Wednesday 27 February 2013

John Wesley Harding

... and the nomination for 'Best Film Soundtrack' is:

High Fidelity - as a book, I was engrossed when it was first published.  In fact, it was so good I read it again a couple of years later.  I think the appeal was the main character having his own record shop, being a 'music snob' record collector, and spending most of his life making lists (the Top 5 <insert subject of own choosing>).  Apart from the record shop ownership, it was basically a fictionalised version of myself.

When the film came out, I was initially concerned - the story had been re-located to Chicago, and the dynamic of the story seemed to have changed and was erring on the side of RomCom.
I watched the film with low expectations, and was pleasantly surprised by just how enjoyable it was (there was even a brief reference to Stiff Little Fingers, and an ever briefer playing of "Suspect Device").
"Suspect Device" didn't make it onto the soundtrack, but those tracks that did go together to make up what I believe is the best Soundtrack album available, certainly the most listened to that I own.

Track Listing:

"You're Gonna Miss Me" - 13th Floor Elevators
"Ev'rybody's Gonna Be Happy" - The Kinks
"I'm Wrong About Everything" - John Wesley Harding
"Oh! Sweet Nuthin" - The Velvet Underground
"Always See Your Face" - Love
"Most of the Time" - Bob Dylan
"Fallen for You" - Sheila Nicholls
"Dry the Rain" - The Beta Band
"Shipbuilding" - Elvis Costello & The Attractions
"Cold Blooded Old Times" - Smog
"Let's Get It On" - Barry Jive & The Uptown Five (Jack Black)
"Lo Boob Oscillator" - Stereolab
"Inside Game" - Royal Trux
"Who Loves the Sun" - The Velvet Underground
"I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever)" - Stevie Wonder

Within a few weeks of purchase, the CD collection had expanded to include: 'The Psychadelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators' and The Beta Band 'The Three EPs' - both essential purchases which I am indebted to John Cusak, and/or other Music Supervisors on the film for including.

Nestling at Track 4 was a curious little song.  An up-tempo tune about a down beat feeling (those moments when you just sort of "give up, and think everyone else is right and you're obviously wrong".  In amongst bands like The Velvet Underground and Love, this song stood out because of the noticeable english accent.
The only musical reference I had to "John Wesley Harding" was the Bob Dylan of the same name.
And although the lyrical construction and harmonies bore some resemblance, this bloke was obviously english.

So - who is John Wesley Harding?
He's a singer/songwriter who has (to date) released 19 albums, and published 3 novels.  The music is a mixture of Pop, Rock and Folk.  He was born In Britain, but has been resident in America since 1991.  This probably explains why he is relatively popular in America, and virtually unheard of in the land of his birth (if it wasn't for High Fidelity, I'd probably still never of heard of him).
Comparisons to Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and Bruce Springsteen (albeit with the suffix '-lite') are too easy, and don't do the singer justice.
The best way is to form your own opinion based on the following (albeit recent) examples below:

Is this song social commentary? a comment on the loss of choice and independence, and the increasing march of the corporate behemoths to sanitise and homogenise our towns and cities?
or is it, as The Times once described "Tie Your Mother Down" by Queen, 'Sheer Bloody Poetry'?

There's a Starbucks (Where the Starbucks Used To Be)

And how many different bands can you spot given a namecheck in this tune?

Making Love To Bob Dylan

Pieces Of The Past EP is available for Download on Noise Trade, containing both the above plus 3 other tracks

1. Making Love To Bob Dylan
2. There's A Starbucks (Where The Starbucks Used To Be)
3. Sing Your Own Song
4. When The Beatles Hit America (Recorded live on the radio, 1995)
5. Pieces Of The Past (acoustic demo)

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Which one is Monty?

How does a person develop their own sense of humour?

In most cases the influence comes from what your parents and peers have watched on TV, heard on the radio or read in books.
In other, admittedly strange, cases it comes from the pages of Shoot! magazine.
The premier football magazine of the 70s and 80s was a regular through my letterbox.  And in amongst all the stories of Mickey Droy being suspended for 3 games, Trevor Francis snapping his achilles tendon and Steve Daley not being the player that Malcolm Allison really wanted to spend £1.45 million on, was the page when a top player was aked a series of searching questions (Car you drive, favourite food, best goal scored, that sort of investigative journalism that gets to the heart of the personality involved).
In a peculiar, un-explainable piece of remembered trivia, Graham Rix answered the question 'favourite book' with: Monty Python's Big Red Book.

I'd heard of Monty Python, but being about 10, and incredibly confused by everything, I thought Monty Python was an actual person.  In fact, I thought it was the altar-ego/stage name of John Cleese (oh, how stupid was I?).

Coincidence is a funny thing - about a month or so after reading this I found a copy of the Big Red Book at a Scout Jumble Sale.  The first thing that confused me was it was actually blue.

Anyway, I spent my 20p - and there began a Monty Python infatuation that continues to this day.
'All roads lead to Python' - and they usually do.  Any conversation can easily (or by the application of some convuluted logic) end up at the words of the Pythons.

OK, I'll admit that not all the original TV shows stand up today, but there is usually at lease one or two flashes of comedy genius in amongst the forgotten punchlines, silly voices, and sometime surreal animations.
When they are good, they're very good.  When they're bad, they're still amusing.

The films on the other hand are always watchable, eminently quotable, and possibly some of the funniest things ever committed to celluloid (and yes, I am including The Meaning Of Life).

To check if there are other Python fans around, all you need to do is say: "Mais, ou sont la baggage?", and just check the response you get (probably, it'll be mostly confused looking people with that "ignore the nutter, he might go away" look on their faces).

So having watched the TV shows, seen the films, read the books and recited the sketches, what next for the fully fledged Python-bore?
The answer is this:

The book of the TV show scripts.  Volume 2 is also available covering the remaining shows from where Volume 1 finishes (as it would do really).

But a man cannot live by Python alone.
Other books which were instrumental in developing a skewed look at the world were:

Honourablke mentions should also go to: Douglas Adams ('Hicth-hikers Guide to The Galaxy' and the other books in the trilogy (in four parts)), John Lloyd ('The Meaning Of Liff') and, latterly, Spike Milligan.

And now my funny bone is being further tickled by possibly the funniest writer to ever put pen to paper:
P G Wodehouse.  My introduction to Wodehouse came with this compendium/compilation of short stories and excerpts from the novels of Blandings, Jeeves, The Drones, Psmith and Ukridge.

Stories from a world that no longer exists (or perhaps never did), a place where the absurd becomes the normal.  If you like to be gently amused by the power of the written word, and you've never read Wodehouse, do yourself a favour and seek out a copy of the above.  I doubt you'll be disappointed.

I'll leave you with just one question:
Is this the right room for an argument?

Thursday 14 February 2013

Now That's What I Call A Free Gift

Remember A Duff Decision - Now Rectified ?
My own post about changing magazine subscriptions from Q to Mojo.
Well the free gift/enticement for taking the said subscription has arrived.
(I say "Free", it actually cost 45 notes to take out the subscription, but I would've spent that, and more) buying of copy of the magazine each month anyway)

And I think it gave my postman a hernia:

Forever Changing - The Golden Age of Elektra Records 1963-1973

When discussing on the phone to Bauer the subscription options, the 5 CD Elektra Box Set was offered.  I honestly didn't think it would be this one.  Maybe the 5CD set, but no this Limited Edition version.

So what do you get?

Packaged in a 12" x 12" box, this Deluxe Version includes an illustrated hardback book, four prints of classic Elektra record sleeves, a set of artist postcards of Elektra artists, an illustrated discography, and a CD-ROM copy of Jac Holzman and Gavan Daw's book "Follow The Music." 
You don't get that with an MP3!

And the music?
Love, The Doors, Tim Buckley, MC5, The Stooges, Bread, Queen - all names I'm familiar with.
But also those I've heard of/about, but never listened to: Judy Collins, Phil Ochs, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Delaney & Bonnie.
And a clutch of names I've never even heard of: Judy Henske, Kathy Larisch & Carol McComb, Ars Nova, Paul Siebel - and more

I'm about to immerse myself in all things Elektra, and thoroughly looking forward to the prospect.

But, why the long face (as the barman said to the horse (or was it Celine Dion)?
The box is 12" x 12" and I don't have enough free space on the shelf to store it with any sort of "showing off" capability.  Oh well, time for some more re-organisation.

From one of my favourite Elektra albums, Love - 'Forever Changes', I give you, for your entertainment and digest, "Alone Again Or" (which is what I will probably be whilst listening to all 5 discs of this set)

Friday 8 February 2013

Now There's A Coincidence

and yes it is a coincidence (honest).
With the world (or perhaps just the BBC) going Vinyl Crazy at the moment ('Golden Age Of The Album' ... 'Danny Bakers Great Album Showdown', re-recording Please Please Me ... yada yada yada - all of which, I am watchng and enjoying, and will doubtless be watching again), I've got my turntable back and working as it should be (ie it is no longer hidden away upstairs in my office/den/cave/dunghole, and played as rarely as Halleys Comet).
We're currently having some building work done chez Digit, and as a result the stereo has been moved from the lounge to the dining room.
The opportunity was taken to trim down the current system, removing the MiniDisc and Cassette Player which haven't been used for many years (time for an e-bay sellers account, I think).
Having arranged the system in it's new home, thus:

it became obvious that there was a disparity in heights when standing next to each other - something about 3 inches to 6 inches high was needed.

Not to worry, I've got just the thing:

My Pioneer PL-300 Turntable.  It's about 30-odd years old (although I've only owned it for about 8 years) and boasts an exceptionally smooth and quiet motor, properly balanced tone arm and a platter that spins like its floating on air bearings.
Set it up last weekend, and even got a spirit level out to check it was properly level.

And the first record played on it?  AC/DC - 'High Voltage'
And so after about 3 years of "not really listening to vinyl properly", the first thing that comes flying out of the speakers is this:
AC/DC - It's a Long Way To The Top (If You Wanna Rock N' Roll)

What a fantastic noise, which leads to one obvious question.  Why did I only ever buy 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap' and 'Back In Black' on CD?

And so with all the nostalgic reflection of vinyl and it's analogue supremacy, does it sound any different?
Well, there is a slight difference in sound to these ears, but not a massive difference that makes you want to burn all CDs in some sort of pagan ritual.  They can happily co-exist in my world.

Good job I still had the turntable, because buying a new one is (a) potentially expensive, and (b) fraught with difficulty, as this bloke discovered:

My weekend will now be spent trawling the vinyl collection and re-discovering those half forgotten (and never upgraded to CD) albums.
There's a veritable treasure trove to go through, including such high points as:

  • Warlock - 'Triumph and Agony'
  • Helloween - 'The Keeper Of The Seven Keys Parts 1 and 2'
  • New York Dolls - 'Too Much Too Soon'
  • Hanoi Rocks - 'Oriental Beat'
  • Dire Straits - 'Love Over Gold'
    (don't laugh, its a good album.  Plus it has "Private Investigations" and "Telegraph Road" on it)
And this album is my most recent re-discovery.
Joanna Dean - 'Misbehavin'
Released in 1988, Joanna Dean has one of those bluesy, raspy, powerful voices (think comparisons to Janis Joplin and Bonnie Riatt), and backed up by a half decent, bluesy, hard rocking band.
This track ("Ready For Saturday Night") is the first track on the album (which also includes a more than decent take of "Gimme Shelter"))

The Vinyl Odyssey continues ... and it is HONESTLY just a coincidence that it is happening whilst the BBC is going Black Vinyl Bonkers.

Saturday 2 February 2013


When I play music (I say "play" what I actually mean is put on a 7" single, LP or CD, not an impromptu performance on guitar and mouth organ (with cymbals attached to my knees)), the resulting cry from the family is: "Do you have to listen to that, it's a bit rubbish.  Oh, and it's too loud"

Yesterday morning, whilst driving my daughter (14) to school, The Undertones "Teenage Kicks" came on the radio.
"This", I said to the usually uninterested, slightly moody young lady, "is a CHOON - it makes you want to jump around the place like a loony"
"Yeah", she said in that way where she is just humouring her old man, "I've heard it before, it's alright"

The next line that emanated from her mouth were words that just make you love your children even more:
"It's much better than nowadays music, most of that's rubbish"

"Teenage Kicks" is one of those songs that you never tire of hearing, and takes it's place in the All Time Best Ever Stuff, along with:
"Another Girl Another Planet" - The Only Ones
 "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" - The Clash
"Like A Rolling Stone" - Bob Dylan
"And Your Bird Can Sing" - The Beatles
"Won't Get Fooled Again" - The Who
(and many others I'm sure - you will probably have your own lists, but this is a selection of mine)

From the first beat of the drums, the kick of the guitar riff, followed by Feargal Sharkey's quivering vocals, is there a more adrenaline filled, joyous rush than this song?  And then 2 and a half minutes later, it's all over.