So i never did get around to making a plug for Linda Ronstadt for my severely lapsed Best Cover Artists Ever series. And now she quite sadly has Parkinson’s and can’t sing a note anymore. So a bit of a tribute is in order i think – she wasn’t a songwriter but a world class singer and cover artist who did very proud the bulk of artists she covered. Imagine, to sing like that with no autotune. You can hear maybe a bit too much 70′s California production in some of the songs, but that was also her era and the artists that she covered as well. They’re none the worse for it either, really. Peace and best wishes to you, Linda. And thank you.
Edinburgh has played host to many artistic collaborations over the years, with none more intriguing than the 7×7 project between artist Jean Pierre Muller and seven musicians: Nile Rodgers, Robert Wyatt, Mulatu Astatke, Archie Shepp, Sean O’Hagan, Kassin and Terry Riley. The project commenced last year at the Summerhall venue with the creation by Jean Pierre of a street of individual houses to explore with the soundscape provided by his seven collaborators.
Last weekend saw a further development with Muller and Rodgers presenting their Indigo night in F – a broadening of the artwork, live performance and some engaging storytelling, drawing on Rodgers’ life story and career which had been joyously detailed in his recent autobiography.
The two tiered stage is bare and the soundtrack is 30′s jazz, a nod to their Harlem Nights sub-theme. Gradually the stage is filled with a series of pop-art style cut-outs and then Muller arrives at the easel to paint an introduction in art and words using a stencil to link the various ‘F’s: freedom, family, fate, frustration and so on. Nile Rodgers then appears between the cut-outs to introduce the first of the pre-recorded movements – a very contemporary sound with the sort of insistent groove and vocoder work one could readily associate with his most recent collaborators.
Rodgers’ storytelling is vivid and what a tale he has to tell, having been raised by hippy heroin addicts, he joined the Black Panthers and played in the house band at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. A life-size cut-out of the late Bernard Edwards is placed beside him as he introduces us to the collaborator with whom he became musically inseparable. What Rodgers brought to the table with melodies was matched by Edwards’ gift for arrangement, and we get a fantastic insight into their talent for creating music that appears on the surface to be simple and sing along, but is awash with innovation, jazz chords and a love of chromatics.
A series of terrific stories about Grace Jones, Club 54 and Diana Ross is interspersed with solo runs through Good Times/Rappers Delight, Upside Down and the fabulous Thinking About You and some entertaining banter with Muller, still at the easel on the upper tier. Towards the end of the performance Rodgers (thankfully) narrowly avoids decapitation as a mobile of Cab Calloway’s head – which was suspended from the ceiling – slips its mooring and crashes down onto the microphone.
The two artists are presenting this project as a work in progress, and have been in negotiations about taking the project further. The mix of pop-art, hit music and the pair’s engaging personalities are certainly a winning combination and it is a measure of the man that Rodgers has made the time to see this project through at a time when his currency is so high. Mamma Mia is certainly ain’t and, whatever happens, if you get the opportunity to see it just go!
So last time I went all crowd-pleasey (or as crowd-pleasey as I can manage) with tasteful eclecticism. And this time… well, this time I’ve probably swung too far in the opposite direction and won’t be pleasing anyone whatsoever. Yes, folks, I’ve gone pop. Mainstream, well-known, pure and simple every time. Forgive me my synths, I know exactly what I do. Sadly…
Track and artist names (and a few short attempts at justification) after the jump…
Due to popular demand, we are going to ‘Spillover….The Lemonheads!
For the most part (The) Lemonheads became in later years Evan Dando, and whoever he was hanging out with at the time, so we can also take Evan Dando solo songs too.
There are nine Lemonheads albums to choose from, plus singles, EPs, and lots of good covers to boot.
So, to perfect the perfect Lemonheads playlist, please nominate one or two tunes in the comments with a youtube or spotify link, please. I’m allowing more than one nomination, as possibly they may not be as well known as other bands we’ve ‘Spilt-over like the Stones, or Elbow.
So, do you like early noisy Lemonheads? Mid period strummy grungey Lemonheads? Quiet countryish Lemonheads? Acoustic gentle Lemonheads? Funny, romantic Lemonheads? Or the one about the gas man taking Evan’s old stove away?
Please also share any Lemonheads memories, ephemera, anecdotes, trivia, or nonsense.
I’m a massive fan, and have kicked off noms with an acoustic version of a song from their 4th album. The acoustic version was a b-side, but ended up on their greatest hits too. My favourite version of “Ride With Me” is a live acoustic one I taped off the radio back in 1992, but I’m not sure where the cassette is.
Where was I again? That’s it – I was doing a series on lesser known punk bands from the early 80s. I’m now going to get the series up & running again (I hope). It’s been derailed by a variety of things, starting off with my trip to Blackpool, so it seems appropriate to start again with imho Blackpool’s best punk band. The Fits were formed in 1979, many years before Blackpool became the official holiday destination for the UK punk scene. They were influenced by the early punk version of Adam & The Ants, but didn’t have the ability. But this was punk after all, and limited ability didn’t stop them having a go. Despite some dodgy early recordings they persisted and went onto release a handful of classic records.
A re-working of classic New Wave electro-pop, in German, with songs citing Guy Debord and Christa Wolf? A secret laboratory in Leipzig has been busy creating a new group to my exact specifications, and I’ve only just discovered this: welcome to Brockdorff Klang Labor.
As many of you know, my formative years were the early 1980s, the moment when the futuristic soundscapes of early electronica, the radical conscience and situationist sloganeering of punk and post-punk and the sheer joy of disco collided to produce some of the greatest pop records ever. The last couple of years have thus been deeply annoying, as the media have regularly heralded a return to those glory years, only for the end result to be Little Boots or Florence and the Bloody Machine. Continue reading →
Biggie Tembo (guitar + vocal) and David Mankaba (bass)
Inspired by Shane’s revelation that he has a Shona dictionary to assist with Bhundu Boys nominations, and a reminiscent mood caused by turning 50 last month, my thoughts wander to 25 years ago this month, half my lifetime, when I was Students’ Union President at the Cranfield Institute of Technology. Where the *#~* is Cranfield ?!? may well be your first thought.
Well, it’s between Bedford and Milton Keynes, near junction 14 of the M1. It was an airfield, then an aeronautical institute, then a university proudly calling itself an Institute of Technology, and since I was there has given in and calls itself a University. The Students’ Union was a small group of us trying to promote social life and student welfare on an isolated campus dedicated to profitable selling of technology and learning.
My predecessor had revived, surprisingly and successfully, the tradition of the Graduation Ball, and we were not a team to shirk a challenge. We had no hesitation in dedicating ourselves to seeking out the best music and comedy we could afford. Continue reading →
This time round I’m writing about about 4 lads from Merseyside whose music has gone on to influence bands around the world. Of course I mean the “fab four” – Hockey, Tabby, Bazza, Ant – better known as Instant Agony. I suppose there are other bands I could be talking about, but I can’t think of them just now
“Typical – twenty years of punk .. “Ooh,I like the Sex Pistols” – Fuck the Sex Pistols!”
The words of Chaos,by then vocalist of Chaos UK, on stage in 1996*, but I’m sure there are many in the punk scene expressing similar sentiments this weekend as we witness the official history of punk rocktrotted out again, declaring it dead by 1979. There were many bands that helped to drag punk kicking and screaming through the 80s and 90s and a prominent one that you may not be aware of are Chaos UK.
You might have noticed a recently in the news that sections of Einstein’s grey matter have been brought to the UK for the first time for an exhibition. You might have thought “That’s interesting, it would make a great subject for a song. I wonder if anyone’s ever written one?” You might have thought that, but you probably didn’t. If you did though, the answer is yes, The Dark released a classic single in 1981 on exactly that subject. They were a band that managed to combine punk energy, the ability to write a catchy pop song, and a moody quality that saw them gradually move towards “the genre that dare not speak its name” (goth in case you’re wondering).
The output of the early 80s wave of punk bands is often sneered at now as naive and dated. This is easy to do, but you have to remember what life for young people in the early 80s was like: high unemployment, a right wing government determined to cut public services, riots, royal weddings, tension between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands – hard to imagine now isn’t it?!. This was the backdrop for bands like The Samples who released one of the classic singles of the period, Dead Hero.
This isn’t actually about April Fools, I wouldn’t participate in any of that nonsense. More of a coincidence that the other day I was reminiscing about some of the unsubstatiated tales I’d heard when I was a youngster about the crazy antics of these pop stars.
These days there are no inaccurate stories circulating about popstars – the internet has made this impossible. If you hear an unlikely story about a favourite star, eg that Dave Mustaine wasn’t really born in the US, you just have to check Wikipedia. If a story goes round that Justin Bieber set light to one of his own farts on stage you can check for footage on youtube. If it’s not on youtube it didn’t happen. Simple.
When I first started listening to pop music in 82-83 it was a different world. Instead of the internet we had the playground, a cesspit of lurid rumours about the pop world. We had no way of knowing if what we heard was true or not.
So do you remember any tall tales you heard about favourite artists back in the dark ages? Did you believe them or did they seem just too outlandish even then? (Marc Almond fans have Spill points deducted as a handicap).
Here’s some that I remember, mainly from my youth although some are more recent.
I don’t suppose I’m the only person who has ever jumped to a conclusion about a band based on their name. I nearly saw External Menace play in Edinburgh at a huge 10 day punx picnic. They were support band at one of the week’s gigs but I didn’t bother to get there in time. Based on their name it seemed obvious that they were some kind of “crustcore” band. There seemed to be loads of these around at the time with their sub-Slayer riffs, dreads and grunted vocals, and I didn’t need to see another. A few months later I actually got to hear External Menace on an 80s compilation and started kicking myself repeatedly. At the risk of getting a savage beating from a certain infamous frontman, I would say External Menace are the best ever Scottish punk band whose name begins “Ex”.
Court Martial were another short lived band that most of you probably haven’t heard of but in their own way they almost the definitive punk band – a bunch of teenagers with hardly any musical ability and no hope of stardom who made a racket, released two singles, and disappeared again. It may not be the best record ever made, but Court Martial’s first EP is one of the records I might play to someone if they were struggling to grasp the concept of punk.
Time to delve into slightly more obscure territory this time round. The history of punk is littered with bands who did a good single or two before turning a bit rubbish. Anti Establishment on the other hand started off as a bit mediocre (imho) then split up just as they were getting interesting.
Clockwork punks? A “street level Joy Division” ? The Oi! Banshees? A band that tried to stretch the boundaries a bit, the Violators emerged from the Clockwork Orange dystopia of …err… Chapel En Le Frith. Some, such as Garry Bushell, were predicting big things for them, which never happened. They came and went leaving a tiny handful of records, leaving you to wonder what they would have done if they’d got as far as doing an album back in 1982.They were possibly also the only punk band of the time to take their name from an article in The Guardian (“Urban Violations” being the headline)
Way back in the 80s when I was a mere teenager just beginning to investigate The Clash’s back catalogue I remember seeing the name English Dogs painted on the back of a punk leather jacket and thinking it was the ideal name for a punk band. I didn’t get to hear them for around ten years (no youtube in those days) – could the music live up to the name? When I finally got to hear it, it turned out that their debut release the Mad Punx And English Dogs 12” was overall probably the best punk EP of the 80s(my opinion of course but I don’t think I’m alone). Even if they’ve never matched it in their confusing, tangled on-off history, this release got them their place in punk history.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was planning to do a series of posts trawling through some of the lesser known punk bands from the dim and distant past, ie the early 80s. At least one person thought that sounded like a good idea, so I can now announce that the start of the series is imminent!
Prompted by Zala’s call for extra special earworms, i figured it might be time to check out the new tunes on the Some Girls re-release. Had no expectations, as i was generally underwhelmed by the bonus tunes on the Exile re-release. Well blow me down, some of the tunes are fucking great. (And seem to lack the tinny sound of the Exile remasters too). Now i can maybe see why they didn’t include these on Some Girls – they didn’t fit with the disco / punk aesthetic the Stones seemed to be shooting for, and maybe they wanted to look forward musically instead of back. But guys, if it ain’t broke, no need to fix it. Lotta baby got tossed out with the bathwater there.
Keep Up Blues, Petrol Blues, and the (Ron Wood penned) When You’re Gone are wonderfully sleazy little blues numbers. Tallahassie Lassie is a Freddy “Boom Boom” Cannon cover which trumps the original, imho. And a pair of country covers to round off this little sampler – Hank Williams’ You Win Again, and Waylon Jennings’ We Had It All (sounds like Keith on vocals). Enjoy.
1. Keep Up Blues
2. Tallahassie Lassie
3. Petrol Blues
4. You Win Again
5. When You’re Gone
6. We Had It All
Beg to differ? No problem. For any who care to stick around – my dance card has plenty of spaces. Hard to tell what exactly defines disco – i tend to lean towards the funk / r&b end of it. Left out quite a few decent poppy disco tunes too. Have any personal faves, feel free to post below. I left a lot out. Some may sound very familiar – lots of covers of of the old disco tunes.
1. Yarborough & Peoples – Don’t Stop the Music
2. Evelyn Champagne King – Shame
3. Michael Jackson – Working Day and Night
4. Teena Marie – Lovergirl
5. Mary Jane Girls – In My House
6. Anita Ward – Ring My Bells
7. SOS Band – Take Your Time (Do it Right)
8. Cherelle – I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On
9. Indeep – Last Night a DJ Saved My Life
10.Evelyn Champagne King – Love Come Down
11. Earth, Wind & Fire – Getaway
12. Prince – I Wanna Be Your Lover
13. Janet Jackson – The Pleasure Principle
14. Cameo – She Strange
15. Rufus – Tell Me Something Good
16. Brick – Dazz
17. Slave – Slide
18. Ronnie Hudson and the Street People – West Coast Poplock
19. Mtume – Juicy Fruit
20. Zapp & Roger – More Bounce to the Ounce
21. Pointer Sisters – Yes We Can Can
This post was inspired by those Pete Frame “Rock Family Trees” diagrams that I’ve always found so engrossing and which are a great way to waste an afternoon.
The idea for this particular one came from me listening to the first, eponymous album by the band UK, which featured Bill Bruford, John Wetton, Eddie Jobson and Alan Holdsworth, with Bruford and Wetton being the rhythm section that powered the great “Lark’s Tongues In Aspic”, “Starless And Bible Black” and “Red” incarnation of King Crimson. The presence of Eddie Jobson reminded me that he did some violin overdubs for the KC live album from this period, “USA”.
Then I wandered mentally from UK and USA to Asia, another band that featured John Wetton and which also had Steve Howe from Yes, the band where Bill Bruford started out. You can see where this leads, can’t you?
So, I thought I’d put together a playlist that had one rule; the music must feature at least one member of either Yes or King Crimson playing under a different banner.
The musicians I have used are Greg Lake (KC’s original bassist/ELP), Ian McDonald and Michael Giles(also from the original KC line-up/McDonald and Giles), Bill Bruford (Yes and KC/Bruford/AWBH), John Wetton (KC/Asia – also played live with Roxy Music), Robert Fripp (KC – obviously/David Bowie/Jakszyk, Fripp and Collins), Mel Collins (KC/Jakszyk, Fripp and Collins), Steve Howe, Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman (all Yes/AWBH), Vangelis (Yes/Aphrodite’s Child), Boz Burrell (KC/Bad Company and Eddie Jobson (KC in the studio/Roxy Music)
So, the track listing is;
Emerson, Lake and Palmer – The Barbarian
McDonald and Giles – Flight Of The Ibis
Asia – Only Time Will Tell
Aphrodite’s Child – The Four Horsemen
Roxy Music – Out Of The Blue
David Bowie – “Heroes”
Bill Bruford – Beelzebub
John Wetton – New Star Rising
Jakszyk, Fripp and Collins – The Other Man
Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe – Order Of The Universe
Bad Company – Bad Company
There are lots of other connections that you can find if you are an obsessive about such things. If you wanted to branch out, you could link Yes to UK to Soft Machine and to Gong via Bill Bruford and Alan Holdsworth (because Holdsworth played with UK, the Softs and Gong). You can also link King Crimson to Gong via Theo Travis, who has played live with Robert Fripp. There are also links via Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn, Tony Levin and Adrian Belew. You can even link King Crimson to Hall and Oates via Fripp and his work on Darryl Hall’s first solo album, “Sacred Songs”. It goes on and on. I am sure that people can find other links.
Incidentally, the only reason I don’t have a UK track here is that for some reason I don’t understand, my PC was unable to open the CD.
Coincidentally or not, just in time for upcoming holiday season, a few albums are up for re-release this month. Re-mastered, and each with a slew of new previously unreleased bonus tracks. Most definitely this is a trend these days, and i still can’t figure out exactly what the reasoning is. More money, certainly. A celebration of a classic album, a chance to correct what they may have gotten wrong the first time. Introducing a classic album from musicians whose time has passed to a new generation, an excuse for a tour. A service to fans and other interested parties by releasing tracks that didn’t make the album cut. So maybe it’s worth a review of the albums as they were before tackling the new incarnations. Continue reading →
New York has been on my mind a lot lately. What with the 9/11 hoopla (which i’m trying to ignore). And because i’ve decided to move back there in the future (hopefully not too distant). Doesn’t matter where i live, New York is the place that always feels like home to me.
It’s been ages since i heard or thought of this song, but it’s the one that’s been showing up in my head these days. (Along with Shattered, of course.) Was going to send this in for an earworm, but i figured it would probably scare off the horses. Came out in 1983, the year i graduated college and when i decided to move to NYC the first time. Nina rocks. This is my favorite youtube comment -