David Bowie Is at the V&A

You don’t need me to tell you about David Bowie, when I first saw him on TOTP, which LPs I have, the arc of his career, which gigs I saw, when I met him (!) – OK well I guess you might want to hear about that…
My friend Bruce was doing a show with Steven Berkoff called Greek. When I went backstage afterwards Bowie was there in his dressing room – they were doing Absolute Beginners together at the time. We all went for dinner at Cafe Pelican on St Martins Lane, Gary Oldman, Leslie Manville and Ann Mitchell joined us, and Iman was also there. DB sat with his back to the room and charmed and delighted us all with his intelligence and well, ordinariness. I blew it when the conversation turned to The Man Who Fell To Earth and Nick Roeg. My favourite Bowie LP is Low. I told him that over dinner, moving from dinner partner to fanboy in one small sentence. Ah well. I always was a fanboy for true.
The exhibition at the V & A runs til August. I urge you all to go. There’s only one David Bowie, and he is indeed a national treasure.

I’d like to know how much you love David Bowie out of ten (I’m a ten) and whether you have any name-dropping stories of your own. I think it was Paul McCartney who told me not to be a name-dropper. And as a sub-thought – how do you make a famous person comfortable with a fan ?

Brighton Festival May 2013

The Psychedelic Love Orchestra are back


Forgive a plug but glasshalfempty came down a few years ago and we’re doing it all again. We’re in a new venue this year – All Saints Church in Hove, with a bar running throughout the shows, a new set on Sunday night – The Life Of Brian (Wilson) which is a history of The Beach Boys, and on the Saturday our award-winning concert Pet Sounds/Sgt Pepper for the eighth year running…Friday we’re playing a new improved 1969 Show (best pop of that great year) to support the wonderful thing that is Abbey Road, the last Beatles album (or LP as I prefer to call it). A 16-piece orchestra will bring these timeless albums to life before your very eyes and ears. It’s a thing of wonder and love
see also https://www.facebook.com/pages/Brighton-Beach-Boys/343338702433070

sorry I think those posters are a little small…

Choosing the A-list, a Guest Guru writes…

Well the A-list is finally in, after many last-minute shenanigans, song switches but more desperately, cutting down of words from 900 to 600.  Adam warned me that if I delivered over 650 words that the sub-editors would be in there with a large pair of pruning shears, so to keep control, I had to shave myself, which I do almost every morning anyway.  

It was an outstanding topic.  You lovely Readers contributed in droves, and with a huge breadth of material.  I think there are 350 songs in the Spotify list alone.  But the topic was broad and threw up a huge variety of material. Perhaps I can quote :

“Bravery can take many forms – standing up for your beliefs, facing your greatest fear, putting your life on the line for a friend.  But in your case it’s definitely that haircut” 

Well no one suggested a haircut song, in fact most people took the subject pretty seriously.  I wanted to serve the topic and use as many examples of bravery as I could, I also wanted to spread the musical taste as broadly as I could too, but in the end readers, it was all about the song.  If I felt the song wasn’t COMPLETELY FANTASTIC then I’m afraid it didn’t make the cut, and some really amazing artists (and subjects sadly) dropped away.  But I needed to find the final list Outstanding musically in the first instance.  It kind of speaks for itself you’d think, but it’s amazing the circular journeys your mind goes on when you’re the guest guru.

For example, my first list was fairly intellectual in quality, songs that “should” be there because of the subject matter or the person being sung about being totally heroic for obvious reasons.  I also included songs from different genres, again in an intellectual attempt at “balance”.  Bit of metal, bit of country, bit of folk.  But a glance at the Giant Obelisk that is The Marconium will spin any balance attempts on their axis, and I got a little lost in what The Marconium was saying to us about The Guardian and it’s and our taste in music.  Were we really recommending Saint Etienne 5 times and Gilbert O’Sullivan none ?  Smokey Robinson 3 times and Smog five ??  I had to withdraw and go back to basics because there was little I could do but nominate some more songs to add to this huge collective undertaking.

In the end I went with my feelings.  I screwed my courage to the sticking place and elbowed the intellectual approach  (gave it the Spanish Archer) – and went with songs that made me feel brave. Songs that empowered the listener. And inevitably – artists that were totally unrepresented in the A-list.  This made it easier to whittle the final group of 25 great songs down into 12.  

I thank you all for making it such a great weekend, and I hope you enjoy the final list whatever your personal taste.

I would of course, encourage you all to be brave and put your name forward for guest guru.  It is a lot of fun.

1960-62 The Barren Years

Elvis had been in the US Army for two years, The Beatles wouldn’t release Love Me Do until October ’62 and musical wisdom has it (yes I know) that these are “the barren years”, full of Elvis wannabes and whitebread covers of black rock’n’roll and rhythm and blues. My latest fad when a friend’s birthday comes around is to make them a CD from their birth year, so I’ve had cause to investigate The Barren Years recently. And they’re actually pretty good. Just a quick glance at the following tunes should convince you : Stand By Me, Desafinado, Cryin’, Runaway, Green Onions, Telstar, Big Girls Don’t Cry, These Arms Of Mine, Surfin’ Safari, The Wanderer, Send Me Some Loving, It Might As Well Rain Until September, You Don’t Know Me and Funny How Time Slips Away. If that doesn’t convince you – and apologies, I can’t find the instructions on how to make a playlist and I’m thick – try these vintage tunes for size :

Loving the early sixties right now !

Lewes Bonfire November 5th 2010

Just a brief flavour of last night in the streets of my home town, Lewes, East Sussex. What you miss is the giant effigy of the Houses of Parliament with Cameron reaching out, holding the strings of a puppet Clegg in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. I’ll try and find a copy online, hang on…
http://www.chrisgilesphotography.co.uk/blog/?attachment_id=551 not sure if that works apologies for messy post..http://www.chrisgilesphotography.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Lewes-Bonfire-Night-2010-22.jpg
anyway it was a great night needless to say, spectacular and dangerous as ever, and it didn’t start raining til midnight.

Dan Le Sac v Scroobius Pip

I went to see this strangely monikered duo last night in Brighton and it’s stayed with me so I’m posting a rare spillage in homage. Sold out last April much to my disappointment I made sure tickets were purchased way in advance this time around. They wouldn’t sell out twice in one year thought would they ? In a recession ? £14.50 a ticket ? Yes they did. I had one spare ticket, put it on Twitter, the band retweeted and I sold it to a zombie nurse outside – face value of course…

The show was awesome. Classic hip-hop set-up, but with two white guys from South London (Millwall fans actually in the case of Pip) one of whom resembles a Taleban commander. He’s the rapper, or wordsmith, because it would be a stretch to describe what he does as rapping. He’s a political poet of the old skool, spoken word merchant, and DanLe Sac’s beats place them into the hip-hop world. But their lyrical content is very fresh indeed, and very British too.

There’s another song I could have posted called Get Better, and yet another called The Beat That My Heart Skipped, yet another called Stake A Claim. Wonderful stuff ! For those who prefer content over style…..


If you like soul music, you like gospel. The greatest gospel group in South Africa is called Joyous Celebration, and they shift more units than any pop act. Untouched by apartheid, possibly the reason why gospel is very big news down here. I’m posting one song here called “Total Praise” or  “Thixo Bawo” in Xhosa, which is itself an astonishing performance, and in these religious communities total praise happens in a state of euphoria, but the reason why I’m banging on about it is the “Amen” at the end. This is very special stuff indeed. A euphoric Amen.

I can’t see the video here. Maybe you can. I’ve pasted the embed link, that’s all I can do. But here’s the URL : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rq8PPSDAr-w

My mum’s 45s : People Got To Be Free

My mum had a good ear for music – and still does indeed. When I was 12 she bought a single by Dionne Warwick on the Pye label (?) with the above title: People Got To Be Free. It was a total showstopper, a barnstorming 4 minutes of gospel-soaked R&B that crashes in from the first second, and syncopates it’s way into your hips head and heart. Always loved it – and finally found it on CD a couple of years ago – the vinyl 45 is Very Crackly Indeed.
To my surprise it’s a cover – of an original song by Felix Cavaliere of 60’s outfit The Rascals, who have become one of my favourite bands from the era. Extremely talented songwriter (How Can I Be Sure, Groovin’) singer and general dude, Felix has just bounced even higher in my estimation upon the discovery of this live version of the song from some dim and distant TV show. How flipping good is this live performance ? Does anyone else know the Dionne Warwick version ?

First in a series called “My mum’s 45s”. Next : Guy Darrell and ‘Skyline Pigeon’.

Inspired by crying

I seem to be discovering greatness all of a sudden. While I obsess (again) on 10cc and their various branches and roots, catch up with the latest Congolese dance craze from Werrason and enjoy the Josh Ritter LP from Maki (thanks!) I stumble across this extraordinary song which I’m sure you all know anyway – but I had to rewind again, then again. I got a lump in my throat every time, and not because I’m leaving anyone – it’s just an amazing piece of songwriting I think. My copy is on k.d.lang’s LP Hymms From the 49th Parallel – ie the great Canadian songbook, with Cohen, Young, Mitchell represented and this song, penned by the under-rated Jane Siberry.  Her version is stunning, but I’m afraid this one takes the biscuit, the cake and the cream. Ladies and Spillers I give you: k.d.lang singing Jane Siberry’s Love Is Everything. Swoon.

Mystery Songs

Ode To Billy Joe

I’ve always loved this song. It burned into my ear when I was a young man, and it still has the same effect – brooding, circumspect, reported speech, and a devastating chorus. The tension between the family seated round the table (spookily realised in the video) and the feelings of the singer (actually withheld from us) are brilliant. But there’s always been a number of mysteries surrounding the song. But first : a fact. Bobby Gentry (christened Roberta Lee Streeter) sent in the demo for this piece of Southern Gothic to Capitol Records. They were so taken with it, that they simply added strings and bass and issued the demo, which is the song we hear today. It was the B-side of her first single, but quickly received more airplay and attention, and Ode To Billy Joe became the name of her first LP, released in 1967, and knocking Sgt Pepper off the US LP charts.
{Sgt Pepper was released today (June 1) in 1967 in the UK whilst we’re on the facts, factfans.}
And the mystery : what did Bobbie and Bille Joe drop off the Tallahatchie Bridge? How was that connected to his suicide?
Bobbie never told us despite appeals to reveal that it was a baby, that Billie Jo was gay, an engagement ring, who knows. She did say in one interview that it wasn’t a baby, but there was pressure from the anti-abortion lobby at the time which might make that statement questionable.  It’s a mystery.
After a successful run of singles and LPs, Bobbie Gentry had a run in Las Vegas, had a child then disappeared off the map. Apparently she now lives in Los Angeles in private, but she hasn’t made a record since the late 70s.

All of which actually adds to the mood of the song for me. Her voice as she dips down to very low notes in the chorus sends a shiver down my spine.

Anyone think they know what’s going on here ?

good taste ? why bother !

I have already apologised to regulars via email for last weekend’s petulance and resignation.  I will be back. But for now I’ll try this site, and offer you an Act Of War rather than any peaceful friendly apology. Just kidding !  I think you’re all pretty flipping amazingly generous people…I’ll raise my game, promise.  Now, here’s a shocker I found today….I’m still tripping over the technology, so bear with me….

Although seriously I am half thrilled and half appalled by this completely eighties video by Elton John in worrying headgear and Millie Jackson playing it straight. Enjoy.

They’ve Only Gone And Closed Entries To Fresh Starts !

Shurely Shome Mishtake ?? We were promised a nice lazy ramble through to New Year’s Eve, no rush, no names, no packdrill. No mandrill I wouldn’t have thought. But no, Boxing Day after a weedy six hours of sleep (you’re lucky – Ed) I rise and shine, take the beef from the fridge, sign on to the RR blog with an absolute CRACKER of a fresh start song, not only about fresh starts generally but introducing a band who were IN THEMSELVES a fresh start as I have already attempted to explain here regarding their first single “Virginia Plain.” The first track off the eponymous first album is right on the money : an announcement of starting again.

“Next time is the best time we all know”

I talk, of course, of the great Roxy Music and their opening gambit : “Re-make Re-model”

They certainly remade and remodelled rock music into a sci-fi glam nightclub lounge art-rock act, and for that I and millions of others will be eternally grateful.

Will repost resquiggle if the blog goes live again.

Now where’s that joint of beef…


I struggle with podbean. I struggle with life though. Struggle is, after all, Life, as you’d know if you’ve ever watched a David Attenbprough documentary. To honour the great man, and Toffeeboy’s first class post below, I give you three of evolution’s wondrous beings.
The first a she-eagle nesting above California’s Highway 1 and Big Sur. A remarkable piece of work. The second from Pete Townsend’s favourite guitarist Joe Walsh and a song from “The Smoker You Drink The Player You Get” LP a song from the point of view of a wolf. And the third an inspirational lyric from Steve Kalinich and Dennis Wilson’s first moment in the BeachBoys story as a major songwriter – listen to the amazing arrangement.

Heaven Knows Where We Are Going

We Know We Will. One of the finest hymns to life anywhere by a severely under-rated band, perhaps because few people were exposed to them, who knows. Woyaya came complete with flying elephant Roger Dean cover, so had every chance. Live they were sensational. This perfectly fits the adventure we are all on.
“It will be hard, we know
And the road will be muddy and rough
But we’ll get there
Heaven knows how we will get there
We know we will”

It moves me like Nkosi sikele afrika moves me, deep in my spirit. I commend it to thee and thine, and, of course, the A-list.

Lucky ?

Every time (ie both times) I have used this feature the heat rises in my chest, the palms get sticky, the throat swells. But I think I have once again managed to actually upload two of my favourite lucky things which appear to be either a) unknown to the cognoscenti (for that is what you are RR team) or b) so rabidly unpopular as to be not worthy of comment (with hon exceptions). So for the (hopefully) uninitiated here are the very lucky Todd Rundgren whose talent has backfired upon him so many times, lucky because he can play every instrument (and frequently does) – backfired – because he gets bored easily I guess. “Lucky Guy” is from his last true pop album (he’s on heavy Rock right now) Hermit Of Mink Hollow (which is in Woodstock NY btw) in 1978. It’s a beautifully simple song. Merle Haggard is a country n western singer from Bakersfield, California who actually spent some time in prison (unlike my favourite twerp Johnny Cash) and who has the most sublime voice, warm, deep and thrilling. He saw LEfty Frizzell live early in life and was inspired to sing for a living – and this song may have been written by LEfty – haven’t been able to check. It’s fantastic. Enjoy !!