Heroes with clay feet

As I mentioned over on the Mothership, Pete Townshend has always been ambivalent (to say the least) about heroes and leaders.

All his iconic characters have clay feet as a mandatory component (think about the message of Tommy, none of the experts are worth a fart and even Tommy himself is used). This failed hero thing is brought to a peak in Quadrophenia. Jimmy idolises the Ace Face, the mod leader, who turns out to be a humble bell boy in a top hotel. However, the song that epitomises the dichotomy between heroes and followers is this one, The Punk and the Godfather. It is a kind of dialogue between a fan and a pop star (presumably one aspect of Townshend himself?)

Heroic horns Nr. 1

Given this week’s topic and Toffeeboy’s promised Go-betweens retrospective I’m reminded that I made a rash statement a while ago to post an overview of 3 Miles Davis tracks.

At the time I was trying to quell the natural inclination to go off on a rave about my favourite artist, list 50+ tracks and, in doing so, rapidly end up somewhere no-one’s particularly keen to follow. So three it is; I’ll post them in instalments.

I’m not claiming these are his three best tracks; however, they are among my favourites and are not so well known, so may offer some perspective for anyone interested in getting into his work.

First up, Milestones, from the eponymous 1958 album. This has the distinction of being the only album I have ever bought in the U.K. incidentally, from Mole Jazz in north London. Milestones is a deceptively simple piece; the theme is stated in two parts, once with all three horns in unison, and once with the trumpet setting a counterpart and “slurring” slightly to establish tension with the two saxophonists; this tension is then released by a return to the more up-beat part of the theme.

The solos are played by Cannonball Adderley, followed by Miles, who darkens the tone, and then John Coltrane on tenor, just starting to develop his “sheets of sound” style. Drummer Philly Joe Jones plays his famous “rimshots” throughout, hitting the rim of the drums to keep a snapping pulse going.

The theme of the piece is quietly carried by the pianist Red Garland, while the mood is set by bassist Paul Chambers, who alternates between “walking” the bass and sitting on a repeated riff during the second part of the theme to create tension.

The solos look forward to the famous “Kind of Blue” album in that the players are starting to create their own melodic or “modal” lines based on the chords of the theme, rather than just “playing around” the individual notes bebop-style, although the harmony remains static and each of the rhythm players has quite a constrained role.

A perfectly balanced piece of music, glowing with freshness, clarity and invention.


Wild West Heroes, They Change the World.

Apologies for posting a link I think I’ve posted before, but….

(Audience video from The Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh, this spring)

CaroleBristol beat me to it for this weeks nominations – we’ll have to let Maddy judge whether or not it fits the progressively narrower definitions of this week’s subject.

Not many songs I know where I actually knew the person who the song’s about, but this is one of them. The personal connection makes it stronger, for me at least. RIP, Howard. You were taken from us far too soon.

Unfinished Business

Unfinished BusinessThis post is dedicated to the memory of one of my all time musical heroes, the late, great Grant McLennan. Together with Robert Forster, Grant founded The Go-Betweens in Brisbane in 1977 and over the next 28 years they recorded nine of the best albums you’d ever hope to hear. I had the great pleasure of seeing The Go-Betweens live in the mid-80s – standing right at the front of the audience in a small venue looking up at Robert Forster singing ‘Part Company’ is one of the greatest experiences I have ever … err … experienced at a live gig – the moment will stay with me forever.

The particular reason for posting this now (other than the tenuous hero link) is a comment made by nilpferd a couple of weeks ago in which he referred to 1988’s 16 Lovers Lane as the last Go-Betweens album. Which, of course it was – until they reformed in 2000. They then went on to record three more albums (including some of their best work) before Grant’s tragic death (as a result of a heart attack) in May 2006.

So nilpferd, this is for you – the rest of you are allowed to listen in of course. A small selection of tracks from the final three albums – three from each but in no particular order – which I hope will convince you to take the plunge and invest in the recordings themselves.

If any of you don’t feel up to listening to all nine tracks, please at least listen to Crooked Lines, The Statue and Unfinished Business – the latter, considering what happened soon after he recorded this beautiful song, has to be one of Grant’s most poignant lyrics.

Further reading:

Free downloads

Robert Forster’s new album

More on Robert’s new album

I put you on a pedastel, you put me on the ‘Spill…FP’s heroic playlist

Someone mentioned Grace Darling over on the Mother Ship. She was one of the very first heroic beings I was aware of. Indeed, any kid growing up in the North East of England in the seventies was told of her exploits, taken to her museum, shown the grave and bought the compulsory mug, tea towel or t-shirt. Grace’s parents were the keepers of Longstone Lighthouse on the Farne Islands, just off the coast of Northumberland (that’s the North East of England) and nowadays reachable by car at low tide. One stormy September morning in 1838, Grace looked out of the upper window of the lighthouse and saw a stricken ship and a group of people clinging for dear life to a nearby rock, lashed by the wind and waves. Their boat, the SS Forfashire, had hit the rocks and broken in two some hours earlier. Judging by the weather conditions, there wasn’t enough time to call the lifeboard from nearby Seahouses and so Grace and her father put out to sea in their rowing boat which was some 21 feet (6 metres) long. They reached the rock where 9 people including a woman still clutching her two dead children were holding on in desperation. In lashing wind and waves, Grace Darling, who was 22 years old at the time, held the boat steady while her father clambered onto the rocks and hauled the survivors into the boat. They managed to save 5 of them on their first trip back to the lighthouse, and then her father made a second trip to pick up those remaining. Grace Darling became a household name after this event and was feted by no less than William Wordsworth. People even wanted locks of her hair and she was made offers of London theatre appearances, all of which she declined. She died of TB at the age of 27 and is buried in St. Aiden’s churchyard in Bamburgh.

Given the rough weather and waves we experience on the Northumbrian coast, I cannot begin to imagine how hard it must have been to keep that large rowing boat steady, just near enough the rocks to be of use, but at the same time prevent it from being smashed to pieces, thus adding two more casualties to the list. It was an incredible act of bravery for any era, but bear in mind also the context and womens’ position in society. Hell, the girl put out to sea wearing a long dress and petticoats. Imagine the sheer weight once she was drenched through with salt water…A true heroine….

As for the playlist, I’ve left a symbolic space for The Waterboys and Whole of the Moon which is not on deezer. I do know that Fanfare for the Common Man was NOT written by Emmerson Lake and Palmer and am very familiar with Copland’s original. I just included the rock version as I do think it brings something, an added dimension which I like very much.

And the question to go: Who are your heroes? You’re allowed one dead and one alive. I’ll have David Bowie for all the obvious reasons – I think he’s the only person whose presence would reduce me to gibbering incoherence or tears. And Beethoven. For the simple fact that, when he went deaf, he sawed the legs off his piano and played it with his ear to the ground so he could pick up the vibrations and continue composing. Now THAT’s heroic…

The Ground You Walk On

Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
The Real Tuesday Weld
The Incredible Vickers Brothers
These three I love.. I guess because they are not the normal alternative option. if that makes sense.

Simple Kid
The Postal Service
Different versions of hero worship I guess.

Horace Andy
Marianne Faithful

Tower of Song would be perfect for this (Cohen has been a-zzeded)..
overlap gets you the only other vocalist (M.Faithful) to perfect…
“It’s not my fault I had no choice…
I was born with the gift of a golden voice”
…and I love Negitivland…

worship from afar

Two contrasting torch carriers from down under..
A fantastic, Ramones like track from the Go-betweens- one of their earliest, from 1978. Robert Forster is in awe of a librarian… Karen.

Who isn’t?

Graeme Downes of the Verlaines is aware of the hopelessness of his quest to get near the object of his desire, he knows he’s only going to get lucky in his dreams..

Ursula Rucker honours her unsung sistas, while Syreeta loves every little thing about you.. although there’s still one she’d place above you…

An object of boyhood admiration, the perfect example for you and me.. Joe 90.

Player removed.

This is weird, isn’t it?

I had a dream about RR last night. Eek.
It went like this:
The blog came up early, at about ten to midnight, and the topic was ‘Songs about Freedom’. There were two comments already and I very hastily typed the following:
‘”Freedom” Gege Michael.
This is going to be huge.’
I then had to put in a follow up comment, humourously claiming that ‘Gege Michael’ was a famous Iranian pop star what I know about, like.
So you can either take this as a prediction and start preparing your lists (in which case, Gege Michael’s song is MINE), or you can start digging out the phone numbers of people who might be able to help me… Ta.

Loose Ends

Tying up some threads I was pulling earlier. 1) Attempt to prove to Shane & Blimps that Magnetic Fields don’t always suck. 2) Even favoriter cover (although the original was so great, why bother). 3) Gary Numan doing his NIN impression. 4) Wacko Jacko & Metallica for Japanther & Frag Proncess & anyone else who didn’t find it. 5) Manics covering my not so guilty pleasure for Toffee.

The Big Four Figures….

The ‘Spill is rapidly reaching the big 1000 published posts, which is as big a milestone as you can get in blogging, especially as we’ve only been going since January this year! 
Judging by the current rate of posting (about 100 per month) we should hit 1000 in September (currently on 893, or 894 if you count this posting).
The question is then: 

what should we do to celebrate? 

WTF? etc etc

I am a big fan, as I’m sure all the rest of you are, of the Southern-Country-Rock-Folk stylings of My Morning Jacket.

They are a wonderfully reliable band; rustic as toast and as American as swinging saloon doors or large helpings of pancake.

You know what you’ll get from Jim James and MMJ – dusty singalongs and big guitar freakouts. Reverb drenched vocals and aching croon. Long, meandering songs about dawn, fires and, er, dancefloors. They are one of the bands who made Americana fashionable again and hence paved the way for the likes of Band of Horses (yay!) and Fleet Foxes (meh!). And they also wrote this, probably the single greatest song to have on loud in the car whilst driving a bit fast:

My Morning Jacket – 05 – One Big Holiday.mp3

And they have a new album out! Hurrah! More of the same! Brilliant. I’ll just dust off my chaps and be with you in a minute. In fact, whilst I’m out polishing my rhinestone (stop sniggering at the back, its a bugger to clean), why don’t you have a listen to this track from Evil Urges? I’ll be back with you in a minute to discuss the excellent banjo-picking, the howl-at-the-moon vocal and the dreamy, aching sense of reminiscence. I can’t wait…

03 highly suspicious.mp3




Y’see, Evil Urges is a great great album. It really is. It’s brave, it’s stylistically varied. It’s emotional. It’s playful. But it is getting very, VERY mixed reviews and I think this track may be the biggest reason of all. Its a total and complete curveball.

I actually quite like the song, in context. I reckon the chorus is stonking but I can’t go for the lyrics in the verse and that weird giggling does my head in every time. Its such a shift that it really has taken reviewers and listeners by surprise.

Would pitchfork, DiS, the Guardian et al have given the album more praise without it? Or is that exactly the point? Its hard to say, but the album as a whole really does reward you, if you can get past the shock and give it some time.

So, can anyone else think of examples of artists making massive, surprising and not-always-effective handbrake turns like this?

Jazz? 2.21% cheek!

The top graphic illustrates the lyrical preoccupations of Hip Hop, proportionally, when broken down by body part. The second graphic covers the representation of body parts in the alternative genre. 
The artists behind the Fleshmap project have listened to 10000 songs and broken things down for us in their interactive map called “Listen”, which is well worth a look, especially for us ‘Spillers who like nothing more than to collate songs on a topic! 
Personally speaking, and especially as it’s eyes and hands that dominate the categories, I’d like to hear more songs about tummies. 
And to prove the point above, here’s an mp3 that mentions pussy, ass, coochie, dick, tits, and possibly more besides.  Diplo cleverly steals the backing track from Peter, Bjorn and John’s “Young Folks” and throws a load of filth over the top. Jobs a good ‘un. 
….guess what genre?

Young Folks Pussy by Diplo

Sea, sex and…oysters. What I did in my holidays

I very much enjoyed reading about what music some of you had taken on holiday. When music plays such an important part in your life then it’s a decision which merits some consideration, particularly in view of the limited space you often have to store discs etc. I thought I’d share my holiday listening with you and at the same time give you a rather good holiday tip if you don’t know the area already.

We’ve just come back from a week in Arcachon which is about 70km south of Bordeaux. There were lots of Brits in the area and I discovered that this is due to the Easyjet flights from Luton or indeed Bristol to Bordeaux. We flew down to Bordeaux, picked up a car for the week (about £230 for the car) and drove south to Arcachon.

It’s a beautiful seaside town with more than scent of the grandeur of its heyday: the period from about 1860 to the 1930s when Europe’s aristocracy came to take the healthy sea air and inhale the pine scented breezes which were thought, at the time, to have a beneficial effect on tuberculosis sufferers. The Empress Sissi was a regular at the Grand Hotel which dominates the seafront and the young Gustave Eiffel cut his teeth on building metal walkway structures here before starting work on his tower.

We stayed in the Ville d’hiver where the wealthy built their magnificent villas, each one more imposing and elegant than the last. Many have been converted into hotels or holiday appartments, and if you aren’t looking for the last word in mod cons (these are historical, listed buildings after all) then it’s the place to stay. The Saki fans among you will understand why I expected to bump into Clovis Sangrail round every corner. That kind of vibe…

Arcachon is the main town on the bassin d’Arcachon which is, as the Arcachonnais realiably informed us, the centre of the oyster growing industry in France. They even sell their baby oysters to the Bretons, so Breton oysters are, again according to the Arcachonnais, really Arcachon oysters! All manner of seafood, fish, and of course the aforementioned molluscs are the local speciality and I like to think we did them justice… Basque traditions also pervade the local cuisine and very good tapas bars can be found in places such as Le Moulleau.

Around the bassin you have any number of extremely pretty beaches such as Pereire, Le Moulleau and across the bay, Cap Ferret. If you head south, you come to beaches such as Biscarosse which are also vast stretches of perfect white sand but lack the protection of the bassin. The Atlantic waves make these beaches into a surfers’ haven and we saw more than one battered pick-up truck with daisies doodled on the side. We kept up our street cred level by talking about ‘Point Break’ in loud voices.

And then there’s the wine. Ooooooh the wine. It really would be worth making the journey by car if you can handle it, just to fill up the boot with the precious liquid. Bordeaux is cheaper in the supermarkets than it is where we live, so I can only imagine what the price difference with Britain would be. We flew so we had to limit ourselves to 2 bottles wrapped in our beach towels (they made it) but we talked to a couple of viticulteurs who spoke, misty eyed, about les anglais who come and fill up their cars…

I was a bit limited in terms of music, but my beach sounds were essentially Grace Jones, Island Life, and Rufus Wainwright’s Release the Stars. For the car, I managed to pick up, at one of the area’s great markets (Oh my God, the food!!) a second hand copy of Laurent Voulzy’s ‘La Septième Vague‘ which consequently became the official soundtrack of the holidays. Voulzy is a French crooner with a great affinity for 1960s London, Carnaby Street, etc. He has even written songs about Mary Quant. For this album, he simply made a list of 18 songs he really loved enough to cover, and proceeded to do his own version. Some of them may surprise, but I wanted to draw your attention to this as it really was the perfect soundtrack for exploring the seaside scenery of the Bassin d’Arcachon. And listening to the words of ‘La Madrague’ as we were leaving elicited a heart-felt ‘Waaaaaaaaaah’ from yours truly. I hope you have all had splendid hols. FP.

Découvrez Laurent Voulzy!

For Friendly Strangers & My Strange Friends

1) Best Stranglers song ever? 2) Marianne Faithful hooks up with Beck. 3) Howard’s back again, more estranged than ever. Still can’t choose between this & “I Want to Burn Again”. 4) Laura Cantrell, great song, awesome voice. 5) Nick Cave covering Cash. 6) Hunters & Collectors. No idea what they are banging on about in (Australian) English or French (translation please?), but find something to bang along with them. Epic wonderfulness.

Strange Little Girl
Sex With Strangers
You Never Knew Me
The Singer
Talking To A Stranger

The music was easy this week, but had to let a lot of “Strange” songs go by the wayside. Best I could for a picture was my 3rd favorite TV series (behind The Wire & Twin Peaks) about a group of strangers stuck on an island (this thing better have a pay-off). Who wants to be Jack?
Don’t be a stranger.


Tracy: When I put that poem up there for you I wanted to include this short piece by the author, Phillip Levine, but I no longer had the book wherein it appears. I just did a library search and found it.
I had bought the book, Poets Choice edited by Paul Engle in the early 60’s, it’s a collection of many poets favorite poems, each with a short descriptive piece but it went the wrong way in a divorce. I thought the poem and the descriptive piece were a perfect match, they had to be read together so here they are as part of our ongoing off-topic poetry thread. If it’s hard to read, click on it.