Posts Tagged ‘the fall’

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Magnum Opus

July 25, 2017

The grand old Magnum Leisure Centre in Irvine is being pulled down as I type. Local politics and whatnot has seen the building fall gradually into disrepair, an eyesore too far gone for a quick cash injection and 60 minute makeover. They’ve opened a spanking new place in the town centre. It’s impressive ‘n all that, but like for like, it doesn’t come close to what the Magnum offered.

A fixture on Irvine beach since 1976, the Magnum played a formative part in most Irvinites’ growing up. Beyond Irvine, it was known as the place where you were bussed on a school trip; to swim, to skate, to watch the latest blockbuster in its plush 300-seater theatre. If you were that awkward age between being too old to stay in on a weekend night but too young for the pub, the Magnum was your saviour. There’s no-one I know who didn’t go there. Even oor ain Nicola Sturgeon mentioned it on her Desert Island Discs, recalling Frosty’s Ice Disco skating sessions with a misty-eyed fondness.

The Magnum had something for everyone. The Scottish Indoor Bowls championships were held there. Every pedigree dog in the country was shown there at some point. Girls and boys danced at regional shows. Gymnasts tumbled and twirled and twisted their way around the main hall. 80s fitness freaks squashed while the half-hearted badmintoned. All manner of variety shows were held there and crucially, all manner of big, proper, touring bands poured through the doors as quickly as they could be accomodated.

Irvine in the 1980s was a popular place for all your favourite bands to play; The Clash, The Jam, Big Country, Thin Lizzy, Chuck Berry, The Smiths, The Wonderstuff, Madness….. the list is endless, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Willie Freckleton, the local Entertainments Officer who offered up what was at the time the largest indoor concert hall in Europe to the promoters and band managers who deigned which towns were important enough to play. Willie offered the hall rent free, which proved to be the clinching factor most of the time. Amazingly, most of the bands would include Glasgow and Irvine as part of the same tour, something that, since the building of the Hydro on Glasgow’s Clydeside is now unthinkable.

The SmithsBigmouth Strikes Again (live at the Magnum, Sept 22nd 1985)

I believe this was the first time Bigmouth was played live.

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There are a multitude of stories connected to the Magnum, from local folk who were so familiar with the warren of corridors and passageways in the changing areas that they could sneak from the ice disco into the UB40 gig without paying, or the young fans who found themselves receiving mohawks from Clash roadie Kosmo Vinyl after they’d played a terrific London Calling-era ‘Greatest Hits’ gig, not that The Clash ‘did’ greatest hits, but you know what I mean.

I remember the day The Jam came to town. Too young for the show (I didn’t even know it was on) I happened to be at the front of my house as scooter after scooter after scooter buzzed past on their way from Glasgow to the Magnum. A multitude of mirrors, parkas and girls riding pillion, it was just about the most impressive thing I’d seen at that point in my life, something only equalled when I saw The Clash in Irvine Mall on the day of their Magnum show. Four alien-looking guys in denim and leather and black shades, surrounded by a scrum of older folk I recognised from the years above at school. “It’s The Fucking Clash!!!” is what I remember hearing, even if I was unaware exactly who The Fucking Clash were at that point in my life.

Spandau Ballet, photo by Ross Mackenzie

Thrillingly, Ross has snapped loads of bands at the Magnum.

Sadly, this is all he could find!

Willie Feckleton once told me a great story about booking Chuck Berry, his idol and the musician he was most thrilled at having landed to play in Irvine. Chuck, a musical giant who was right there alongside Ike Turner at the birth of rock ‘n roll, a man who is responsible for fashioning the DNA of the rock guitar riff was, by all accounts a thoroughly unpleasant human being. In Irvine he wouldn’t play until he’d first been handed his fee (paid in American dollars, of course) in a brown paper bag in the dressing room before going on stage.

The anonymous support band was also Chuck’s backing group and when Chuck eventually came on he played on about only six songs. He let the other guitarist take most of the solos, looked super-bored throughout and disappeared offstage fairly quickly.”

 

Coming off after the set Willie approached Chuck enthusiastically. “That was great Chuck! They love you out there! How about an encore?

 

Sure,” drawled Chuck with his hands out. “Fo’ anutha’ five hun’red dollas…

 

There was no encore.

It’s stories like those above that live long after the artist has left town and the gig is nothing more than a pre-smartphone blur of exaggerations and half-truths. Did Morrissey really dance with Brian McCourt’s umbrella when The Smiths played? Did Phil Lynott really nip up to George the Barber at the Cross for a quick trim of the ‘fro, mid tour with Thin Lizzy? Who can be certain if they did or didn’t? For cultural and economical terms, it’s a real shame that Irvine no longer has a venue that can be used to entice the big acts of the day to come and play and create memories for our young (and not so young) folk.

These bricks rang!

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Pepper (Slight Return)

June 13, 2017

The previous post (on Elliott Smith, below) was written on the back of the Sgt Pepper anniversary/reissue jamboree. By coincidence, so is this one.

Sgt Pepper turned the world on its axis. The day it was released, the 60s went from the monochromed mundanity of a smog-filled Britain with wee men in bowler hats running the country to a cosmic technicolour planet where anything was possible. And anything was possible. On the 4th June 1967, just two days after Pepper came out, Paul and George found themselves at The Saville Theatre for a Jimi Hendrix Experience show. Hendrix, perfectly aware that half of The Beatles were in attendance had the mother of all aces up his silken batwinged sleeve.

Hendrix had appeared from nowhere, brought to Britain by The Animals’ Chas Chandler, immediately establishing himself as a top fixture in all the right clubs in swinging London. He was a top-heavy hippy in military garb, supported by sparrow-narrow legs with hair as wild and electric as the upside-down Strat he toted. Jaw-dropping in both sound and ability, Jimi could play lead and rhythm concurrently, his big right thumb working the bass notes the way a conventional guitarist might use his first finger. With black-as-coal hamster eyes permanently sparkling he sent multicoloured notes of amplified electric greatness out into the ether. He was untouchable.

To open The Saville Theatre show, Jimi and his Experience worked up a version of Sgt Peppers‘ lead track, slow and sludgy, loose and on the edge of falling apart, unmistakeably Hendrix and super-thrilling. Jimi replicated the whole thing, even playing the brass section as guitar riffs. A guitar-heavy track to begin with, Hendrix made it his own. A thrilled Paul and George watched from the balcony as Jimi caught their eye and smiled his knowing, lopsided, stoned grin.

Jimi opened, the curtains flew back and he came walking forward, playing ‘Sgt. Pepper’, and it had only been released on the Thursday so that was like the ultimate compliment. It’s still obviously a shining memory for me, because I admired him so much anyway, he was so accomplished. To think that that album had meant so much to him as to actually do it by the Sunday night, three days after the release. He must have been so into it, because normally it might take a day for rehearsal and then you might wonder whether you’d put it in, but he just opened with it. It’s a pretty major compliment in anyone’s book. I put that down as one of the great honours of my career. I mean, I’m sure he wouldn’t have thought of it as an honour, I’m sure he thought it was the other way round, but to me that was like a great boost. (Paul McCartney)
Jimi Hendrix ExperienceSgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (Saville Theatre, London, 4.6.67)

One of the best Beatles’ covers? Quite possibly. You’ll have your own ideas, no doubt. Beatles’ covers are ten-a-penny. We all know that. The Sgt Pepper album was treated to the full monty in 1987 when the NME, back in the days when it was still a barometer of hip opinion, released the whole album in cover form. It’s a fairly stinking album, all truth be told. It did raise money for charity, getting Wet Wet Wet’s version of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends‘ to number one in the process, and it did give Billy Bragg a back-door entry to the top of the charts (the barking bard from Barking’s version of ‘She’s Leaving Home’ was on the b-side) but, 30 years on, it’s best forgotten about.

In contrast to Jimi’s spectacular take on the title track, Three Wize Men (Google won’t help) bravely attempted a none-more-80s hip hop version of the same track. Perhaps at the time it was a radical thrill (I doubt it) but nowadays it sounds about as edgy as something Age Of Chance might’ve left lying unloved on the studio floor.

Three Wize MenSgt Pepper

 

The album closer, by that most NME of bands The Fall, is a bit better, this album’s saving grace, even, even if Mark E Smith sounds totally bored by the whole concept. He probably was.

The FallA Day In The Life

She’s Leaving Home…..

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This Is My Truth, Tell Me Yours

October 11, 2012

It’s the mid 90s and Everything Must Go has just been released by the Manic Street Preachers. An album full of Spectorish bombast and tunes for van drivers to whistle, it’s light years away from their previous album, the Richey Edwards-enhanced The Holy Bible, an album so difficult to digest in one sitting that Everything Must Go sounded like S Club 7 in comparison. And whilst the hardcore MSP fans point to The Holy Bible as ‘the one’, the million+ sales and ubiquity of Everything Must Go (despite half the songs featuring Edwards’ oblique lyrics) made chart stars (and millionaires) out of the Manics.

At this time, I was fighting in the trenches of the Britpop wars, working in music retail. Now, speak to anyone in retail and they’ll tell you unbelievable-but-true stories about the regulars who frequent their shops. Our shop was no different. We had a regular customer, an older guy with a cracking quiff, complete with an electric blue streak up the front, who wore the Elvis aviator shades in November and the ’68 Comeback leather jacket in July. He spoke in a hokey hillbilly American accent and gave his address as Dundonald whenever he ordered something. Dundonald, in case you need to ask, is about as near to America as Mars. People in Dundonald tend to speak in broad Ayrshire, though with a slightly posher accent, given that the village (?)/town (?) is located just inside the environs of the beautiful South of Ayrshire, and a couple of generous Colin Montgomerie drives from the fourth tee at Royal Troon. He always gave his name as Jesse Garon, which just so happens to be the name of Elvis’ twin brother who died at birth. “Je-huss-ay Gar’n, suh,” he’d drawl, without the slightest hint of irony. Local lunatic, eccentric and Elvis freak, I thought he was great. Jesse, it turned out, was highly thought of and sought-after in the world of tribute acts, and had a regular gig in Blackpool, doing a kinda Scottish McElvis tribute. Which is ironic really, given that off-stage he spoke cod-Elvis, yet on-stage he celebrated his Scottishness, wearing a white cape with a saltire emblazonned across the back and whatever else have you. Every Summer he’d head off for the season and do his well-polished Elvis act for the stags ‘n hens’ n’ steamers ‘n stoaters who stumbled into the music hall at the end of the pier. (If you’re an MSP fan, by now you may have worked out where this is going).

One day, Jesse popped in to order something. “Ahm lookin’ fur sumthin’ swampee. S’gotta be swampee. Y’know like when thu Deep South mists roll across them swamps? Ah need music ta soun’track that. S’for ma show, y’see. Intra music ta make tha folks sit up an notice that ol’ Elvis here is ’bout ta enter tha building.”  A long while later, after having exhausted my general knowledge of all things swampy, he settled on a since-forgotten bit of Ry Cooder slide blues. This, he assured me, was just what he was after. And, with a wee Elvisy point of his index finger in my direction, and a tip of the gold-framed aviators, off he went.

I’ve hunted high and low and googled near and far for a qualifying quote to back me up here, but to no avail. So you’ll just have to believe the next bit. James Dean Bradfield, talking about the Everything Must Go album mentioned that opening track Elvis Impersonator, Blackpool Pier was written after him and Richey Edwards had watched an Elvis impersonator do his act at the end of Blackpool Pier. Bradfield mentioned that the impersonator was (and I’m paraphrasing here) “crap and Scottish” – two things yer actual Elvis wasn’t. Now, I know there are approximately more Elvis impersonators than there are people in China, but when you add ‘crap’, ‘Scottish’ and ‘Blackpool’ into the mix, well, all the signs pointed to the one Elvis impersonator I knew. The next time Jesse was in the shop, probably about a year later, when preparing ‘intra music‘ for his next set of shows, I told him about the Manic Street Preachers and their massive-selling album and about the first track on it and how the band had written it after seeing a Scottish Elvis impersonator in Blackpool (though missed out the part about him being crap) and let him hear the song. You could tell he was quietly pleased at the thought of someone writing a song about him, especially as it was the opening track on such a successful LP, even if he did think the song itself was “a crocka sheeeit, sonny! Crocka sheeeit!”, a phrase everyone and their mother heard as he bawled it across the counter whilst wearing the big headphones perched on top of his blue-streaked quiff.

During his fat Vegas years, ol’ Elvis Himselvis used to come on stage to this, Richard Strauss‘s Also Sprach Zarathustra. You might know it better as the theme to 2001: A Space Odyssey. My favourite version is Deodato‘s outrageously eeeeelongated funkified version, Fender Rhodes, clipped guitar ‘n all. Jazz funk? Funk jazz? Prog soul? Who knows, who cares? This is the sound of afros jammin’. Extraordinary!

For reasons I have never quite fathomed, Also Sprach Zarathustra also makes an appearance several times in the lyrics of The Fall‘s Free Range, where Mark E Smith battles over synthesized beats and too-low-in-the-mix guitars to sound like a demented steamer arguing with himself at a bus stop. I’ve got this on one of those supposedly limited 7″s, where the sleeve was spray painted by yer actual band. You probably have it too.

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We’re Lost In Music. Caught In A Trap. I Quit…

April 21, 2009

I don’t quit. I merely quote you the lyrics of Sister Sledge. Bob Dylan holds them in such high regard he plays this track immediately before taking the stage each night on his never-ending tour. (ahem….cough….etc). Aye right.

previously-on-lost1

There’s a fine line between madness and genius and brilliance and shite, and I think I may have just (very belatedly) discovered the musical threshold by which an artist can cross over from one side to the other. I say ‘belatedly‘ because the following tracks have mostly been floating about the ether for a year or so and had I not been listening to Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone on BBC 6 Music on Sunday night, they’d still be happily floating about the world wide web and I’d be none the wiser.

Just Wink

The Ballad of Sayid Jarrah

Be My Constant

The tracks in question have been recorded by Previously On Lost. As the advert says, it does just what it says on the tin. From Season 3 of ‘Lost‘ onwards, these 2 guys have written, recorded and released via their MySpace site a song a week, based on that week’s episode of Lost. Genius? Aye. The songs? Er….aye. It’s a bit Flight Of The Conchords, which is clearly no bad thing. In fact, that’s a very good thing, but I get the feeling these guys take themselves a wee bit too seriously. Anyway, their tracks vary in quality, length and genre on any given week. They pastiche doo-wop, Prince-style funk and any other genre you care to suggest. All played on the cheapest of Casio keyboards and plastic-sounding guitars and sung in the highest falsetto you could possibly achieve wearing skinny-fit cheapo Top Man jeans. If you’re a fan of Daniel Johnson or Ween they might be right up your street. Me? I love Flight Of The Conchords, but I think I prefer the real thing.

previously-on-lost-studio

Genius at work (?)

Let me know what you think. If you dig, feel free to go to the band’s website and buy Previously On Lost‘s new elpee, “The Tale of Season 4 and the Oceanic Six“. In the meantime, here‘s The Fall‘s version of Sister Sledge’s ‘Lost In Music’.

Le money il sur la table

Il money est sur la table

The palace of excess-uh  leads to the palace of access-uh!

Hiiiideawayyy!

What the fuck does that all mean? I mean, I can speak French and that, but what’s he on about? Make no mistake,  Mark E Smith is a true madness/genius threshold straddler.

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O Come All Ye Faith-Fall

December 19, 2008

Or the Fall-y and the Ivy. Or Mark The Herald Angels Sing. Or…you get the picture. Many bands have bent, buckled and bastardised yer favourite Christmas singalongs into their own unique shape, but none more so than The Fall. Unlike wet farts like Belle and Sebastian who go for that twee primary school choir effect (with bells on) (pass the sick bucket), The Fall know how to do it properly.

Peel Session #18 (broadcast 17 December 1994) saw Mark E Smith and co. tackle 2 festive favourites. Jingle Bell Rock is a cracker (pardon the pun). A clattering, twang-filled garage band run-through that clocks in at a breakneck 1 minute and 10 seconds long, it is especially joyful and triumphant as the lyrics have been changed to reflect the true Christmas spirit -“Post office hell….Friday night on Oxford Street…walking with green M&S bags…(and something incoherent about) sprouts“. Oh yes!

mark-fag

The Fall. Smokin’!

Hark The Herald Angels Sing sounds nothing like the version you sang at school. Complete with a jangling Brix Smith Rickenbacker riff and a skewiff choirboy vocal on the chorus, it sounds, well, like The Fall. It actually sounds like it could be something Mark E Smith wrote last week. “Christ, the everlasting Lord” he drawls, sounding like Jim Royle swearing at the X Factor on the telly. And if you pardon the pun again, it’s a cracker too.

Just a note to explain the lack of activity over the past week or so – a combination of work/home/Christmas stuff combined with the paranoia of being regularly watched over by the internet police has somewhat slowed me down. Hopefully, everything will be back in full working order in the new year. I certainly intend it to be. Keep visiting!

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