I know quite a few RR regulars are Decemberists’ fans (I’m looking at you, steen), so those of us on the UK side of the pond had a recent treat when they toured here in the wake of their new album, ‘The King is Dead”. I know bishbosh caught them in Glasgow. I was at Hammersmith Apollo for their closing gig a couple of weeks back, where they played a setlist ranging across all their output, with the highlight for me being a 25 minute mini-suite of the complete Crane Wife 1-3. (I was a bit freaked out to find my seat was pretty much the same one I sat in when I saw the Beatles here in 1964 – fortunately the crowd screamed a bit less). The Decemberists’ anglophilia, erudite lyrics, and reinvention of the folk-rock story ballad – often bloodthirsty or bleak – really works for me. Colin Meloy, the lead singer and creative powerhouse of the band, is possibly a marmite voice, but I’m a fan. See what you think in this little medley of snatches from the gig.

30-day Musical Challenge: Day 1

I’m just finishing a 30-Day Musical Challenge in a Facebook group, and it was such fun I’ve pinched it for the Spill.

The rules are simple: Each day I’ll post a criteria and you post ONE song, along with a wee explanation and link if possible. Comment/banter via replies.

No song can appear more than once in the month, and only one song per day per person. If you miss a day, feel free to catch up. Penalty points for skipping hard topics or trying to look cool.

I’m going to set topics to autopost for the next day at 10 p.m. UK time. Day 1 will be April 1. The topic is your favorite song.

From sublime to ridiculous ( and all stops in between).

Stung to the heart by a cruel comment casting horribly accurate aspersions on my musical taste I feel moved to burden you with some of the “real stuff”.
You may have heard the furore about the song “Friday” and how it has ( wrongly) been called “the worst song in the world” and how it’s performer was moved to tears by the unkind comments made about it. The video ( available on Youtube) was a “vanity” project, her parents paid $2000 for it to me made ( not a bad price, I think, it’s quite well done really). Of course it’s nothing new. Book “publishers” have been running vanity printing for years and the record industry, too, has some form.
From , roughly, the 1940s through to the 1980s there flourished an industry that produced what have come to be known by the fans as “Song-poems”.
Basically, an ad would be placed saying that a recording company “needed” song lyrics and poems and that there were artists waiting to record them. People would send in material and receive a letter back informing them that ( surprise !) their words were just what was needed and for only $200 or so they would be on the way to wealth and fame.
Those that bit would send the money and, in return, receive some records and the promise that any future royalties would be forwarded and that the song would be in the shops soon ( it was, on a cheaply produced album with loads of others).

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Mr McTell Got the Blues

Following on a discussion over at the earworms, I’ve been thinking a lot about Blind Willie McTell. I see him as an artist that transcends genre labels. He plays the blues, certainly, but to my ears he encompasses so many other styles as well. He was adept at finger-picking piedmont-style blues, but he could also play in a ragtime style, and a bottle neck blues style. He seems to break out at the seams of pattern and repetition that defines the blues, in a way that reminds me of early jazz. According to professor Wiki…

His playing…is masterful, fluid and inventive; based on multiple recordings of the same song (for example, “Broke Down Engine”), he never played a song the same way twice. His style could almost be called “stream of consciousness,” as he would vary the bar pattern and sometimes even the rhythm and chord progression from verse to verse.

Dylan loved him – you can hear folk songs in some of his tunes. And, of course, lovers of indie music and Rock n Roll will instantly recognize the influence he had on Jack White of the White Stripes, who covered many of his songs and dedicated an album to him.

Here are a ten songs in different styles, including some repeats so you can hear how each version is different.

Criminals Part 2

Stranglers – Let Me Introduce You To The Family
Monochrome Set – Jack
Mountain Goats – Magpie
Yeah Yeah Noh – Stealing In The Name Of The Lord

Laika – 44 Robbers
Magazine – The Honeymoon Killers
Thee More Shallows – Ave Grave
Stina Nordenstam – Murder In Mairyland Park

New Roddy Woomble!

Those of you with reasonably long memories will recall that I did an AOTW post on Roddy’s first solo album, “My Secret Is My Silence”, a year or so ago. It was then – and remains – one of my favourite albums of the last decade. So imagine my delight, dear reader, to discover he has a new album out, “The Impossible Song & Other Songs”! (Actually, I’ve known about its imminent arrival for a while, but that doesn’t sound very dramatic, does it?) Anyway, I have been listening to it for the last few days, in anticipation of tonight’s Roddy gig at the Union Chapel (more on that anon). First impressions are that TISAOS doesn’t quite match up to MSIMS, but it is still a rather lovely listen: much of it employing a jauntier, more full-bodied (banded?!) sound than the first album. Here is a little taster from it: my favourite track (so far), “Tangled Wire”. Hope you enjoy…

Screaming Females

This band is from my hometown. I’ve tried to be reserved about it, but I think they’re really good…

Here’s from the Village Voice

The Females recently toured with the Dead Weather; no idea how Jack White had the balls to even walk out onstage after Pasternoster was done with it, or how there was still a stage left at all. Call it Guitar Hero: Riot Grrrl. Bow down.

Criminals Part 1 – On-U Sound

Gary Clail & On-U Sound System – Two Thieves And A Liar
Dub Syndicate – Mafia
Keith LeBlanc – Taxcider
Mark Stewart – Blood Money 2
Gary Clail & On-U Sound System – False Leader

Artists who can sing anything – in bishbosh’s book anyway

Mitch’s Four Tops doo-wop earworm this week made me realise that Levi Stubbs could sing anything and I would want to listen to it. This got me thinking about other artists of whom I could say the same. I put together a little list: Levi himself (natch), Francis Reader of the Trashcan Sinatras, Dusty Springfield, kd lang, Kevin Rowland, Tracey Thorn, Sinead O’Connor, Kirsty MacColl, Billy Mackenzie, Elizabeth Fraser… I thought I would make a playlist comprising covers (or at least songs they didn’t write) that they have each recorded – often covers I prefer to the originals – to try and work out what it is I particularly love about their voices. Is it a warmth? Or a vulnerability? Or an honesty? Or just all-round humanity? I’m not sure. Probably all of the above. Anyway, here’s that playlist.

The songs are, respectively: Do What You Gotta Do, To Sir With Love, Goin’ Back, After The Gold Rush, Rag Doll, Tougher Than The Rest, Damn Your Eyes, Miss Otis Regrets, Wild Is The Wind and Song To The Siren.

So, are there any artists whose voices you unreservedly love? Artists whose every piece of work you seek out avidly? If so, whom? And why? Answers on a postcard to the usual address…

Killing Me Softly…With His Song (Blam!)

This is via the NYTimes.

GENERAL SANTOS, the Philippines — After a day of barbering, Rodolfo Gregorio went to his neighborhood karaoke bar still smelling of talcum powder. Putting aside his glass of Red Horse Extra Strong beer, he grasped a microphone with a habitué’s self-assuredness and briefly stilled the room with the Platters’ “My Prayer.”

Next, he belted out crowd-pleasers by Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. But Mr. Gregorio, 63, a witness to countless fistfights and occasional stabbings erupting from disputes over karaoke singing, did not dare choose one beloved classic: Frank Sinatra’s version of “My Way.”

“I used to like ‘My Way,’ but after all the trouble, I stopped singing it,” he said. “You can get killed.”

The authorities do not know exactly how many people have been killed warbling “My Way” in karaoke bars over the years in the Philippines, or how many fatal fights it has fueled. But the news media have recorded at least half a dozen victims in the past decade and includes them in a subcategory of crime dubbed the “My Way Killings.”

The killings have produced urban legends about the song and left Filipinos groping for answers. Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?

Whatever the reason, many karaoke bars have removed the song from their playbooks. And the country’s many Sinatra lovers, like Mr. Gregorio here in this city in the southernmost Philippines, are practicing self-censorship out of perceived self-preservation.

Karaoke-related killings are not limited to the Philippines. In the past two years alone, a Malaysian man was fatally stabbed for hogging the microphone at a bar and a Thai man killed eight of his neighbors in a rage after they sang John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Karaoke-related assaults have also occurred in the United States, including at a Seattle bar where a woman punched a man for singing Coldplay’s “Yellow” after criticizing his version.

Still, the odds of getting killed during karaoke may be higher in the Philippines, if only because of the ubiquity of the pastime. Social get-togethers invariably involve karaoke. Stand-alone karaoke machines can be found in the unlikeliest settings, including outdoors in rural areas where men can sometimes be seen singing early in the morning. And Filipinos, who pride themselves on their singing, may have a lower tolerance for bad singers.

Indeed, most of the “My Way” killings have reportedly occurred after the singer sang out of tune, causing other patrons to laugh or jeer.

“The trouble with ‘My Way,’ ” said Mr. Gregorio, “is that everyone knows it and everyone has an opinion.”

Others, noting that other equally popular tunes have not provoked killings, point to the song itself. The lyrics, written by Paul Anka for Mr. Sinatra as an unapologetic summing up of his career, are about a tough guy who “when there was doubt,” simply “ate it up and spit it out.” Butch Albarracin, the owner of Center for Pop, a Manila-based singing school that has propelled the careers of many famous singers, was partial to what he called the “existential explanation.”

“ ‘I did it my way’ — it’s so arrogant,” Mr. Albarracin said. “The lyrics evoke feelings of pride and arrogance in the singer, as if you’re somebody when you’re really nobody. It covers up your failures. That’s why it leads to fights.”

Defenders of “My Way” say it is a victim of its own popularity. Because it is sung more often than most songs, the thinking goes, karaoke-related violence is more likely to occur while people are singing it. The real reasons behind the violence are breaches of karaoke etiquette, like hogging the microphone, laughing at someone’s singing or choosing a song that has already been sung.

“The Philippines is a very violent society, so karaoke only triggers what already exists here when certain social rules are broken,” said Roland B. Tolentino, a pop culture expert at the University of the Philippines. But even he hedged, noting that the song’s “triumphalist” nature might contribute to the violence.

Some karaoke lovers are not taking chances, not even at family gatherings.

In Manila, Alisa Escanlar, 33, and her relatives invariably gather before a karaoke machine, but they banned “My Way” after an uncle, listening to a friend sing the song at a bar, became enraged at the laughter coming from the next table. The uncle, who was a police officer, pulled out his revolver, after which the customers at the next table quietly paid their bill and left.

So, ‘Spillers – what do you make of that then? Is there a song when murdered would drive you to murder? What are the worst crimes against music, or associated with it? Is Easy Listening more dangerous than Gangsta Rap? What the heck kind of a world do we live in?!

Play this one, if you dare:::

EOTWQ – holy roller edition.

In our town, on Friday nights, a local church hosts a roller skating session in their gym. It’s free, but the children have to sit for 10 minutes and hear stories about God. I thought of some questions one week, whilst sitting there.

1. I’m a sucker for roller-rink music. Is there some sort of music associated with an event or activity that you like? What’s the best song to represent the genre?

2. Malcolm has been very taken with skate-boarding lately, and I think I’m more excited about it than he is. I’ve been watching skate videos on youTube, I love taking him to the skate park. Is it secretly that I wish I’d mastered the skill when I was young enough to fall on concrete without shattering all my bones? I love the poetry of it, the rebelliousness, the skill, the relaxed sociability, the way they look like they’re flying. Is there some skill you regret not learning when the time was right? Why does it appeal to you now?

3. One of the pastors at the roller skating is a big bully, and he’s yelled at my son a few times. It makes me boiling mad every time, and I never respond appropriately. Do you have a story of having intervened in a bullying situation, or has somebody every saved you from being bullied?

4. The roller skating is a real community event. The whole neighborhood comes out, and it’s sort of fun to watch the cross-section of my society at play in the drama of the youngsters. What’s your neighborhood like? Do you have events that pull it all together from time to time?

5. We haven’t really taken the children to church very often (okay, once). Isaac seems to absorb all that the minister says like a little sponge, and he has his own ideas about god and man. It makes me think about how to explain difficult concepts to him. How would you define “God”? (Okay, this one is potentially too personal, so feel free to skip it or modify it if you like)

Criminal Record

Continuing on from the saneshane is revolting post – I thought I’d try being Guru – using the posters own comments – mixing up the lengthier posts with the shout outs.
It took a few hours to cut and paste the posts that caught my eye – edit out zedded songs.. and then I listened to the tunes, picking those that I liked… trying not to be influenced by my own personal preferences.
Ultimately it’s entirely subjective – on another listen through Karma Police
, Float On, god’s cop, Almost Cut My Hair, Rubber Bullets,The Laughing Policeman, New York City Cops, Cops and Robbers, Law and Order, Black Boys on Mopeds, Good Cop Bad Cop, Psycho-Nazi Police Cadet in… “Where’s Your Muzzy Shock!”, Itinerant Child, …. etc, etc would make the 20.
I went too far in the black humour songs, trying not to make it ‘all coppers are bastards’ – as positive tracks had been requested.
They were few and far between, so I compromised… the formatting was the trickiest bit along with finding links from all the different set ups. (A pain when doing it for kicks – but would be fine if you’d been paid some pocket money for the pleasure!)
It was a load of fun, and it continues to astound me how interesting and pleasurable the RR collective’s taste in music is.
Hope you enjoy.
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Aloha !

“The Blues had a baby and they called it Rock and Roll” sang Muddy Waters a few ( few !) years back.
Have you ever stopped and thought and wondered, however, where the Blues came from ?
We all know the influence of Africa and the Spirituals and the various religious sects that had an input but one that often gets overlooked ( and there’s a clue in the picture and my greeting there, see if you can guess) is…..Hawaii.
Yes, Hawaii, that tiny group of islands dotted 2000 miles from anywhere in the middle of the Pacific.
“Eh ?” I hear you say, “how the jolly flip” ( it is Sunday, after all) “did Hawaii help give birth to the Blues”.
Well, I’ll tell you.
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“come in, sit down – take that tit off your head”

fantastic – a playlist that’ll please pretty much ME – yeah hey.. if you stick it out you’ll find the odd nugget of listenability … some of the others will just stereotype my age group in England at the end of the eighties:
“Papa, do computer games influence your mind?”
“no son, if PacMan had influenced me when I was a kid – I would have spent my youth in darkened rooms, munching brightly coloured pills and listening to repetitive music… now run along and make some FUCKIN’ NOISE”
Luckily I ease you in gently.. as they said on the Young Ones when Neil became a copper – come in, sit down, take the tit off your head…

1 Suicide Policeman Yuck
2 Sus Law Eugene + The Lizards
3 Abigail, Cops and Animals Joan of Arc
4 Save Your Stories for the Police, Maurice The Hepburns
5 Police (38 Divinity) The Blue Aeroplanes

1 Who Dat Called Da Police New Birth Brass Band
2 Police And Bad Boy Wayne Wonder
3 Complain Neighbour Tippa Irie
4 Secret Police Man’s Ball El-P
5 Call The Law (Greetings From Tuskan Remix) Serengeti & Polyphonic
6 Motown Coppers Fila Brazillia

1 Breach The Peace Spiral Tribe
2 Tell The Police The Truth Mahjongg
3 Cop Shades Buck 65
4 N Y 1984 – Policijski Hit (N Y 1984 – The Police Hit) Laibach
5 Police Torch Half Cousin
6 Robocop (Motor Club Remix) Kanye West

Jet Harris

Heard lots of great tales about the general diamond-geezerness of Jet Harris. As a nipper, the first band whose albums I collected was The Shads and my first attempt to form a band was playing Shadows/Drifters covers. I even have JH’s autograph at home somewhere, which my mum picked up for me at a concert he gave in Leicester in 1974. Another pioneer of British rock, sadly missed.


Copper Blue

David Holmes – 69 Police
Post Industrial Boys – Cops And Their Wives
Chokebore – Police
Trash Can Sinatras – The Sleeping Policeman
Benjamin Zephaniah – Dis Policeman Keeps On Kicking Me
Junior Murvin Vs. Jah Lion – Soldier And Police War
Asian Dub Foundation & Zebda – Police On My Back

Stiff Little Fingers – Law And Order
Tom Robinson Band – Martin
Diagram Brothers – I’m A Policeman
Dandy Warhols – The Legend of The Last of the Outlaw Truckers AKA the Ballad of Sherriff Shorty
C. W. McCall – Convoy

saneshane is revolting

(I want to stress: THIS IS NOT a have a go a Jon post.. I started the idea during the digital change over before he started.. just so you all know.. thanks)

Sometimes a performer loses the crowd – sometimes the crowd needs a curtain call to head towards – giving the artist and audience freedom to enjoy while the performance lasts, knowing that next week there will be another band to fall in love with (or, indeed, to perform in)

At the beginning of the year, when Readers Recommends was going digital only, I believed it was time for a shake up – nothing radical – still the same old nominate / playlist blueprint. But after 5 years a tweak, a refresher, a spruce Bruce with some pick up juice.

Here is what I thought:

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The bus came by, and I got on


That’s when it all began:


Side One:

(1) That’s It for the Other One

A – Cryptical Envelopment

B – Quadlibet for Tenderfeet

C – The Faster We Go, The Rounder We Get

D – We Leave the Castle

(2) New Potato Caboose

(3) Born Cross-Eyed


Side Two:

(1) Alligator

(2) Caution (Do Not Stop on Tracks)


Jerry Garcia (3rd left): Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Kazoo and Vibraslap
Bob Weir (3rd right): Rhythm Guitar, 12 String Guitar, Acoustic Guitar and Kazoo
Ron McKernan (far right): Organ and Celesta Claves
Phil Lesh (2nd left): Bass, Trumpet, Harpsichord, Guiro Kazoo, Piano and Timpani
Mickey Hart (2nd right), Bill Kreutzman (far left): Drums, Orchestra Bells, Gong, Chimes, Crotales, Prepared Piano, Finger Cymbals
Tom Constanten (not shown): Prepared Piano, Piano and Electronic Tape

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In Their Own Way They Changed Music

This year, 2011, marks 40 years since the death of Gene Vincent and 30 since the passing of Bill Haley. As most people will know, both are heroes of mine and I had the pleasure of working with both of them.
I therefore thought it appropriate to put up a few of their tracks to mark the occasion.
The Gene Vincent numbers are “B-I-Bickey Bi Bo Bo Go” which is a silly title but one of my personal favourites of his with the first set of Bluecaps. “Over The Rainbow” was made slightly later and I included this to show he didn’t just rock out all the time. The third is “Pistol Packin’ Mama” which attained his highest UK chart placing. Made at Abbey Road, the arrangement was by Eddie Cochran who was due to duet with Gene, but the car crash on the A4 at Chippenham put paid to that. Georgie Fame was in the backing group.
Bill’s tracks begin with “Crazy Man, Crazy” cut in 1953, just after he’d changed the name of his backing group from The Saddlemen to the Comets. It was his first US top 20 hit and resulted in him and the band being booked into a black club in Chicago. They didn’t believe white men could swing like that.

The second track is “Happy Baby” which is perfect for jiving to. It shows off the guitar playing of Franny Beecher who had replaced Danny Cedrone. Danny died from a fall down stairs shortly after cutting “Rock Around The Clock”
The third of Bill’s comes from the 60s and is titled “Train Of Sin”. He was trying to introduce new stuff into his repertoire, but audiences just wanted “Rock Around The Clock” which re-entered the charts in 1964,68 and 1974.
I feel that both men, in their own way, changed music for the better and even if you don’t like the tracks I’ve picked, you will agree with that statement. Without Bill Haley, it’s doubtful that Rock and Roll would have entered the mainstream and maybe there would have been no Elvis, Buddy Holly (both of whom were inspired to record by seeing Haley) or any of the others who followed.

repeat offender

1 Nothing But Green Lights Tom Vek
2 Again, Again Love Is All
3 Over My Shoulder I Am Kloot
4 Begin Again White Hinterland
5 Up Late At Night Again Malcolm Middleton

1 I Will Kill Again Jarvis Cocker
2 Another Travelin’ Song Bright Eyes
3 Walking In Circles Azure Ray
4 Again Son… Tim “Love” Lee
5 The Day Before You Came The Real Tuesday Weld

1 Here We Go Again Angus & Julia Stone
2 Circles Soft Toy Emergency
3 Repeat To Fade Shortwave Set
4 Born Again St. Thomas
5 Do It All Over Again Spiritualized

Barbara Dane!

Why haven’t I heard of her? Mr. Steenbeck heard a song of hers on the radio and came home telling me…”I think this might be right up your alley.”

This is the song. I must have listened to it 50 times tonight. It’s one of those songs that seems perfect in every inflection. It’s a Woody Guthrie song, but he never sang like this!

Holy smoke! I think she’s phenomenal! I can imagine a lot of ‘Spillers that would like her. Most have probably already heard of her…I’m so dozy.

Please listen… She was born in 1927…she moved from Arkansas to Detroit in her teens and became involved with the civil rights movement almost before there was one. Louis Armstrong called her a “gasser” and invited her on his show.

Trouble in Mind (one of my favorite songs, as you all know)

I’m On My Way

Louis Armstrong, Barbara Dane, Gene Krupa and Bobby Hackett

There’s a lot of beautiful stuff on spotify, too.

Immediate EOTWQ’s

The first crocuses have just come out, and the light is good and overcast. I know i should get my camera set up now for the year and go out and get my first shots. I didn’t have a good night’s sleep, i’m tired and don’t feel like it. But in springtime plants bloom and die so quickly. A few days of strong wind, bright sun, or a bad rainstorm, and the plants are gone the next time it’s feasible to shoot again, so i really need to grab the moment when it comes, or it’s gone.

On a more serious note, my boss had his first baby (at 50) in January, and was going to go down south to visit his mom in April so she could meet his girlfriend and the new grand child. His mom passed away in her sleep last week.

A rushed EOTWQ here, for obvious reasons. Carpe diem.

1. What are you reading right now? (and not this blog, wiseacre).

2. What are you currently listening to? (ditto)

3. What opportunity did you miss in life, that you may regret, and is never coming back?

4. What opportunity did you grab onto in life when you had the chance, that you may have otherwise missed?

5. What is the next thing that you need to do, before it’s too late?

Google It!

I am currently, for reasons that had probably better remain unspecificed because of the fear that one’s employers may indeed occasionally monitor one’s internet activities, trying to decide whether to spend all day under the duvet in the hope that if I don’t do anything then nothing else can go wrong, or alternatively start killing certain people with a garden fork. This, the latest bit of displacement activity from Trwbador plus a video by someone else, is my last, best hope for cheering myself up a bit.

Repeat After Me

Andy Fairley – False Starts
Roots Manuva – Again & Again
AGF/Delay – The Return Of Us
Cabaret Voltaire – Over & Over
Tearist – Repetition
Little Boots – Stuck On Repeat [Fake Blood Rmx]

Nine Inch Nails – Every Day Is Exactly The Same
Alice In Chains – Again
Ted Leo & The Pharmacists – Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.
Public Image Ltd – Another
Calvin Party – Repetition
Magazine – Believe That I Understand