Six Of The Best – Trashcan Sinatras’ John DouglasApril 8, 2011
Six Of The Best is a semi-regular feature that pokes, prods and persuades your favourite bands, bards and barometers of hip opinion to tell us six of the best tracks they’ve ever heard. The tracks could be mainstream million-sellers or they could be obfuscatingly obscure, it doesn’t matter. The only criteria set is that, aye, they must be Six of the Best. Think of it like a mini, groovier version of Desert Island Discs…
Number 4 in a series:
Snug as a thug in a mugshot pose
That’s him there, second on the left, John Douglas, guitarist, songwriter and one of the original Trashcan Sinatras. It’s difficult for me to be entirely subjective about the Trashcans. I spent all of my late teens playing in a great wee band in the great wee town of Irvine. To be fair, there were loads of great wee bands vying for some attention and a gig in the few pubs and community centres that would put us on. Believe it or not, Irvine in the mid-late 80s was a right hotbed of prodigous talent. Thanks to local government funding we had our own rudimentary rehearsal/’recording’ facility (in the loosest possible terms) and our own mini scene, all under the lofty pretentions of the Irvine Music Club. I had a wee laugh to myself a few years ago when I saw a picture of Frank Reader wearing a T-Shirt that proclaimed ‘I’m in a promising local band‘. Back at the tail end of the 80s, the Trashcans were that promising local band. So promising in fact that out of all the bands around Irvine at the time, they were the ones that got the golden fleece….the recording contract (although it’s well documented what happened next).
I am particularly friendly with Paul and before he moved to Hollywood he often popped a demo of some new track or other in my direction when we met. I’ve been lucky to have heard their sound develop from demo to mastered album track. I’ve even been present in the studio when they were recording the second album – on the day I was there John was making tea while Ray Shulman was trying to magnetise the sound of Stephen’s drum kit as he played not in the recording studio, but halfway down the hall, between the band’s office and their own rehearsal room. When our bass guitar broke, it was the Trashcans who came to our rescue, lending us their own (expensive) Rickenbacker 4003 bass. They didn’t seem to mind that we had it for about 2 years. In later years, John and Frank recorded some demos for us and took payment not in cold hard cash but in whisky and other such fuggy substances (perhaps that’s why Shabby Road closed…) So I don’t look at the Trashcans the way I look at other bands. Other bands have a mystery about them. I buy their albums without knowing a single song on them. I’ve been spoiled with the Trashcans – I know the songs and the people and it’s great.
If you’re a newcomer to the Trashcan Sinatras, it’s never too late to get on board. The Trashcans could easily be as widely loved and critically revered as a band like Elbow. They have that same uplifting melancholy and gift for melody for starters, but sadly they appear to be one of music’s best kept secrets. Those in the know are used to waiting patiently for any new album or song or chorus or chord or anything. Luckily though, the band are on a bit of a touring renaissance. The past couple of years have found the Trashcans hard at work on the road. With half the band now living in the States you could be forgiven for thinking this might be a stumbling block. Not so. They have just finished another acoustic tour around the backwater’s of mid-America and beyond – John in his lucky striped t-shirt (see above), driving several thousands of miles in the process – see the tour poster below.
I emailed John to ask him about his ‘Six of the Best‘ and had originally planned to put this piece out mid-way through the tour, but real life and all that jazz conspired to get in the way – sorry John! Eagle-eyed internet researchers like myself will tell you that the tour has had good reviews. If you don’t believe me you should check out any one of the Tour Films which John compiles and broadcasts on YouTube. John’s choices were mildly surprising. Since the first time I met him I knew he was a massive Scott Walker fan. I first saw Lester Bang‘s name on John’s bookshelf and he himself has said that the Trashcans approach everything with a punk attitude (although I can’t find the direct quote, so I’m paraphrasing…) I don’t know what I was expecting, but it’s nice to be presented with something unexpected. John is also a regular on the stage at Celtic Connections and it’s fair to say some of his choices reflect this. Over to you John…
Here is my 6 o’ the best:
‘Eileen Aroon‘ by The Unwanted (sung by Cathy Jordan) from the album Songs from the Atlantic Fringe. Ancient Irish air with a beautiful lyric performed acapella style by the Galway trio. I heard this masterpiece last year and it still haunts me.
(Note: This track has proven
practically impossible to find, so I’ve made available an mp3 recording that’s been converted from a YouTube clip of Cathy Jordan singing with the Celtic Tenors. It sounds a bit otherwordly and spooky, the kind of thing John Peel might’ve played had it been on an old 78. It also sounds a bit like John’s significant other.)
I woke up this morning to an email from John….”I need to send you the MP3 of Eileen Aroon… the version with the tenors is pish…” ………………………and finally………………………………..here it is.
‘It’s Sunday‘ by Frank Sinatra. One of his last studio recordings and the only song recorded by Frank where he is accompanied only by solo guitar. A song of old, contented love.
‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts‘ by Bob Dylan. Hilarious, cinematic and rockin’.
‘Marrying The Sea‘ by Declan O Rourke. Another, more modern, Irish acapella gem. Storyteller Declan’s rich baritone gets all poetic and hypnotising.
‘Holy Cow‘ by Lee Dorsey… my favourite groove.
‘Good & Gone‘ by the Screaming Blue Messiahs…… 5 star rock and roll petrol.
Every Six Of the Best compilation comes in a handy RAR download file. Get John Douglas’ here.
I also asked John about ‘One of his Best‘ – the song he’s most proud of having written:
At the moment, I’m most proud of having written a new song called ‘Howling‘. We are playing it at the soundchecks on tour and Frank is singing it beautifully… It’s inspired by a story I read about a saxophonist who was out in the wilds of America playing to the night sky when wolverines would howl when he played in a certain key. He experimented more with other animals and even broadcast his playing underwater and whales began singing. The song just flew out of me after reading the tale….
…a great idea for a song that Trashcans obsessives like me cannae wait to hear.
Here‘s the John-penned Hammertime, previously only available as a digital download with the All The Dark Horses single and long-since unavailable.
Here‘s Duty Free, a Trashcans curio choc-full of their uniquely uplifting melancholy recorded during the dark years and given away on the highly collectible Sound Of Purple compilation CD.
And here‘s an mp3 of I See The Moon – a brand new Trashcan’s song they’ve been playing on the recent tour. This is an mp3 converted from a YouTube clip. I may have to withdraw it quickly, so get to it…
No article on the Trashcan Sinatras could ever be complete without a mention for Five Hungry Joes, Colin’s excellently detailed and obsessive website of Trashcans articles, adverts and absolutely everything. Check it out!