Wednesday 31 October 2012

Glam Slam

Whilst clearing up in the cave (clearing up or moving things round?) I found a copy of an old double album entitled Glam Slam.
The sleeve states: "The Definitive Glam Rock Collection" - but is it?
Here's the TV advert:

Here's the track listing:

Slade -  Mama Weer All Crazee Now
Gary Glitter -  Do You Wanna Touch Me
Suzi Quatro -  Devil Gate Drive
Elton John -  Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)
Rod Stewart -  You Wear It Well
T Rex -  Get It On
Sweet -  The Ballroom Blitz
Gary Glitter -  I'm The Leader Of The Gang
Glitter Band -  Angel Face
Mott The Hoople -  All The Young Dudes
Faces -  Cindy Incidentally
Wizzard -  Angel Fingers
Slade -  Cum On Feel The Noize
Alice Cooper -  School's Out
Sweet -  Blockbuster
Wizzard -  See My Baby Jive
Rubettes -  Sugar Baby Love
Mud -  Tiger Feet
Bay City Rollers -  Bye Bye Baby
Hello -  New York Groove
Argent -  Hold Your Head Up
David Essex -  Gonna Make You A Star
T Rex -  Hot Love
Faces -  Stay With Me
Mott The Hoople -  All The Way From Memphis
10cc -  Rubber Bullets
Cockney Rebel -  Make Me Smile (Come Up And See Me)
Sparks -  This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us
Rod Stewart -  Maggie May

How many of the above are actually considered as part of the Glam Rock cannon?
T.Rex are often considered to be the originators of Glam Rock, Slade were there at the start and sort of got tarred with the brush, Wizzard and Roy Wood turned the colour up.  Sweet were the embodiment of "Brickies in Drag", whilst Gary Glitter was the ubiquitous face of Glam Rock (did he ever release a version of "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl"?).
But of the others?
Were Mott The Hoople really a Glam Rock band?  In the same way as Slade, I suppose they were.
What about Alice Copper?  By stretching the definition, you could probably say yes.
David Essex?  Pretty Boy, yes.  Adored by knicker-wetting pre-teens, yes.  Releasing records in 1972 to 1975, yes.  But not a Glam Rocker.
And what about The Rubettes?  Glam?  Here's the evidence:

The Rubettes - Calm down Ladies

Much of this album is from the Rock n Roll revival period directly following Glam Rock.  Wizzard probably led the way, but Mickie Most's Rak Records stable (including Mud and Suzi Quatro) and Bell Records (home of Glitter and Hello) all played a big part in shaping the charts.
And lets not forget Mike Chapman & Nicky Chinn who wrote most of the stuff.

Without wishing to invoke the Trades Descriptions Act, in what way could this album be considered definitive? Especially when you consider the ommission of the biggest name of the period.  Where is David Bowie?  Maybe K-Tel just couldn't afford the rights.

Perhaps it would've been better to title this album:
"We Wanted To Release The Definitive Glam Rock Album But Ran Out Of Ideas And Money.  Here's A Collection Of Some Of The Most Memorable Singles From The Period 1972 to 1976"
or maybe
"Now Thats What I Call Glam Rock ... Sort Of"

Glam Rock - It was just "basic" Rock & Roll, but performed after a visit to the dressing up box.

This is why The Faces are NOT a Glam band.
No, they are a Bloke Band - Music, Booze & Football (in that order)
The loosest, tightest live band ever.
They could've/should've been as big (if not bigger) than The Stones.
Combination of disillusionment (Ronnie Lane), poaching (Ronnie Wood), and solo success which surpassed the band (Rod Stewart) caused the end of the good time bar band, always performing with an air of mischief about them and a bloody big smile on their faces.

This is quite simply the best song on the Glam Slam album, if not one of the best songs ever written.
The Faces - Stay With Me

For an absolute History of The Faces, try this boxset (one of my favourites):
Five Guys Walk Into A Bar

They may not have been a Glam Rock band, but The Faces had just as much fun (if not more) than anyone wearing mascara and platform boots

Monday 22 October 2012

What Was The Best Year in Music?

If you were to ask anyone (specifically someone with a keen interest in music) "What was the best year for music?", the answers would probably be:
  • Now - nothing like living in the present
  • A random year between the ages of 12 and 20 - these are the (arbitary) ages when people are buying their first records (usually by the barrow full), going to their first gigs, developing their musical likes & dislikes and mixing with like-minded friends
  • A couple of years before their first record buying experience
Me, I fall firmly in the last category.
Prior to 1979 I was a football obsessive - more interested in Football Focus than Top Of The Pops
And then (to nick a phrase from Jarvis Cocker) Something Changed.
As previously stated, 1979 was the year I got my first tape recorder so I now had choice of what music to own and listen to.  I started to take proper notice of the music coming out of the radio and TV, rather than just accepting the odd novelty song and the Abba & Carpenters albums coming out of my parents car stereo.

The football obsession continued, but a realisation that having 2 left feet and an inability to kick a ball straight was never going to enhance my chances of being a professional footballer, so I thought I'd give Rock & Roll a go.  I discovered a couple of years later that a distinct lack of talent in this chosen field may also hamper my options.  (Maybe that's why I'm a Project Manager?)

And this was the song seen on Top Of The Pops that made me say: "this being in a band lark looks like a good career"
Similarly (not that I'm comparing myself to him), John Lennon stated in an interview with Tom Snyder in 1975: "I saw Elvis on the movie screen with all these girls screaming and I thought, that’s a good job!")

Dave Edmunds - Girls Talk

The song was written by Elvis Costello, and performed by Dave Edmunds with assistance from Nick Lowe, Terry Williams and Billy Bremner - collectively known as Rockpile.
Rockpile are perhaps one of the most under-rated and undiscovered bands to come from this period (or indeed any period).  A top notch live band (see 2011s Live At Montreux 1980 for proof of how powerful and tight a band can be), their solitary album (released in 1980 due to contractual difficulties with each member being tied to different companies) did not truly do the band justice.  There were 3 other albums recorded by the band, but these were released as Dave Edmunds solo albums (Trax On Wax 4 and Repeat When Necessary) and a Nick Lowe solo album (Labour Of Lust).  All are worth a listen if you get the chance.
The Nick Lowe solo single "Cruel To Be Kind" entered the charts as "Girls Talk" was on it's way down.  It was recorded by the same personnel, and if you can find the video on YouTube, it looks like it was filmed at the around the same location and time as "Girls Talk").
Not content with having a couple of singles and an album in his own name, the collaboration above, other production work (notably Elvis Costello), and becoming Johnny Cash's son-in-law he also found time to co-write and produce "Milk & Alcohol" for Doctor Feelgood.

So was 1979 the best year?  In the style of Lloyd Grossman "lets look at the evidence":

  • Blondie, The Police and Squeeze at the peak of their popularity and releasing some of their best singles
  • Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick at Number 1
  • Gary Numan
  • The first Top 10 single for the Jam ("Eton Rifles")
  • The Rock n Roll/Rockabilly Revival (featuring Racey, Darts, Rocky Sharpe & The Replays and Matchbox.  Showaddywaddy were still releasing singles too)
  • The Mod Revival (featuring Secret Affair, Purple Hearts and The Chords)
  • The first Specials album, and the birth of 2 Tone
  • The Disco of The Bee Gees
  • The Funk of Chic and Earth, Wind & Fire
  • The sheer diversity in the charts - not only did Gary Numan, Boomtown Rats & Blondie have Number 1 singles, but Art Garfunkel, Cliff Richard and Lena Martell also achieved the top position.
  • The song that signifies start of the 80s (Buggles - "Video Killed The Radio Star")
  • And the year was finished with a Pink Floyd single at number one.  The song that will forever be used by lazy TV & Radio researchers to show teenage rebellion against schooling

The evidence is compelling, and it is certainly a more interesting musical landscape than the Simon Cowell influenced homogeny clogging up the airwaves.
The FA Cup Final of 1979 wasn't too bad either (actually it was quite a boring game until the last 5 minutes when Man United scored two goals to equalise before Alan Sunderland (complete with 1970s perm and tache) scored the winner in the 89th minute).

This was the year I first became consumed by music - a passion which has never abated., and (much to the annoyance of my wife and my bank manager) probably never will.
OK, I'll never score in a Cup Final or play on stage in Ringo Starr's All-Star Band, but it will never diminish the enjoyment of hearing some random notes thrown together against a catchy melody with some added words.
And so, its back to the Gantt Charts and Earned Value Analysis, but this will be performed with a constant soundtrack around me and in my head.  You can take our lives, you can take our pride but you can never take away the music.

Friday 12 October 2012

The Big Question

For centuries, mankind has pondered the Big Questions.

  • The existence of God(s)
  • The creation of the Universes
  • The meaning of life
  • How come Coldplay are so popular
My brain is currently pre-occupied by a similar conundrum:
Is it pronounced Nestle or Nestlé?
And who decided that we should ignore the Milky Bar ads of the 70s & early 80s and add a European inflection?

Is it just the 'ponsification' of products, in a similar way when Walkers got rid of Beef & Onion, replacing them with Steak & Onion (Beef vs Steak - same thing, surely, but Steak sounds more expensive)

Anyway, heres proof from 1981 - it clearly says Nestles (without the accent on the e)

Tuesday 9 October 2012

The Jaaag - A Progress Report

In April, I fulfilled a dream by becoming the owner of a Jaguar.
The multiple 'a' in the title is because the name MUST be pronounced in a Terry-Thomas/Leslie Phillips/1950s Bounder type way.
And so 6 months on, is it a case of "Never Meet Your Heroes"?

Not quite.
At first I was somewhat daunted by the apparent size of the car, but after a short time I realised that it isn't much bigger than a Mondeo, and only a little bigger than the Renault Laguna which it replaced.
Once I'd got the size issues sorted in my head, and despite it being a diesel, it is the smoothest driving, most comfortable vehicle I have owned.  Previously, long journeys (ie in excess of 150 miles) usually necessitated at least one comfort stop.  But now 200 miles plus can be done easily,comfortably and with no need to stop and stretch the legs.

And now the downside:
In 6 months, I have had two punctures - once when a bolt went through the rear tyre, and secondly as a result of a small crack in the alloy wheel at the front (subsequently repaired).
EDIT: Since publishing this yesterday, make that 3 punctures - I had another puncture/knackered tyre today
The other prime annoyance has been the abundance of black smoke emitted from the exhaust when under hard acceleration (particularly embarrassing when overtaking cyclists).
This has been diagnosed as a problem with the Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) Valve, which gets clogged up with soot from burnt diesel fuel.  A common problem and a simple fix - I have a blanking plate which should prevent the dirty black plume happening.

Teething Problems? I'm sure they are, but none of it has detracted from my joy of ownership.

Driving around, lording it over the plebs in their lesser vehicles - maybe I should buy a sports jacket and a cravat to complete the transformation from suburban 40-something to a proper old-school cad.

The illustrative song choice is pretty obvious, but has to be done.
Queen - I'm In Love With My Car

Saturday 6 October 2012

I Did It

I finally managed to stop being a procrastinating idiot, and get on a train to London.
Brace yourself for a long(ish), meandering story:
The good people from The Afterword had arranged an evening event/meet-up (colloquially called a Mingle) at a pub in London (see previous post Metropoliphobia).
I have been promising myself/convincing myself to attend a London event for some time.  To stop me wimping out at the last minute with some feeble excuse, I made sure I bought the Train Tickets 2 weeks in advance, and printed a street map showing the route I needed to take from Oxford Circus Tube to Foley Street - there will be no backing out this time.
Friday arrived and I set off for the Bus to the Train Station.  This was the first (and thankfully) last puncture to my fragile confidence when the Bus was delayed en route due to two boarding passengers arguing with the driver about the validity of their tickets.  Someone on the bus lost their rag and suggested that the argumentative passengers either: "Pay the fare or get off the fucking bus - some of us have got to get to work"
Collected Tickets from the Self Service machine with no issues (was there ever going to be a problem?), and get onto the train within 5 minutes - "this is all a bit too easy" says the paranoid, self-defeating part of my brain.

Off the train, straight down to the Underground, 5 Stops and off at Oxford Circus.
Total Time spent travelling from to Central London: 90 minutes
Still seems too simple.  Maybe it is this easy, and I've just forgotten.  My in-built irrationality has been building this trip up into something akin to scaling the north face of Everest equipped with only wellington boots and an umbrella.  Nothing like it, in fact it was a piece of piss.

But ...
Following my copious studying of my map, I knew that I had to leave the Tube Station, head up Oxford Street for a bit, and turn left into Great Portland Street.
So I exited the Station, stopped and considered my bearings and decided to turn left believing that Great Portland Street was in the direction I decided to go.
It wasn't - I realised this when I passed Berwick Street and the Plaza Shopping Centre, and started to see the sign for Tottenham Court Road Tube Station in the distance.
I turned round, headed back up Oxford Street, passed Oxford Circus (again) and found Great Portland Street.  I was now heading in the right direction.
Fortunately, there were no more navigational errors and I found the King & Queen on Foley Street.
First things first - order a pint and then locate the Function Room.

I climbed the stairs, pint in hand - the moment was nearing when I, a socially inept/borderline misanthrope, would have to announce to a room full of strangers: "Hello, my name is Rigid Digit".
What was I worrying about?
I was warmly welcomed and introduced to the others who were already there.  A couple of people I had met before, but mostly the others I only knew electronically.  It was good to put faces to names.  The whole evening was relaxed, and both the beer and the conversation flowed.

I left just after 10pm, retraced my steps, bounced on the Tube at Oxford Circus (I went the right way this time), straight onto a fast train at Paddington and was back in Reading by 11:30.

Would I go again? Yes, definitely.  Standing in a pub Function Room talking about Alistair Crowley, Ian MacLagan's autobiography or the under-rated/unrecognised prodigiousness of Andy Partridge may not appeal to everyone, but I had a thoroughly enjoyable time.  And there was cake too.

Everything about the evening was positive:
- I didn't get mugged
- I didn't get lost
- I didn't get too drunk and end up making a tit of myself by dancing half naked on a table
- I didn't fall asleep on the train and end up in Swansea
- I did, however, discover that there are other people in the world with the same peculiar interest in the minutiae of music and pop culture as me

And, perhaps most importantly for me, I can now see the folly of my irrationallity with travelling to London - there really is no problem.

Amazing what wasting you're time staring at a computer screen and having conversations with people you don't really know can do for one's self-confidence.

Monday 1 October 2012

D'you Wanna See Some Puppies?

I'm a bloke - I like Football, Beer, Cars and Motorhead.
So writing about feelings, pets and domestic upheval isn't going to happen - WRONG!

We have 2 Dogs (1 Female (Nancy) and 1 Male (Merlin)).
Nancy was in season in late March, and although Merlin took a great interest and did try to become a daddy, he probably wasn't old enough.
The plan was to get him "done" in September, before Nancy was in season again.
Unfortunately, she had a second season at the end of July, and Merlin filled his boots.
Nancy got fatter, and we estimated/guessed the due date was as yesterday (30 September).  At about 3:00 pm, her waters broke and she seemed to be starting labour.  By 5:00, no puppies but the birth sack was being expelled from the dog.
An hour later, still nothing so I phoned the vets (this is Saturday, so it was the local out of hours service).
We arranged to take Nancy down, where she was assessed and  X-Rayed.  The problem was two puppies pushing down the birth canal at the the same time, hence causing a blockage.  The only way forward was for Nancy to have an emergency cesarean to extract the puppies.  This had to be done to prevent any further stress on Nancy and the unborn puppies.

It was a long, sober night.  At 3:00am Sunday morning, we were able to collect Nancy and her 5 puppies (originally it was 6, but sadly one didn't survive).

Firstly, I'd like to say a big Thank You to the people at VetsNow, Castle Street, Reading for all the work they did and the time they took - a definite reminder that there are still some thoroughly decent, helpful people about.
And secondly, I need to train myself not to walk round saying the above title to everyone I meet.

Right, I'm off to check the Fantasy Football Scores, drink Boddingtons, watch some Rallying, and listen to Lemmy.
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

PS Does anyone want a puppy?

Should I include a link to Cat Stevens singing 'I Love My Dog'?
No, I think that would be a step too far