern soul, producer Willie Mitchell has the uncanny knack of making it sound as if the drums are playing right there in the room with you. A warm Hammond vamps throughout, mixed in just behind the brass section while the Reverend’s vocals flit across the top, emotion squeezed out of his voice the way you or I might wring the last remaining drops of juice from a real lemon when following a Jamie Oliver pasta recipe to it’s fat-tongued conclusion. Got. To. Get. Every. Last. Drop. Out. Of. It. Cost. Me. Forty. Nine. Pee.

Green

Al Green’s track is terrific. Of course.

al brown 7

Here I Am Baby was a superb rocksteady version of Green’s track by his skankin’ namesake Al Brown. My version comes from one of those excellent Soul Jazz Records Dynamite compilations (300% Dynamite, I think) that really ought to be in everyone’s record collection. Many of the tracks featured are rubadub reggae versions of popular soul hits – the Jamaican musicians tuning into US radio would hear the originals, get the band together, roll a fat one, play it at half speed and claim it as their own. Al Brown was no different. Dubby bass, chukka-chukka backbeat and a Casio keyboard player with his (or her) own idea of what constitutes a meandering solo, it’s a rather spliffing made-in-the-shade perfect partner;

Brown

Ironically, Al Brown would go on to make a name for himself in The Paragons, whose The Tide Is High would somehow filter its way back across the airwaves to New York where Blondie were fortuitously tuning in. And that folks is how the music world goes around.

 

 

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‘Head Music

February 18, 2014

Radiohead play both types of music – arty and farty, and they’re still the band by which all others must be measured. In comparison, everyone else just doesn’t sound like they’re really trying, do they?

Radiohead haven’t stood still. The left-field rock double whammy of The Bends and its more adventurous follow-up, OK Computer would’ve been the pinnacle of many a band’s career – lesser bands would maybe even have stopped after such an explosive one-two. Other bands (hello Coldplay, we’re looking at you) took lowest common denominator Radiohead and churned out the Asda price version, to much ringing of cash registers around the world. How could you improve on two great albums? Not many could. For some people, Radiohead couldn’t either. But you know better…..

radiohead2

I like the experimental, itchy, claustrophobic Radiohead. The static bursts. The skittering drums. The are-they-guitars-or-are-they-keyboards? The cut ‘n paste approach to the vocals. The way everything is wrapped, womb-like in its own wee Radiohead bubble. Recent Radiohead has been all about the sonic textures. The ebbing and flowing. The peaks and troughs. The grooves rather than the grunge.

These Are My Twisted Words was put up for free download a few years back on the band’s website. I’m sure you’ve heard it;

From the warped intro via the chiming, falling-down-a-hole guitar riff that surfs across the top, the whole thing jerks and twitches away like Thom Yorke’s gammy eye whilst maintaining an actual tune – the perfect amalgamation of all that makes Radiohead great. Lots of people moan that the ‘Heid have lost their way with a tune. Sit them down and play them this. The only way it could be better was if it was three times the length.

yorke

Where I End And You Begin is all swirling ambience and one chord groove. Hip hop drums and phat bass. But still slightly wonky and weird. It’s on Hail To The Thief, a quiet contender for title of Best Radiohead Album. I’m sure you’ve heard it too;

simple minds early

Post-rock Radiohead remind me an awful lot of pre-rock Simple Minds, back when they were releasing arty, Eastern European influenced glacial soundscapes. Equal parts post-punk snottiness and Bowie metallic art punk with a Kraftwerk man machine-like muscle, this was not music to punch fists in the air to. It was cerebral yet danceable. It aimed for basslines rather than headlines.  Perfect headphone music. Mandela Day and Belfast Child were somewhere in Western Europe, a million light years away.

Here’s a couple of early Simple Minds tracks. Note the influence on mid-period Radiohead. They won’t deny it.

Theme For Great Cities

This Earth That You Walk Upon

 

Have you got Polyfauna, the Radiohead app yet? What d’you think?

radiohead app

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Zal And Sebastian

January 25, 2014

All the local town hipsters dug Orange Juice. There they were, in their collapsed quiffs and looking quite the thing in their dirty brown suede jackets, a shade on the small side but bought from Flip for a fiver. As long as you didn’t raise your arm to adjust the Rayban copies, no-one would notice the wee rip under the armpit. Irvine boys, you know who you are.

When Orange Juice did the unmentionable and had an actual bona fide Top 40 smash hit, a new band was needed. Looking backwards for inspiration, The Beatles were quickly disregarded (Paul McCartney in the 80s….). As were The Byrds (too obvious). And The Doors (Jim Morrison…). Love. Now, there was a band. Decent tunes, small back catalogue and obscure enough to deter the rest of us. As were the Lovin’ Spoonful.

lovin spoonful

Formed from the same alumni of assorted jug and folk bands that would give birth to the Mamas and Papas, the Lovin Spoonful’s star shone briefly but brightly before the cliche of drugs split the band.  Put together by Zal Yanovsky and John Sebastian, between 1965 and 1967 the Lovin’ Spoonful released a series of stripey jumpered, tight panted, pointy booted, denim jacketed pop nuggets, in equal parts sparkling 12 string blasts from heaven and soft focus introspection.

Do You Believe In Magic?

First single Do You Believe In Magic is a beauty. But you knew that already. John Sebastian was infatuated with the hollerin’, handclappin’, speaker-blastin’ energy emitted from Martha & the Vandellas Heatwave, so set about reconstructing it. Essentially, he just played the intro twice as fast as the Motown original and no-one noticed. Then he wrote a set of lyrics about how brilliant music is. Perfect.

We’ll go a dancin’ baby then you’ll see, how the magic’s in the music and the music’s in me.

It’s over and done with in 2 minutes. What more d’you need?

lovin spoonful ad

Summer In The City

Dig through the back catalogue and you’ll find all manner of film themes, quirky 2 minute pocket symphonies and enough looney tunes and merry melodies to soften even the hardest of hearts. Summer In The City‘s my favourite.  “Cool cat lookin’ for a kitty” they sing, on top of a descending electric piano riff. A claustrophobic anthem to wilting heat and sticky summer pavements, the breakdown features honking horns, road drills and a great wee drum break/guitar riff that runs until the end. Long lost indie band Eat did a version at the turn of the 90s. Which is almost 25 years ago. A quarter of a century. Ouch. Having just listened to it, the Eat version hasn’t aged all that well. Double ouch.

Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?

This record surely gave birth to Duglas T Stewart and the BMX Bandits.

You might argue that without having heard the Lovin’ Spoonful, the whole ‘C86′ movement would’ve shambled along to a different beat, Sarah Records wouldn’t have existed, Lawrence might never have formed Felt and ‘indie’ music as it was when that sort of thing mattered would have been very different. Or perhaps not.

We’ll finish with the close-miked and breathy Coconut Grove.

D’you know how the Lovin’ Spoonful got their name? It’s from an old blues lyric actually, but the blues lyric refers to a phrase associated with the male reproductive system. It’s also how 10CC came (ahem) about their name. Google it. And then go and buy a Lovin’ Spoonful LP.

lovin spoonful 2

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Vive le phonq

January 17, 2014

Imagine the pop landscape in 1967. It wasn’t just the trousers that were starting to get expansive. Everything’s got that slightly psychedelicised and trippy, frazzled edge to it. Itchycoo Park. Heroes and Villains. Penny Lane. Purple Haze. See Emily Play. Even The Temptations and other wide-lapel wearers on the Motown roster were abandoning their sure-fire recipes for success. Psychedelic Shack anyone? A future post for sure. Records became longer, more free-form and stretched out. Less structured, with not so much emphasis on the tried ‘n tested verse/chorus formula. But still pop. That bit’s important. The time was ripe for Sly and the Family Stone.

In 1967, Sly Stone didn’t like his record company. In fact, he didn’t trust them one iota. Sly had a bit of leeway though. He’d just had a top ten smash hit both sides of the Atlantic with Dance To the Music, a tune that did exactly what it says on the tin. So when Clive Davis at CBS asked Sly to follow it up with more of the same, the ever-willful and awkward Sly did just that.

sly keyboard

Sly decided to follow up Dance To The Music with a garage punk/funk version of the exact same track, stripped of all vocals save a tiny spoken word part and the chorus…..which this time was to be be sung entirely in French.

Naturally, he chose to call it Danse à La Musique. Released under the nom de plume of French Fries, it was terrific. The same du-du-du-dumb four-to-the-floor caveman stomping beat and growling fuzz bass drives it along. Street corner jazz scat vocals ping-pong back and forth, trying to be heard above the din of a joyfully fuzzed up, wasp-stuck-inside-your-car guitar track, clearly being played by a guitarist who’s just wired up a fuzzbox for the very first time. There’s precious little brass, replaced instead by a primitive keyboard that plays random Eastern-tinged phrases like a snake charmer on acid. The champion of a tambourine player never once stops throughout. His/her arm must’ve ached like a teenage boy’s with a Meaty, Beaty, Big ‘n Bouncy bargain Box Set for company. The whole thing is over and done with in three freaked-out flare-flapping minutes. I think you’ll like it.

 

sly kathyBONUS TRACK!

Here‘s a demo of Sly and co turning The KinksYou Really Got Me into a piece of proto Acid Jazz. Not sure if I like this or not, but it’s a curio right up Plain Or Pan’s street. And yours…

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Lucky Seven

January 2, 2014

Plain Or Pan began back in January 2007. December 2013 saw the 7th full year of the blog. The end of the year makes me come across all misty eyed and giddy at the thought of this blog being not only still in existence but in rather rude health. At some point recently, the one-and-a-half millionth visitor crossed the threshold to read all about James Brown or Lou Reed or some forgotten Teenage Fanclub b-side. Facebook followers are in abundance, Twitter sends its fair share of readers in this direction and if you read that wee panel on the right, you’ll notice visitors from as far afield as Buenos Aires, Berlin and Ayr. Thank you one and all!

What better way to celebrate 7 years of typos, titbits and factual inaccuracies than with the annual Plain Or Pan Best of the Year CD*.

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*I’ll provide the tunes. You make the CD.

Our team of stat monkeys works double shifts over the festive period before presenting me with documented proof of the most listened to and downloaded tracks from Plain Or Pan throughout the year and I compile them into a handy CD-length album, complete with artwork, that can be added straight to your iTunes or wherever and onto your iPod to listen to during that new-fangled jogging craze you’ll ditch by February. Alternatively, it could be burnt off to listen to, old-skool style, on a couple of shiny discs in the car.

Tracks included:

PixiesRiver Euphrates (Gigantic ep version)

Victoria Wood14 Again

The SmithsRusholme Ruffians (demo)

James Brown(Hot) I Need To Be Loved

SupergrassCaught By The Fuzz (acoustic)

The CrampsI Wanna Get In Your Pants

The House of LoveDestroy The Heart (demo)

Neil YoungBirds (Mono single version)

Elizabeth Archer & the Equators - Feel Like Makin’ Dub

Beak>Mono

Dave EdmundsBorn To Be With You

The CliqueSuperman

Ike TurnerBold Soul Sister

CanI’m So Green

WilcoImpossible Germany

The Mamas and PapasSomebody Groovy

Santo & Johnny -Sleepwalk

Dee ClarkBaby What You Want Me To Do

The SpecialsToo Much Too Young (LP version)

Barry AdamsonSet The Controls For The Heart Of The Pelvis

NeuHallogallo

MogwaiThe Sun Smells Too Loud

Trash Can SinatrasLittle Things That Keep Us Together

Roxy MusicVirginia Plain (Peel Session)

*** a cracker! ***

Get it here.

pop 7 cover art

Normal service resumed next week. Lookin’ forward to it!

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