Archive for the ‘Gone but not forgotten’ Category

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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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Ghosts Of Christmas Past (2)

December 19, 2013

Incredible but true. The fact remains that two of the main creators of The Best Christmas Song In The World…Ever are now dead and neither of them is Shane MacGowan.  13 years ago yesterday, Kirsty MacColl was killed by an out of control speedboat whilst swimming with her family off the coast of Cuba. And Pogues guitarist Phil Chevron succumbed to cancer in October of this year. Yet MacGowan, coming in at 18/1 with all his beautiful flaws and imperfections somehow manages to stagger on.

pogues shane

First Appeared December 13, 2011

 

This time last year I read an article in one of Mrs Plain Or Pan’s magazines about Christmas. The article asked a carefully selected sample of celebrities to describe their perfect Christmas Day.

A long walk in the woods with my fiancé,” cooed Kathryn Jenkins, “before curling up in front of the log fire with a glass of mulled wine.”

“We always start the day with a champagne breakfast,” revealed Maureen Lipman. “Traditionally, we open presents after dinner, then the whole family settles down to watch The Snowman.”

How very twee and Daily Mail of them. I don’t know about your house, but mine on Christmas Day is nothing like that at all. “Those carrots are mushy…and the sprouts are still raw! You useless bleep!”(whispered of course,  so the relatives can’t hear us arguing, 3 feet away on the other side of the wall). “You told me when to put them on!” “Could you not tell the carrots were ready? Couldn’t you use your bleeping brains for once?” etc etc etc. Like I said, I don’t know about your house, but I’m inclined to think it’ll be more like mine than Kathryn Jenkins’ or Maureen Lipman’s come next Wednesday.

 

Still Alive! Todd Marrone did this, the talented so-and-so.

 

You know this already, but just for the record, Fairytale Of New York is the best Christmas song of all-time. It doesn’t matter what’s gone before (the Phil Spector album, Bowie ‘n Bing’s Little Drummer Boy, the glam slam of Slade and Wizzard) or what came after (East 17? Cliff Richard? Kylie Minogue panting her way through Santa Baby with all the sex appeal of Shane MacGowan having an asthma attack?) Some of these records are better than others, but none of them come close to capturing the essence of Christmas (raw sprouts, useless husbands and all) quite like The Pogues.

 

A Fairytale Of New York is almost unique amongst Christmas songs in that it tackles the ‘C’ word with none of the blind enthusiasm or misty-eyed schlock normally reserved for such events. Slade set their stall out before a bell has even been clanged in excitement. “It’s Christmaaaaas!!” yells Noddy, and you know from then on in you’re in for a rollicking yuletide ride. Wham drown that thinly-disguised same-sex love song of theirs in a gazillion sleigh bells and suddenly everything in George Michael’s garden is rosy.  “All I Want For Christmas,” enthuses Mariah Carey, “is yooouuuuooooouuu!” Yeah, and an X-Box, an iPod and a flat screen TV, Mariah. We’re all materialistic over here. And while you’re at it, could you get me a job too? And maybe find someone who’ll give us a mortgage? Aye, bah humbug ‘n all that jazz. The Pogues have gone for none of that. Fairytale Of New York is still romantic, but it’s also raw, real and ragged, full of remorse for past misdemeanours while hoping for a better future. Nicely gift wrapped of course in a Pogues-punk waltz-time, with added BBC ban-defying swearing.

 

 

It’s a terrific arrangement, put together quite masterfully by Steve Lillywhite. Initially written as a duet between Shane MacGowan and Pogues bass player Cait O’Riordan, then scrapped when she left the band, it was Steve Lillywhite who suggested getting the missus in to duet with MacGowan instead. Listen to the demos below and hear how he transformed The Pogues’ half-finished ideas into the final record, with its peaks and troughs and instrumental breaks. Hear too how he gets the best out of Shane, who at this point in his life was eating tabs of acid the way the Fonz eats gum (all the time, if you didn’t know), whilst washing them down with enough brandy to drown a whale. Lillywhite somehow coaxes him out of the famous fluent Macgowanese mumble and into that raucous final take.

 

The Music:

 

Ennio Morricone’s Overture from Once Upon A Time In America, from where Shane pinched the melody. Play it (below) – you’ll spot it immediately! It’s a terrific piece of emotive, melancholic music in its own right:

One of the first takes. Fluffed lines, missed cues….and the band played on.

Shane ‘n Cait almost full-length run-through duet with alt. lyrics, missed cues, forgotten words………and the band played on.

The ‘blueprint version’– Starts with Shane ‘n James Fearnley on accordion. Different lyrics again. Shane struggles with the concept of singing in tune. Band in top form as usual. After listening to this you can begin to appreciate the contribution Kirsty MacColl made to the finished record.

The final take. The best Christmas song ever.

pogues fairytale cover

 

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Ghosts Of Christmas Past (1)

December 14, 2013

(Originally posted this time last year)

It’s the annual, token Plain Or Pan Christmas posting. And this year it’s a cracker. Boom, boom!

The-Jacksons-I-Saw-Mommy-Kissi-567946

At the televised Michael Jackson funeral/tribute on the telly after his death there was a piece of slo-mo footage that was absolutely dynamite, and it’s stuck with me ever since. I can’t seem to find it on the You Tube (copyright, Rob Bryden) so you’ll need to make do with my 3 4 and a half year old memories.

In it, a barely into double figures Michael, wearing an eye-poppingly bright tank top and very pointy collared shirt, body pops up and down, left and right, back to front, with all the carefree abandon of someone so young and foolish and happy. Watching it was almost tear-inducing, to see what he once was like when faced with the grim reality of what he had become. His wee tailored checked flares flap around the top of his cuban heeled boots in time to his and his elder brothers choreographed moves, their afros bobbing up an down in funky unison. Yeah, the brothers played the music and laid down the groove, but all eyes were on Michael. Without him, they were nothing. Ten years old and he owned the stage, looking right down the lens of the camera and into the homes of millions when he was singing, desperate for the musical interlude to arrive when he could break out the shackles and into his total, uninhibited dance as though his life depended on it. That his bastard of a father was probably standing just out of shot with brows furrowed and fists clenched makes the piece of film all the more amazing.

jackson 5 ebony

We all know how he turned out, but for a few moments at least, remember Michael Jackson as the wee boy who lit up the stage.

It’s worth listening to the voice too. I mean, really listening to the voice. You know he can dance. And you know he can sing. But strip the music away, isolate the vocals and what do you have? Perfection, that’s what. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus is not a track I’ll freely run to when I need to hear the Jackson 5. Who does? But listen to this – the vocal-only track.

The control in his voice. The sheer joy he sings it with. The range of notes he can reach. That last note he hits, and holds, right at the end, is sensational. Anyone who tells you they can sing should be made to listen to this then asked to reassess their position on the matter forthwith.

And here‘s wee Michael giving Santa Claus is Coming To Town the same sort of high-octane, helium-voiced treatment. A pocketful o’ dynamite!

jackson 5 xmas colour

*Bonus Track!

Here‘s that vocal-only track of Michael singing the Jackson 5′s I Want You Back – One of Plain Or Pan’s most popular downloads ever. If you’ve never heard it before it’ll blow your mind…

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33 rpm

December 8, 2013

 lennon

33 years ago today, John Lennon was shot dead outside his New York home.

When he died he was younger than I am now.

By the time I’d decided at the ripe old age of 32 that teaching might be the vocation for providing for my family, John Lennon had already lived a colourful life in Hamburg, formed the Beatles, split the Beatles, was one of the most recognisable faces on the planet and half-way through a solo career. Not bad going when you stop to think about it.

On the day he died, I came home from school to find my mum cleaning out the kitchen cupboards and crying. I shuffled about awkwardly, trying to be invisible while looking for the chocolate biscuits that weren’t in their usual place. Imagine seemed to soundtrack that whole era, Lennon’s unofficial national anthem for the world playing on every radio station across the globe.

Here’s the first take of Imagine, that other gun-wielding maniac Phil Spector at the controls and recorded at John’s house in Ascot. See when the honey-thick warm strings come in at the start with the piano……..s’beautiful, man!

And here’s a live version from 1971. Just John and his acoustic guitar in front of a politely reserved audience. Imagine wouldn’t be the song it was until Lennon’s death. Who knew?

Here’s the demo of Real Love. Lennon gives birth to Elliott Smith whilst sketching out a minor keyed spidery piano part that would never see the light of day during his lifetime.

And here’s the Jeff Lynne-produced shiny, polished-up Threetles version, released to promote the mid 90s Anthology series. Packed full of George’s slide guitar and some warm Beatles harmonies, it is (to paraphrase Alan Partridge) the band ELO could’ve been.

A few years ago, we visited New York. Just across the road from the Dakota Building in Central Park we came across Strawberry Fields. Once we’d managed to squeeze ourselves in between the hordes of quietly determined Japanese tourists hell-bent on not letting us through (Give Peace A Chance, my arse), much like that December day in my kitchen in 1980, we looked in slightly self-conscious silence at the wee tiled memorial.

I could post a picture of it, but it looks exactly the same as any one you choose to Google, although my picture has a random scattering of Autumn Central Park leaves on top of the black and white tiles, rather than the candles of eternity that were somewhat ironically missing that day.

 

*Bonus Schmonus!

Tis the season to be jolly ‘n all that. Here’s the rough version of Happy Xmas (War Is Over). Written and recorded in the space of a day, as was Lennon’s wont at the time, the record company failed to act quickly enough, and it missed out on being that year’s Christmas single. As with Imagine, it’s only since his death that Happy Xmas became truly popular.

lennon chapman

Lennon autographs a copy of his Double Fantasy LP for the man who would return to kill him six hours later. 

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Meddling Kids

December 3, 2013

Plain Or Pan Health Warning:

Two words. Prog Rock.

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.

pink floyd 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.

charlatans 95

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.

pink floyd meddle art

 

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Rockin’ Bob’s Rockin’ Revue

November 17, 2013

Elvis.

You can never have too much Elvis…

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.

elvis prestwick

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.

bob stanley

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.

elvis scotty 1950s

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.

2. Crawfish

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.

elvis 1960s

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.

elvis 70s

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.

elvis_olympic_theater_florida_aug_1956

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 Yeah here, plus at all the other usual places. An ideal addition to your Christmas list.

Bob’s Blog, Croydon Municipal is here.

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Lou Reed

October 27, 2013

Deid.

Poor Lou.

lou reed

In the vein of “I’m Hank Marvin” = “I’m Starvin‘”, so a new rock rhyming slang is born.

Shane MacGowan? Is he no’ Lou Reed?”

We used to indulge in Lou Reed before our nights out at The Attic in Irvine. Set you up nicely for the night ahead. Best wee disco on the planet, it was.

Poor Lou.

Here’s Lou featuring his drug buddy Bowie on those ping pong backing vocals. Not Perfect Day. Just perfect.

 

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Happily Everly After

September 9, 2013

Happily Everly After. It sounds like a throwaway Stanley Unwin line. Perhaps something he’d have spokey-woke on the deeply joyous Small Faces’ Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake album. Or perhaps not. In any case, I’m referring to Phil and Don, The Everly Brothers. But you knew that already.

everly brothers 1

The Everlys were so close to the front of the queue at the birth of rock ‘n roll they were practically the midwives. Little Richard might’ve been around pounding his piano to welcome this kicking and screaming new born thing into existence, and Chuck Berry would’ve been somewhere by his side, but it was the Everlys who sat by the bed mopping the fevered brow and shouting perfectly harmonised words of encouragement. A close-knit singing duo with a dual love of country music and a twangin’ guitar, they created a vocal style like no-one else. Big brother Don sang the low parts. Phil, two years his junior, did those keening highs. Added to a rattlin’, rollin’ skiffle rhythm, they suddenly had a sound and found themselves at the forefront of the late 50s music explosion. The Beatles were huge fans, approximating the vocal style of the Everlys’ Cathy’s Clown onto their own Please Please Me like the fanboys they undeniably were.

Paul McCartney’s love for the Everlys went as deep as writing On The Wings Of A Nightingale for them in the mid 80s, giving them a hit single long after they’d been confined to the dustbin of yesteryear and oldies radio.

The Everly’s legacy was cemented not by what they did well, but by what they failed at.  Between them, Phil and Don had six children and went through half a dozen divorces – five from actual matrimonial wives and one colossal split from one another. To say they didn’t really get on with one another would be something of an understatement, but nonetheless they muddled through for a good few years, their warm harmonies disguising the icy coldness each felt towards his sibling.

Like many acts of their era, they suffered the somewhat obligatory bad management/bad label deal in the late ’50s.  Their golden early 60s period was knocked off the rails, initially by the advent of Beatlemania and latterly through their failure to capture the mood of a nation during the Vietnam War. This led to drug and alcohol problems, which led on to other issues…..the loathing and hate that each felt for his brother reached its peak in 1973 when Phil threw his guitar down mid Cathy’s Clown and walked off stage. To paraphrase Don (I can’t find the actual quote)  – “The Everly Brothers are dead…..though we died 10 years ago.” Despite possessing fine musical skills and supreme singing voices, a lukewarm and half-arsed approach to what constituted their individual solo ‘careers’ meant that the Everlys became obsolete in the singer-songwriter-rich’70s. Save their father’s funeral, it would be a decade before they spoke again, brought together by Albert Lee who produced their Live At The Albert Hall comeback show, and a mediating McCartney and his gift of the hit single a year later.
ev bros

Proper musicians’ musicans, the Everlys have left an influence far and wide throughout popular (and not so popular) music.

Anthony Red Hot Chili Willi Kiedis named his son Everly. Thanks, Dad.

Paul McCartney (again) namechecks them on Wings’ Let ‘Em In; Sister Suzie, brother John, Martin Luther, Phil and Don…

Neil Young brazenly nicks the riff from Walk Right Back, slows it down a touch, and with the aid of some good ol’ homegrown, writes Harvest Moon and bags himself a proper critic-pleasing return to form in the process. Contrast and compare:

Walk Right Back:

Harvest Moon:

Elliott Smith‘s eye-wateringly perfect Waltz #2 opens with the couplet; First the mic, then a half cigarette, Singing “Cathy’s Clown”. 

And tucked away on the b-side of Lloyd, I’m ready To Be Heartbroken (in itself a we’re not worthy bow-down to Lloyd Cole), you’ll find Camera Obscura‘s lilting countryish ballad, Phil And Don, bathed in pathos and regret and sounding like the heartbreaker it really is.

*Bonus Track!

Here’s the Everlys doing When Will I Be Loved. A microcosm of all that is good about the Everly Brothers – twangin’ guitar riff, skiffley backbeat and harmonies like glue.

 

Now grab your coat and go and get yourself a copy of an Everly Brothers Greatest hits compilation. No home should be without one. And get yerself a Camera Obscura album while you’re there. You’d like them.

Everly-Brothers-Atlas-Sound(crop this image carefully and you’ve got a Smiths 7″ sleeve that never was)

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Cum On Feel The Neus

July 25, 2013

cycling

I’ve been doing a lot of cycling recently, up and down Ayrshire’s sun-baked coast, and much of it has been soundtracked by Neu! I’ve become a bit fed up of my self-compiled iPod ‘Cycling‘ playlist, a playlist that was put together a year ago with great care and attention, added to sporadically since and been sequenced and resequenced numerous times to reflect the ebbs and flows of an average 30 mile ride – a blood-pumping fast one to start (a track by the essential yet horribly-named Fuck Buttons, the name of which escapes me at the moment), before settling into the groove and rhythm of cycling to the combined output of Underworld, Land Observations, Kraftwerk and the likes. And Mogwai’s The Sun Smells Too Loud. That’s always a good one when it pops up. But I got fed up with all of it and started listening to complete albums instead. Searching for the ideal cycling companion. Did you know, you can cycle from Prestwick to Kilwinning in exactly the time it takes London Calling to play? If it’s not too windy…

NEU! PressefotoKlaus Dinger and Michael Rother of Neu!

As much as I love my guitar bands though, I prefer to cycle to electronic music. Music with a pulse beat. Music that plays repetitively. Music that is enhanced when, between the gaps in the tunes, you catch the whirr of a well-oiled chain snaking through the sprocket. Which is where Neu! come in. Not really pure electronic music, Neu! They play guitars and stuff. It’s just that, in amongst the found sounds and random ambient noises they’ve commited to tape, the band have a knack of locking into a good groove and can go at it for ages. Proper head-nodding music. But you knew that already.

Their track Hallogallo has been a cycling staple for over a year. Rhythmic, repetitive and driven by that very motorik, Krauty pulsebeat that’s required for my type of cycling (“I wanted to be carried on a wave like a surfer”, said Rother, explaining his music a few years back), it’s almost as if it was made with me in mind. Which is frankly ridiculous. If someone had told the band in 1972 that their 10 minute opus would be able to be freely listened to on a portable device whilst someone wheezed their way along the highways and byways of the national cycle network, they’d have accused you of smoking something more potent than the jazz cigarettes they were willingly ingesting.

NEU! Pressefoto

Imagine if after leaving The Beatles, Pete Best had gone on to form The Rolling Stones. Not content with being the founding father in one extremely influential group, he goes on to build another. Dinger and Rother did just this. Both were in a prototype Kraftwerk, before splitting and forming Neu! To paraphrase an old joke, I’d say Neu! play both types of music – arty and farty. The three albums they released in the 70s – 1972′s Neu!, ’73′s Neu! 2 and ’75′s Neu! 75 are hugely influential (not then, of course, but now) and greatly important in the development of the Krautrock sound – “an ambient bassless White-light Pop-rock mantra,” as Julian Cope described it in his excellent (and recently reprinted) Krautrocksampler. Remarkably, I picked up an original in a  book sale in Kilwinning library for 25p!

If you’re expecting to hear verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/chorus/fade to end, look away now. If you’re made of sterner stuff, jump right in. It’s a bit like drinking alcohol for the first time. Initially, you pretend to like it, but secretly find it hard to stomach, but before long you wondered how you got by without it.

Hallogallo is the opening track from Neu!

Für Immer is the opening track from Neu! 2. “A greener richer Hallogallo“, to quote Julian Cope again. It’s another terrific example of the Neu! sound – a relentless, motorik driving pulse with textured layer upon layer of chiming, ambient guitar and occasional whooshing flung in for good measure. I think you’ll like it.

millport cycle

*Bonus Track!

The Sun Smells Too Loud by Mogwai. Cut from the same Krauty kloth, but with a heavier guitar. S’a cracker.

And, hey! If you go here, you can download Krautrocksampler as a PDF, for free. Danke schön!

 

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The Name’s Bond………Jah Bond

June 14, 2013

Barry Adamson, baritone booming bass player with Magazine has a terrific back catalogue of albums released under his own name. Successfully walking the tightrope that straddles imagined film noir soundtracks on the one side with spoken word, sample-packed beat happenings on the other, they’re the sort of albums that would and should (and maybe even have) appeared on those Mercury lists every September. Perfect for late night/early morning listening, hip to the jive advertisers and marketers have used his music to great effect over the past 15 or so years.

barry adamson

For me, the jewel in a particularly shining crown is 1996′s Oedipus Schmoedipus, an excellent assortment of Tom Waits-ish gravelly Gauloises rumbles, Massive Attack samples and other borrowed jazzy interludes that might’ve fallen into the ‘trip-hop’ pigeonhole all those years ago, Miles Davis covers and big, fat, beat-driven affairs that swing like the John Barry 7 on steroids. There are a number of stellar contributions from a just-famous Jarvis Cocker, an almost dead Billy MacKenzie and Adamson’s old band mate from Bad Seeds days, the perennial Nick Cave.

Gliding by on a rush of gospel hysterics, jigsawed-together old soul records and whispered Cocker vocals, the Jarvis contribution (above) isn’t particularly Pulpish, but with its talk of damp beds and asthma inhalers and the suggestion of afternoon you-know-what bubbling under the surface, the lyrics certainly are. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Pelvis indeed. Equally superb, but poles apart in terms of sound, the Billy MacKenzie track, Achieved In The Valley Of The Dolls places Mackenzie’s high falsetto alongside twanging guitars, bubbling synths and none-more-90s-drums, creating a highly polished piece of slick AOR pop.

barry-adamson-shadows

Without being glib or anything, the Nick Cave track sounds well, just like Nick Cave. Fine if you like that kind of thing, although to be honest, Nick Cave has never really been my kind of thing. I know, I know, shoot me…..Here‘s the Massive Attack-sampling Something Wicked This way Comes instead.

Barry’s best remains his re-interpretation of the Bond theme. From 1992′s Soul Murder LP, 007, A Phantasy Bond Theme alternates between skanking blue-beat rhythms, twanging Bond guitars, Jamaican spoken word patois and a brassy, swingin’ big band. How that idea ever formed in Adamson’s head we’ll never know, but somehow he managed to create an absolute belter of a record. If you only download one thing this week….etc, etc….

*Bonus Track!

No excuse required really, but here‘s Magazine’s debut single Shot By Both Sides. Written by Pete Shelley and Howard Devoto and featuring a terrific lead guitar riff. But you knew that already….

Magazine_-_Shot_By_Both_Sides_single_picture_cover

 

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