Archive for the ‘Hard-to-find’ Category

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Be Fancy Free To Call The Tune You Sing

June 30, 2014

moondog

That’s Moondog, the blind composer, poet and inventor of all sorts of weird ‘n wacky instruments. For twenty or so years he lived on the streets of New York, sometimes dressed head to toe in full-on Viking garb, earning himself the title ‘The Viking of 6th Avenue‘. Moondog always composed his musique concrète from the street sounds of daily Big Apple life, turning honking traffic horns and street corner spats into snaking, rhythmic pieces of music. The most cult of cult figures, he makes Yoko Ono come across like Will.I.Am by comparison.

Moondog Do Your Thing:

1978′s H’art Songs featured Do Your Thing, a childish, reedy-vocalled, piano-led baroquish, sunshine piece of pop that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on The Kinks’ We Are The Village Green Preservation Society LP.

As a one-off curio, it’s a nice wee song. And while I can’t vouch for the rest of Moondog’s output, I suspect it’s perhaps not as accessible as Do Your Thing. One person who might know is Gerry Love, who’s Lightships project first brought Do Your Thing to my attention.

lightships blurred

Lightships Do Your Thing:

Lightships‘ version comes vibrating out of the haze towards you, shimmering softly in the July heat like a frisbee forever floating, edges morphing out of shape under the glare of the midday sun with three chords, double-tracked whispered vocals and a tinkling glockenspiel with its arm wrapped around a twanging guitar for comfort. It calls to mind the hissing of summer lawns, the far-off laughs of children and melted tarmac on the pavement. Your hayfevered eyes and nose might be flowing uncontrollably like a mountain stream but this record will surely cure you. I could listen to it forever.

One of the high points of a ridiculously brilliant project, Gerry Love’s transcendent cover of Do Your Thing first appeared a couple of years ago on the b-side (the b-side!!) of the Sweetness In Her Spark single, tucked away for the ears of only trainspotters and completists. The true sound of summer, now is the time to liberate it.

 

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Spy Stone

June 22, 2014

See this World Cup? It’s fairly playing havoc with my writing schedule. Anyway, watchin’ that Fellaini fella play for Belgium earlier on had me reaching for my Sly Stone *LPs.

Sly Stone‘s 4th album with the Family Stone was Stand!, an LP choc-full of call-and-response male/female vocals, fuzz bass, horn blasts and a swaggering pop funk that’s untouchable. When highlighting the genius of Sly, the critics will always go for the moody, lo-fi introspective paranoia of There’s A Riot Goin’ On, but if you want an album to soundtrack your summer, you need only reach for Stand!

  sly stars n stripes

As well as the title track, the LP hurtles along on a wave of prime-time Sly – Sing A Simple Song, Everyday People, Don’t Call Me Nigger Whitey, I Want To Take You Higher. All tracks I’m sure you’re familiar with. Tucked away in the middle of the first side is the album’s hidden masterpiece – Somebody’s Watching You.

Always missing from the various Sly ‘Best Ofs’ that clutter up the virtual racks of hyperspace, Somebody’s Watching You deserves your attention. It’s Sly in miniature – songbird-sweet female vocals filling the gaps between Sly’s bottom-of-a-well baritone, a horn section that parps away in happiness exelsius, a choppy, descending guitar riff, with a tasteful electric piano and organ fleshing the whole thing out. The fact that Sly had the genius to add the poetically rhythmic Shady As A Lady In A Moustache line makes it even better.

Sly & The Family StoneSomebody’s Watching You

Those songbird-sweet vocals were provided by Sly’s little sister Vaetta and her 2 gospel-loving pals Mary and Elva. They were collectively known as Little Sister and provided backing vocals on much of the Family Stone’s output from Stand! onwards.

With a bit of commercial success under his belt, Sly brokered a deal with Atlantic Records that would allow him to write and produce (and occasionally feature on) tracks by other artists.

Between the release of 1969′s Stand! and it’s 1970/71 follow-up There’s A Riot Goin’ On, he recorded and released 2 Little Sister singles. The first, You’re The One, was Sly-lite r’nb funk by numbers, all popping bass and groovy bass runs.

little-sister

The second was an astonishing version of Somebody’s Watching You. Often credited as being the first track to feature the rudimentary beat of the nascent drum machine, Little Sister’s Somebody’s Watching You is darker and moodier than the original but no less than 100% Sly. Sparse and skeletal, there’s nothing much to it at all. It starts as if half-way through, with the girls’ whispered vocals and murky instrumentation drawing you in. A guitar wah-wahs until then end of never and the Fender bass is set to ‘groovy’ once more. The whole thing is over and done with in less than 3 minutes. Hardly the perfect pop song, but highly influential – the girls’ falsettos coupled with the funk instrumentation and gentle pitter-patter of the drum machine could almost be a blueprint for Prince – you can practically hear him writing The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker as this record spins.

Little SisterSomebody’s Watching You

 

Click here to read more about the recording of Sly’s There’s A Riot Going On. It’ll help you make sense of the advert below…

sly 69 shelby

*Aye, OK. I stuck them on the trusty old iPod while I painted my knackered and faded garden furniture. Looks great now. If anyone would like to give me some Sly Stone vinyl, feel free to get on touch.

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“I Suffer From Asthma. The Only Drugs I Have Are For That.”

June 10, 2014

What a wheeze, Brian Jones.

rolling stones 67

1967 was The Summer Of Love, although for the Rolling Stones it was anything but. By now, Brian was an extreme liability. Totally lost to drugs, puffy-eyed footage of the time shows him incapable of doing practically anything. His knack of being able to get a tune out of any exotic instrument hadn’t quite deserted him yet. Otherwise, he’d have been kicked out of his own band earlier than he eventually was. A trip to Tangier with doppelganger girlfriend Anita Pallenberg ended with Anita returning to Britain in the arms of Keith, who’d circled the troubled couple like a shark sniffing blood. Band dynamics, unsurprisingly, were irreparably damaged forever.

brian anita

Amidst the chaos, the Stones found time to travel far and wide, not in the sense of a touring pop group, but as well-moneyed young tourists. Marrakesh became a favourite haunt. There, they’d met a dealer who introduced them to hashish, importing the drug back into Britain in the soles of custom-made shoes. At a party at Redlands, Keith’s very big house in the country, the Stones plus their girlfriends were subjected to a raid by police acting on a tip-off. The tabloids of the day set right into the Stones, with outlandish stories of a drug-taking, naked orgy. ‘Nude Girl At Stones’ Drugs Party‘ , ‘Why Girl Was Wearing Only Rug‘, ‘”Merry Nude” In Slipping Rug‘. Nothing much has changed, eh?

During the ensuing trial, prosecutors claimed that the only woman in the house, Marianne Faithful, was dressed in nothing but a fur rug that she let slip occasionally. They claimed that her lack of inhibition was a clear sign she was under the influence of drugs, specifically cannabis. Let’s face it, she probably was.  By the end of the trial, the Stones were made examples of. Mick and Keith were subsequently sentenced to jail, Mick for 3 months for possession of amphetamines and Keith for 12, for allowing cannabis to be smoked in his home. Immediately they appealed against their sentence.

keith moon free keith

Pop fans and friends in high places voiced their opinions. Keith Moon and girlfriend Kim Kerrigan joined in the protests. William-Rees Mogg, the editor of The Times famously wrote an editorial that argued the Stones’ case, saying that if Mick and Keith were jailed they’d be seen as martyrs to a cause, and that would not help the anti-drugs movement in any way, shape or form. The Stones continued to craft out half-hearted tracks for their forthcoming Satanic Majesties Request LP, the shadow of the gaoler hanging grimly upon their shoulder. It wouldn’t be until the end of July that their appeal would be upheld.

Free men by August, Mick, Keith and the rest of the Stones gathered to create one of their most astonishing pieces of music.

 Rolling StonesWe Love You

We Love You was recorded as a ‘thank you‘ to the fans who’d stood by them. Beginning with the clattering of a jail door and a nagging, repetitively hypnotic Nicky Hopkins piano line, it‘s a droning, paranoid anthem of defiance, a two-fingered salute to the establishment who’d tried and failed to squash them.

A barely functioning Brian hammers out a wonky mellotron riff that parps throughout like the wasted half-cousin of The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love and the backing vocals (featuring an uncredited Lennon and McCartney ‘conducted’ by a visiting Allen Ginsberg) slur and slide into oblivion.

They looked like little angels,” Ginsberg wrote later of the Stones and Beatles, “like Botticelli Graces singing together for the first time.”

Bill Wyman’s bassline that plays just behind the piano riff is in equal parts terrifying and extraordinary, creating a level of helpless claustrophobia that’s not been matched since. Keys jangle menacingly, gaolers’ footsteps echo throughout and the whole thing swirls down the plughole with a Made In Marrakesh fuzz guitar overload.

The band even went so far as to make a promotional video to accompany it. Aping their recent trials and tribulations, no-one at the BBC dared show it. The least poppiest of Stones singles to date (their 13th), it peaked at a disappointing number 8 in the UK.

 

 

 rolling stones butterfly

 

* Bonus Track!

For a brief moment in time between ’89 and ’90, my friends and I deserted the favoured local indie disco for the far more exotic charms of the Metro in Saltcoats, a sticky-carpeted former old cinema where I’d seen Star Wars in the first week of release. The Metro was packed full of brickies, bastards and jail bait but had an anything goes policy to what was loosely termed ‘dance music’. Two years later and it’d be a hell hole, but for a brief moment in time it shone as brightly as the summer sun. The Strangler’s Peaches bassline played out behind some generic four-to-the-floor dance beat one memorable night. One other time they played this…

4 For MoneyIt’s A Moment In Time

Sampling a sped-up We Love You piano riff and adding a gospelly male shouter on top was hardly groundbreaking (and these days it sounds fairly rubbish) but when first heard this track was everything we wanted. A dance beat. And the Stones. And we were sure that no-one else inside the Metro knew it was a Stones’ track. The snobs that we were.

 

 

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It Was Plenty Years Ago Today

June 2, 2014

A few years ago I had the notion that I’d start a semi-regular feature punningly titled ‘It Was Plenty Years Ago Today’. It would focus on Beatles‘ recordings from that day in Beatles’ history, in particular the individual takes that never made it beyond Abbey Road’s cutting room floor. Books such as Ian MacDonald’s Revolution In The Head are excellent chronicles of what happened when in Beatleland and I had every intention of building up a right good wee series on the back of it. However, lack of time and lazyitis (coupled with the fact that most of the time I just fancy writing about something else) combined to ensure this series would never quite get off the ground, but here, today, I bring you another one in this very sporadic series.

george harrison 67

Druggy, fuggy, and slightly Eastern-sounding, It’s All Too Much was born in the summer of 1967, just as an unprepared world was anticipating the release of the Sgt Peppers album. Pencilled in for inclusion on the Beatles’ next project (Magical Mystery Tour) it didn’t see the light of day until the Yellow Submarine soundtrack was released in January 1969. In Beatles terms, that’s an awful long time from written-to-released. Why? The answer is simple – it wasn’t written by Lennon or McCartney. George always had to play second fiddle to his two elder bandmates. He’d had his own Blue Jay Way appear on Magical Mystery Tour, and one George song per album was the norm.

It’s All Too Much

One of George’s best compositions, composed whilst in the midst of a heavy LSD trip (and it sounds it), It’s All Too Much is a microcosm of all that’s best in Beatles psychedelia, grooving along on a one chord bed of feedback, clattering drums, stabbing keyboard and wonky sounding backwards guitars. The production is, I think, intentionally cluttered – It’s All Too Much after all – but that’s why it’s stood the test of time. Each repeated listen brings new things. Hidden depths of sound float to the surface; A full-fat fuzz bass pops itself in and out of the mix. Slightly out of time handclaps catch up with George singing bits of The Mersey’s Sorrow. Trumpets apeing Jeremiah Clarke’s Prince Of Denmark March (you’ll recognise it if you’ve ever seen the pomp and ceremony of a Royal wedding) fanfare your arrival into a higher state of consiousness. Almost half a century later, it sounds new! and fresh! and now! The Flaming Lips would give everything to sound like this.

It’s All too Much is one of the few Beatles tracks not to have been recorded at Abbey Road. Why it was recorded instead at Soho’s De Lane Lea Studios is unclear, but that’s where it was hatched. And plenty years ago today on the 2nd June 1967, those trumpet overdubs were completed.  At 8 minutes long the track fell foul of the Beatles editing process. One and a half mind-expanding minutes were chopped out of the mix, leaving the released version a shorter 6 and half minutes long. Still a trip, just not as long a trip as George would’ve liked you to have.

The full length version has been bootlegged countless times…

It’s All Too Much ( ‘Much Too Much‘ unreleased version)

george stamp

Teenage Fanclub‘s Gerry Love is a big fan of It’s All Too Much. He even went so far as to include it in his very own Six Of The Best mix for Plain Or Pan, saying “The Beatles had more than their fair share of groundbreaking productions, but this is by far my favourite.” Me too Gerry!

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It’s Shop, Not Store. Right?

April 21, 2014

Paul Weller Record Store Day 2014 - Brand New Toy

Paul Weller‘s dropped the sturm und drang sonic assault of his more recent work and is clearly back listening to his Kinks EPs again. Brand New Toy, his super-limited 7″ (750 copies) for this years Record Shop Day (I refuse to say ‘Store‘, OK?) is a right royal mockney knees-up around the old joanna, complete with a name-check for ‘Raymond’, descending ‘aaah-ing’ and ‘ooo-ing’ backing vocals and a very brief whistling section. Chas and Ray Davies, if you will. The solo, which comes on the back of a lovely little Style Council major 7th chord is short, sharp, ‘clean’ and full of  backwards-ish sounding bends, somehow conjuring up that least-likely of Weller influences, the clog-wearing Brian May. Brand New Toy is a somewhat bizarre record but I like it immensely.

 

paul-weller-flameout-virgin

Compare that to last year’s RSD offering, Flame-Out.

A clanging, droning, Eastern-tinged post punk racket of a record, it”s a cracker. Listening to it, you can practically see the veins bulging on Weller’s neck as he spits/sings it with total conviction. He means it, maaan. Sonically it’s the sound of Weller in the 21st century, all heavily effected guitars played by a band as tight and sharply creased as the lead singer’s trousers. The odd spoken word breakdown brings to mind Scary Monsters-era Bowie, though I’m sure Weller wouldn’t thank me for saying that. I think it’s right up there with his best work of the past few years, and the fact that PW chose to leave Flame-Out off any of his albums of the past couple of years only adds to the essentiality of this record.

I see that there’s a Modern Classics Vol. 2 in the offing. Initially I thought what?!? He can’t be due another greatest hits set. Then I saw the tracklisting – both tracks above feature, incidentally – and it clicked… Paul Weller really has been responsible for some of the best music of the past couple of decades. But you knew that already.

weller bellySee me walkin’ around, I’m the blob about town that you’ve heard of

And another thing….

I like the idea of Record Shop Day. Who doesn’t? Anything that highlights the cultural value of record shops must be applauded.  But I hate Record Shop Day. Those two records above were on eBay even before RSD 13 and 14, with bids upwards of £50 being encouraged. I mean, come on! I like the idea that your favourite bands make one-off special releases specifically for the event, but I hate that they are so limited and scarce that the only apparent way to secure a copy is to start queuing round about the January sales. But that’s another argument for another day.

Slight Update 22.4.14

Here’s Paul Weller’s take on Record Shop/Store Day…

This is a message to all the fans who couldn’t get the new vinyl single on Record Store Day and/or paid a lot of money for a copy on eBay.

I agree with all of you who have sent messages expressing your anger and disappointment at the exploitation of these “limited editions” by touts.

Apart from making the record, the rest has very little to do with me but I am disheartened by the whole thing and unfortunately I won’t be taking part in Record Store Day again.

It’s such a shame because as you know I am a big supporter of independent record stores but the greedy touts making a fast buck off genuine fans is disgusting and goes against the whole philosophy of RSD.

There were copies of my single on eBay the day before Record Store Day and I’ve heard stories of people queuing outside their local record shop only to be told there were none left at opening time!

It only takes a few to spoil a wonderful concept for everyone else. Shame on those touts.

Don’t support their trade and don’t let them use Record Store Day to ruin the very thing it’s designed to support.

Onwards. PW

 

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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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Bob’s Boots

March 11, 2014

bob and suze

Boots Of Spanish Leather is Bob Dylan‘s first truly great love song. They would’ve quaintly called it ‘a ballad’ in 1964, when it first appeared on his The Times They Are A-Changin‘ LP, although it dates back to at least 1962 when the then 21 year-old Dylan recorded it along with a whole host of originals that were to be potentially offered to the more established acts of the day in the hope that this would help cement the burgeoning Bob’s up and coming talent as a writing force to be reckoned with.

Boots Of Spanish Leather (demo)

Like any other Dylan song you care to mention, Boots Of Spanish Leather is open to any number of interpretations; It’s a straightforward long-distance plea to an absent lover. It’s a metaphorical paen to Dylan’s past, the towns he grew up in and grew out of as he morphed from Minnesota Little Richard wannabee to Greenwich Village hipster. It’s sung from Dylan to his muse. It’s sung from the muse to Dylan. You could tangle yourself up in blues just thinking about it, but if you put all the messages and metaphors aside for a moment and just listen, one thing becomes clear – Boots Of Spanish Leather is timeless, ageless and peerless. And written by someone barely out of his teens. The talented bastard.

 bob and suze 2

It’s very possible that it was written about Suze Rotolo, the girlfriend who’s wrapped around Bob as they walk the snow-filled Village streets on the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Couldn’t live with her and couldn’t live without her, Bob and Suze had an up and down relationship. In 1962 she took off for Italy to study art. Of course. Only bohemian New Yorkers who barely had a dime to their name went to Europe to study art.

I’m sailin’ away my own true love, I’m sailin’ away in the morning…” and off we go. Verses ping-pong back and forth between the two protagonists, Dylan’s youthful voice that strangely wonderful blend of sand and glue. “Is there something I can send you from across the sea, from the place that I’ll be landing?”

No,” replies Bob. “I just want you back.”

I might be gone a long time,” she says. (Or, to paraphrase, I doubt I’ll be back anytime this side of Christmas, and if I am, I won’t be rushing round.)

I just want you back, that’s all.”

Phhhh. Listen. I don’t know if I’ll be back, it depends how I feel.”

Sca-roo you then. Send me a souvenir of Spain. A pair of boots or something impractical to post.”

Bob’s words are far more poetic than my ham-fisted praphrasing, but that’s about the jist of it. If he can’t have the girl, he’ll have the boots instead and metaphorically walk out of her life/away from this town/and on to pastures new. Have a listen to the LP version;

Boots Of Spanish Leather

I’ve shamefully given up on Bob a wee bit recently, what with his joint tours with Mark Knopfler and 4 nights in the Armadillo at £60 a pop, but a decade or so ago I was a card-carrying Bob Cat who went to all the gigs; the good, the bad and the ugly. It was tragic watching a once terrific backing band led by a a true maverick degenerate into Chris Rea’s backing band with a Thunderbirds puppet, back to the audience, farting about on rudimentary organ.

Much has been written of the fact that you can go and see Bob and not recognise a single song until you read the setlist the next day. That’s rubbish. It’s usually said by those who truly expect to hear a hopped-up Bob rattling off Subterranean Homesick Blues like it’s 1965 all over again before segueing into a carbon copy of Hurricane. Bob’s sets are peppered with a liberal sprinkling of mid 60s majesty. Sometimes the arrangements have been altered. Sometimes the phrasing is all over the place. But the song is always recognisable.

bob secc 04

In June 2004, Bob played 2 nights in Glasgow. On the first night, at the SECC, he played a version of Boots Of Spanish Leather that was truly spine tingling. A small ripple of applause from those in the know greeted it like a long lost brother as Bob and the band eased into it. A guy in front of us, at the gig alone, could barely restrain himself. His right leg juddered up and down and despite the dark, you could see his knuckles were pure white as he gripped the edge of his £35 plastic seat with one hand and his long-range binoculars with the other. Lost in his own wee world, he was oblivious to the dimwits all around who used this opportunity to go to the toilet or the hot dog stand while Bob played ‘a new one’.

Boots Of Spanish Leather (SECC June 23rd, 2004)

So, there you go. The moment I first heard Bob sing Boots Of Spanish Leather in the same room as myself was somewhat spoiled, but for that guy his night was made. The next night, Bob played the Barrowlands and, well, that was outrageously brilliant. Watching the sweat drip off his cowboy hat and onto his keyboard as he cautiously felt his way into Ballad Of A Thin Man. Being swept away, feeling his joy at ours,  as he conducted the audience during Just Like A Woman (which he’s played in Glasgow every time since, I think). A wee Bob speech at the end. And Bob never speaks. That’s how good he was that night. No Boots Of Spanish Leather though.

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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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Massive Attack

January 31, 2014

Baby Huey is one of the forgotten stars of 70′s soul, mainly because he died in October 1970 and it wasn’t until much later on, when his music was discovered by the hip-hop community that he gained any sort of acknowledgment.

baby huey lp

Named after a 1950s cartoon duck, the ironically-monikered Huey was massive in every way – he was massively overweight (between 25 and 28 stones (or 350-400 lbs if you’re that way inclined), he wore his hair in a massive afro,  he had a massive voice and used it to create massive tunes. He was a massive drinker. He even had a massive heroin addiction to go with it all.

baby huey

He came to the attention of Curtis Mayfield and signed to his Curtom label. Mayfield became something of a mentor to him and gave him the songs that would make up the A and B sides of his first single. Mayfield also suggested he get rid of his band The Babysitters, forever stuck in a mid 60s Motown rut. Curtis wanted Huey to expand (no pun intended) his sound towards the more politicised, psychedelicised sound of the times, which, sacked band or otherwise, he achieved. Huey’s tunes are packed full of riffs, refrains and drum breaks galore. Huey liked his music to ebb and flow, bringing the band down so he could throw in a social commentary or two, before letting the band soar in a riot of bass and brass. His songs regularly stretch out beyond the 6 minute mark and (I’d wager) are a sampler’s delight.

baby huey 7

First single Mighty Mighty Children is a one-chord groover, held together by stabbing Blaxploitation brass, wah-wah ripples and pseudo live vocals. Mighty indeed.

Mighty Mighty Children (Part 1)

Here’s Listen To Me, Baby Huey’s 2nd (and final) single release. A stone cold lost classic, it‘s terrific! Beginning with a taught guitar riff and Huey’s big voice careering between balls-out soul belter and Is It Real Or Is It Memorex glass-shattering falsetto, it fairly gets carried along on a tidal wave of trumpets and electric keys, clattering cowbell and ‘Have Mercy Brother!’ soulful paraphrasing. I think you’ll like it;

Listen To Me

On the other hand, Huey’s version of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come is downbeat, treacle-thick and just shy of 10 long minutes. By the end you’ll be praying that a change is indeed gonna come. His wee spoken word part reminds me of James Brown or Isaac Hayes – all social conscience dressed up in occasionally trippy echoed sound effects. Settle in for the ride…

A Change Is Gonna Come

Most of these recording didn’t come out until after Huey was dead. An album, The Baby Huey Story was released to general indifference in 1971 and quickly forgotten about. My tracks come from the 1999 CD reissue that’s probably since been quickly forgotten about. You could do worse than track it down.

baby huey 2

h1

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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