Friday, 15 October 2021

Jimmy Barnes - Working Class Man

 Late 1985 / Early 1986 (not sure of the exact date) I won a competition on local radio station Radio 210 (about to be re-branded as 2-TEN since it was now on FM, and about to ditch it's 210 metres Medium Wave signal).

Whilst I can't remember the date, I can remember the question: "Who came alive at Reading in 1980?"

The answer is/was Slade, and for knowing the name of their 1980 Live EP netted me the princely prize of 6 singles.
4 of the singles have been lost to the mists of my memory (although one was Stan Campbell I think?), and they are probably somewhere on the shelf.

But the ones I do remember are a re-release of Blondie's "Denis" (in a blue sleeve, as opposed to the more common red one) and Jimmy Barnes "Working Class Man".
Nope, I had no idea who Jimmy Barnes was - and if I'm being cynical (Qui Moi?) I think it was the DJ just clearing his desk of that weeks promo detritus that had landed.
(which is probably the reason for those old local radio competitions).

Jimmy Barnes ...

He is an Australian singer who had some (Australian) success in the past with Cold Chisel - pretty much unheard of in the UK, but in the top 3 or 4 hard rock/bar rock bands doing the rounds in Australia alongside AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, Radio Birdman, The Saints, and early INXS.

Cold Chisel had split in 1983 and Jimmy released a solo debut in 1984 (in Australia only).
Somehow, this got to the ears of David Geffen, and he was duly signed up, plonked in a studio.Geffen must have had high hopes for Barnes as he was assisted in the recording by a high class line-up including Waddy Watchel (Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon et al), Johnathan Cain and Neal Schon from Journey, Mick Fleetwood banging pots on a couple of tracks, and backing vocals provided by Kim Carnes.

If you want to make in-roads to the American market surround yourself with those that have already done it.

Now ... not knowing the singer, and going only by the single cover - all clad in denim - my expectation was  a sort of sub-Springsteen/Bob Seger Blue Collar Rock with an AOR sheen.
Well - and bearing in mind the above cast list - that is sort of what I got. I'm not sure the first impressions of the cover did him many favours.  But ... the voice - it was rough, tough, with a shouty blues-y edge.

The single sold by the shed-load in his homeland, and the album continued the usual sales business.  But in the US?  Nitto.
Even the placement of the title track in the film Gung Ho didn't have any effect (the fact the film pretty much tanked at the Box Office probably didn't help either).

The album (which again can't have sold in the numbers intended as I picked it up for a quid) bore the same cover photo. Originally titled 'For The Working Class Man', and later re-titled/re-issued as 'Jimmy Barnes'.
(I listened again recently, and it may not make me say "this is an undiscovered classic", I can't really find fault with it)

And despite the Gung Ho (see what I did there) all-out attack on the US market, there's something defiantly honest, balls-out, and defiant about the it,  Whilst the songs may not be earth shattering, or pushing for inclusion in a journos All Time Top (whatever) lists, there is nothing wrong with them at all.  Throughout, the music is clean, the band well played, and the singing top notch (if all that is a little hampered by an "of it's time" feeling with all the mid-80s production tricks stopping the needles going into the red).

Despite Geffen's (un-rewarded) investment, Jimmy Barnes did make an impression on the US chart (and in the UK) when he provided vocals on the Lost Boys Soundtrack, backed up by Aussie mates INXS ("Good Times" being the most successful and best known, and "Laying Down The Law").

Jimmy Barnes may never have made it out of the Southern Hemisphere, but he's still selling albums and regularly topping the charts in Australia and New Zealand

Working Class Man

Monday, 4 October 2021

Iron Maiden - Senjutsu / Manic Street Preachers - Ultra Vivid Lament / Public Service Broadcasting - Bright Music

 My plan with this here blog thing is to write about old and newly released albums with equal relish.

The intention was to focus on at least one album a month and write something informed (and sometimes excitable) about a current 5" silvery disc filling the quieter moments in my house.

In the main, I think I started well but tailed off in the Summer - and then September comes along and provides 3 new albums all deserving a write-up.
And as they all arrives within a couple of weeks of each other, I've crammed the listening in, formed opinions and thoughts about them, but not had enough time with them to create an aimless stream of conscious post about each of them.

So let's just bung em all in one post, and offer a mini-review of each

Iron Maiden - 'Senjutsu'

You can't be in the game for 40+ years without knowing what your audience want, what your artistic muse craves, and how to deliver both with quality.
Iron Maiden have managed a high quality output (bar a couple of mis-steps) through their life.  And with 'Senjutsu' they've kept the hit rate going.
Similar to recent albums, they're proggy tendancies are indulged - only 2 of the 10 tracks are below 5 minutes.  But as with Maiden of the near past even the epic moments are filled with melody, invention and commitment.
All the hallmarks are there - duelling guitars, traded solos, bass harmonics, solid drums with Nicko's ride cymbal playing a part, topped of with clear, almost operatic, vocal delivery.
"The Writing On The Wall" is the obvious pick - mixing proggy-Maiden with galloping-Maiden - but "Days of Future Past", "The Time Machine", "Darkest Hour" and "Death of the Celts" are fine additions to the cannon.
It may be 80+ minutes across 2 discs, but worthy of the time investment.

Manic Street Preachers - 'Ultra Vivid Lament'

Another year, another Manics album - and (like Iron Maiden above) their quality quotient remains high.
Yes, they have a tendency to be a bit insular, rail against politics (sometimes me thinks slightly naively) and use the word "revolution" quite a lot.
But the sometimes 6th Form Poetry, and the ever present reading of a lyric as a "missing Richey" moment, can more than be forgiven when bolted to tunes like these.
One can't help but notice (or say again) that since the loss of Richey Edwards, the Manics output has adopted a tunesmithery and emotion that was perhaps lost in the early days posturing.
The album is not without some slightly flawed moments - "Don't Let The Night Divide Us" is a bit filler-esque, and the duet with Mark Lanegan "Blank Diary Entry" just doesn't seem to fit - they have succesfully pulled in co-vocalists before (Ian McCulloch on the near epic "Some Kind Of Nothingness" being a good example) but this one just doesn't work as perhaps all parties hoped for.
Although, lay that off against tracks like "Still Snowing in Sapporo", "Orwellian" and "Afterending" then those flaws are more than forgiveable.
And speaking of duets, the co-vocal with Julia Cumming on "The Secret He Has Missed" upholds the trend of there being at least one sure-fire classic Manics single on each album

Public Service Broadcasting - Bright Magic 

Public Service Broadcasting's modus operandi is to find a concept/story (Public Information Films, the Space Race, Welsh Mining Industry), find archive documentary, and weave an atmosphere around it all.
With this album though, they don't have the "hook" of a story I (and others) know of, and can then go "on the journey" with them,.
What they have done is eschewed the archive and created a full concept celebrating Berlin.
Being simple about it, it's Public Service Broadcasting's trademark trance-like, indie/dance grooves, bolted to Krautrock, with moments of Berlin-era Bowie ("The Visitors" would not be too far out of place on 'Low').
"Im Licht" and "Lichtspiel II: Schwarz Weiss Grau" are two particular highlights, and nestled away in the middle of the album is (a firm contender for The Song Of The Year/Earworm Of The Year) "Blue Heaven" which evokes both Marelene Dietrich and Goldfrapp in equal measure.
This is their 4th full album, and one suspects there must be a duffer somewhere - well 'Bright Magic'; is most definitely not that album.

Iron Maiden - "The Writing On The Wall"

Manic Street Preachers - "The Secret He Has Missed"

Public Service Broadcasting - "Blue Heaven"

Friday, 24 September 2021

A Best Of Volume 2 Is Not Supposed To Be Better Than Volume 1

But in the case of Manfred Mann's Earth Band that is what happens.

A Best Of is usually a contractual obligation, or a record company curated collection of the highlights of a bands time on a label (or if they own or can afford the licensing, the bands entire career).All compiled together in one easy to digest, and comfort creating package.

If a Volume 2 appears then it's either that the band has a second-wind, and hence another 5 or 10 years of highlights to flog (again), or it is the last scrapings of the barrel as the label tries to eek as much from the investment as possible - with lesser known "hits", album tracks, out-takes and demos thrown out to earn a quid/dollar.

The Best Of Manfred Mann's Earth Band has all the big highlights one would hope for - including "Blinded By The Light", "Davy's On The Road Again", and a very fine live version of "Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn").  One big omission here though is "Joybringer" - although this is more as a result of me owning the Warners 1996 issue, rather than the expanded and re-mastered 1999 version.
Still, despite my incorrect ownership, I can report that the contents of said album are very good - nary a duff listen.  It's a bit jazzy, a bit proggy, a bit mid-Atlantic AOR, but it can get a bit ponderous at times.  Although, hang about, it'll be back on form in a minute.
It rocks along nicely - just in a gentle, sort of unchallenging way.
If I pretended I was reviewing it for a published magazine, I'd give it a 6 (maybe 7) out of 10.

Manfred Mann's Earth Band basis was to (sort of) re-visit the 60s idea of trawling around for the best unheard songs that they could record (and make their own) along with an equal volume of Band-penned tracks (possibly including a new reading of a classical music passage - a trick oft performed by Prog peers Emerson, Lake & Palmer).
If Volume 1 shows their appreciation of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, then Volume 2 continues the thread.

The Best Of Manfred Mann's Earth Band Volume II just feels a stronger set - it feels like there is some thought put into the track listing rather than "what singles got the highest in the chart?" of Volume 1.

Bob Dylan is present with renderings of "Times They Are A Changing", "Shelter Form The Storm", and "It's All Over Now Baby Blue".
No Bruce Springsteen on this one but Al Stewart gets a royalty with "Eyes Of Nostradamus", and Doug Hollis & Graeme Douglas get a bank balance boost with a strangely 80s-centric, but insistent and eminently listenable version of Eddie & The Hot Rods "Do Anything You Wanna Do".
And exalted songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller are represented with Shirley Bassey's finest "I (Who Have Nothing)"

Among all the songwriters, the name Gustav Holst appears on the final track.  Yup, the 2 volume collection is rounded off with "Joybringer" - and yes it does.


Quinn The Eskimo

Friday, 17 September 2021

Jim Bob - Who Do We Hate Today

Jim Bob Morrison was 50% of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine.  Carter split in 1998 after 3 very very good albums, a couple of nearly good albums, and one that was just about OK (although their moment had obviously passed).
I admit not following their careers after the band ended, but Fruitbat remains active (albeit in a low key way) while Jim Bob penned 5 novels, 2 autobiographies, and released 13 albums in 20 years.
(Looks like I may have a bit of catching up to do)

And then in early Summer whilst traversing a Youtube rabbit-hole, I stumbled across a new single from the floppy haired Carter vocalist - "that's a bit good" thought I.

The Summer Of No Touching

Commentary from first Lockdown experience, including the lyrical observations:
"The streets were completely deserted, I pretended I was Cillian Murphy"
"Me, I get my facts from whatever David Icke says, And old rock star from the 90s"

And then brought back to the stark image at the end of:
"And me? I'm still waiting here outside Tesco, Self-medicating with my Domestos"

The parent album was procured soon after release in August, and there is little to fault with it.

13 vignettes of Modern Life as seen through the eyes of the narrator - it's not a Covid Concept album, but with all that is happening it sort of ends up feeling that way.
Songs like "Karen Is Thinking Of Changing Her Name", "Song For The Unsung (You're So Modest You'll Never Think This Song Is About You", vie for attention against ecological concerns - "The Earth Bleeds Out" and "Wheres The Back Door, Steve" - and unreconstructed characters - "Shona Is Dating A Drunk, Woman Hating Neanderthal Man", "#prayfortony".

The musical backdrop is vaguely familiar and comfortable, and lyrically the listener moves from applauding the worldplay to nodding their head and thinking "good point!".

The closing track ("Who Do We Hate Today") can be read as a rumination over why certain factions of humanity wake up and spend their day looking for someone or something to fault and blame.
I'd argue this short track is Jim Bob's Peace and Love moment, and leaves the listener to ponder their own path - "be positive in these negative times" is what I took from it.

And all rolled out in under 40 minutes - that's enough time to give it another listen.  It deserves it.

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Ordinary Boys

In the Summer of 2004, I'm wandering the aisles of FOPP looking for something new to listen to.

As is often the way with (memories of) FOPP, I'm laden with back catalogue CDs that are too well priced to ignore.  At between £3 and £5, it's difficult to say "No".  And even more difficult when you get to the counter and they say "Ah, you've spent over £20 - would you like these couple of extra CDs for a couple of quid each?".

As I approach another aisle looking for anything that might be of interest, or filling a gap in the catalogue, a sound comes over the in-store speaker - a recognisable chug-a-lug guitar riff, and then the opening statement: "Radio play just depresses me today".
Do you know, I think you may have a point.  A little later came the lyric "Originality is so passe" - it's a little sub-Morrissey, but I respect your opinion.

So I wandered some more aisles and listened so more: "I'm pretty sure I'll be buying this" thought I.
And then came a cover version of The Specials "Little Bitch" - that made my mind up.

Now 2004 wasn't exactly a fallow year - Green Day 'American Idiot', Franz Ferdinand's debut, The Libertines second (and for a while last), Morrissey 'You Are The Quarry', Graham Coxon 'Happiness In Magazines', U2 'How To Dismantle an Atom Bomb', The Streets 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' - but it wasn't exactly a rare old year.  Not too many albums destined to bother the "All Time Best Of The Best You Must Hear Ever" Lists.
And the one I heard tracks from that day in FOPP probably won't be bothering that list either, but still stands as one of the finest from that year.

'Over The Counter Culture' was The Ordinary Boys debut release was 12 tracks of energy and passion set to music with echoes of The Jam, The Smiths, The Clash, The Specials.  There is also a certain brit-centricness to the lyrics and vocal delivery evoking a Ray Davies-ish influence.

It's a little bit Modern life Is soooooooo Rubbish, mixed with a bit of attempted Social commentary falls slightly short - which has a tendency to veer into cliche.  And OK, some of it is a bit formulaic, and "of it's time".  But there's something there that makes this album a bit sticky and returnable.

Maybe it's the overt way it's influences are presented in each song, a combination of strong melody delivered with youthful exuberance.  Even possibly the odd Terrace Chant Yobbo anthemic quality of some of the choruses.  It just makes you smile and restores the belief that music is about enjoyment

There were other albums available operating in similar territory, delivering similar goods at the time - but The Ordinary Boys seemed to me (not always the best judge) to be leading from (near) the front.
I really did believe they had a future, maybe with a little bit of extra press support and media exposure.

And when their follow-up - 'Brassbound' - arrived in 2005, I remained convinced.  Especially when preceded by the strong ska-heavy-with-a-whiff-of-Madness single "Boys Will Be Boys" arrived.
A second single "Life Will Be the Death of Me" arrived in late Summer, and despite my beliefs, it tanked.
And then came the media exposure that the band needed - lead singer Preston signed up to Celebrity Big Brother in early 2006.  He came fourth, "Boys Will Be Boys" latterly (and possibly deservedly) rose to the higher reaches of the singles chart.

Their third album 'How To Get Everything You Ever Wanted In Ten Easy Steps' arrived in late 2006.  It's not a bad album, but does sound a bit watered down and heavily produced.
How to describe it?
If 'Over The Counter Culture' is 100%, then 'Brassbound' is 75% ("still pretty fine, but missing something").  By that marking, 'How To Get Everything ...' scrapes in at 30% ('a bit better than a contractual obligation, listenable, but not essential).

And then came the moment that defines Preston, and by association The Ordinary Boys - he walks off Never Mind The Buzzcocks in a strop.
Now, be fair Simon Amstell was being a bit of an arse, but the petulant walk-off really didn't help his case or record sales.

'Over The Counter Culture' to my ears sits with those other albums up there as the "go to" listening for 2004.  The band may not have been able to sustain the impact of their debut, but a 1 in 3 hit rate is not bad going.
And on the bright side, Preston can look forward to constant re-runs of his TV moment in those Channel 5 "When TV Doesn't Go Very Well" programmes or an ITV2 special entitled "When Celebrities Walk Off Telly Like A Spoilt Child".
He can also take solace in the fact Piers Morgan was just copying him.

Over The Counter Culture

Little Bitch

Boys Will Be Boys

Monday, 23 August 2021

Withnail And I

I've plumbed the depths of Netflix and Amazon, and consumed just about every Police procedural drama it has to offer.
Except the Scandinavian ones ... this might be a simplest redux, but all that chunky knitwear and staring out of windows just doesn't hook me.  And maybe this is a sign of my intellect, or inability to concentrate, but the sub-titles detract from the story for me.

And so I return to the stack of previously watched, and always enjoyed DVDs.  That cache of films that you shove on when you just need some comfort, and can recite the script along with the moving pictures.
And one such film is a relatively low budget offering from the mid-80s, which has assumed cult status, yet still has people saying "and what's so great about that then?"

If the greatness of a film is judged by it's quotability, then Withnail And I is up there with the best of them.
I get the impression that it is a bit of a Marmite film - those that like it tend to love it, quote it, and watch it fairly regularly. Those that dislike it (and you can only dislike something if you've actually seen it) really cannot see what the attraction is.  2 unemployed actors living in squalor get drunk a lot, and then go on holiday - big deal.

And it's not an easy sell (as that last sentence suggests ... but here goes

Written by Bruce Johnston, it is loosely (although he has never divulged how loosely?) based on his student days.
Set in 1969, Withnail and I tells the story of 2 out of work actors clinging to the notion that their big break is just round the corner, and so are content to stay in a dingy flat in Camden waiting for that time.
But how to fill the time?  Copious amounts of alcohol, greasy breakfasts, a walk in Regents Park and a scant refusal to clean up the flat.
Needing a break from this drudgery (or full schedule?), it's time to change the backdrop and secure Withnail's rich uncle's holiday cottage - a somewhat remote, cold, powerless building in the Lake District.
Woefully unprepared for life in the country, they bumble through until the arrival of Uncle Monty and his un-warranted advances.  Monty leaves with his tail between his legs, and then the pair are recalled to London as there is the offer of a stage play.
Withnail - who has no Driving License - decides to speed up the return by driving back as fast as he can, and is then arrested.
They arrive back at the flat to find Danny The Dealer espousing (*his own peculiar) politics:

"I don't advise a haircut, man. All hairdressers are in the employment of the government. Hair are your aerials. They pick up signals from the cosmos and transmit them directly into the brain. This is the reason bald-headed men are uptight."

 "We are 91 days from the end of this decade and there’s gonna be a lot of refugees."

"If you're hanging on to a rising balloon, you're presented with a difficult decision - let go before it's too late or hang on and keep getting higher, posing the question: how long can you keep a grip on the rope? They're selling hippie wigs in Woolworth's, man. The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over. And as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black."

Danny : The joint I'm about to roll requires a craftsman. It can utilise up to 12 skins. It is called a Camberwell Carrot.

Marwood : It's impossible to use 12 papers on one joint.

Danny : It's impossible to make a Camberwell Carrot with anything less.

Withnail : Who says it's a Camberwell Carrot?

Danny : I do. I invented it in Camberwell, and it looks like a carrot.

Breaking this spaced outedness is Marwood's discovery of a letter informing the pair of their eviction.
He packs his bags, has one final walk (with a spaced and drunk) Withnail in Regents Park, and credits roll

(see, I told you it wasn't an easy sell)

But it's what happens between those (mundane?) plot points that make the film.
Yes it is highly quotable, some of the lines and situations could almost be Python-esque, but there is a darker under-current to it all, but is delivered by 2 characters that veer on the grotesgue (well ,one certainly does) but you can't help but root for them, and feel some of their anxiety.

The amount of alcohol consumed in the film gives rise to a Student Drinking Game where one must imbibe along with the film.

(from wikipedia)

There is a drinking game associated with the film. The game consists of keeping up, drink for drink, with each alcoholic substance consumed by Withnail over the course of the film.
All told, Withnail is shown drinking roughly ​9 1⁄2 glasses of red wine, one-half pint of cider (with ice in), one shot of lighter fluid (vinegar or overproof rum are common substitutes), ​2 1⁄2 measures of gin, 6 glasses of sherry, 13 drams of Scotch whisky and ​1⁄2 pint of ale.[49]

Already seen the film?  Watch it again
Intrigued by the film (despite my best efforts to knacker it)?  Give it a watch, and see which way the Marmite falls

And if all else fails, watch the trailer:

Saturday, 7 August 2021

A New Beginning

 Other titles considered:

  • The Times They Are A-Changing
  • New Life
  • Just Like Starting Over
  • Fings Aint Wot They Used T'Be

What am I on about?

I started work 34 years ago this month - and I'm still with the same employer.

I started on a 4 Year Apprenticeship, did a year in the Inspection and Metrology Lab, a short stint in the Drawing Office, and then landed up as a Project Planner.  A return to learning saw me progress through Cost Engineering, Project Management, Commercial Management, and then I settled into Project Controls (basically, telling the Project Manager they are an idiot!).  And I've been in that world for last 25 years.

But now, at the age of 51, I have made the decision to leave the comfort zone behind and move to the Dark Side of IT - I will be administering and maintaining the Integrated Business System across Projects, Finance, Supply Chain,and Human Resources (Oracle Fusion, if you're interested.  Or even care).  The main focus is Projects, so it's still Project Controls per se, and I will bring with me the issues and failings of using the System at the coal-face.

And so I am now placing myself on a vertical learning curve with all the fun of remote working (for a little while longer at least) while my new colleagues have to get used to my unique, grumpy, sarcastic ways of doing things.
I admit to a little fear in this move, but what's the worst that can happen?

Will it prove to be the right decision?  Who knows, but Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained.

And, NO - I will not musically illustrate this post with Bucks Fizz 1986 post Coach crash comeback single (Mamba Seyra with knobs on!).

Instead I'll ask the question: when this lot lost their founding member, songwriter, and all round visionary, did they really believe that they would still be achieving relative success 40 years later?
(and why did every Radio 1 DJ of the time have a different way of pronouncing their name?)

Depeche Mode - New Life

Friday, 30 July 2021

Something Happened In The Summer of 1991

1991 was a relatively inoffensive year.

As far as the Singles Chart goes, the year was book-ended by Iron Maiden's "Bring Your Daughter (To The Slaughter)" - not one of their greatst songs - and "Bohemian Rhapsody" returning to the toppermost of the poppermost following Freddie Mecrury's shuffling of this mortal curl in November.
In between that there were a couple of novelty records ("Do The Bartman", Hale & Pace's "The Stonk), but the baulk of the year was taken up by Bryan Adams with that song and Cher Shoop Shoop-ing a lot.

Album-wise, Eurythmics clocked up 10 weeks with 'Greatest Hits', and Simply Red managed 4 with 'Stars'.
Away from the coffee table, REM hit the top (and international success) with 'Out Of Time', and perhaps surprisingly U2s 'Achtung Baby' which confirmed, re-inforced, and even enhanced their reputation as one of the biggest bands in the world never hit the summit (probably due to the Freddie situation which saw 'Greatest Hits II' take the top spot for the final 5 weeks of the year)

But away from the top of the commercial charts, there were some none too shabby albums to be had 

  • Blur 'Leisure'
  • Billy Bragg 'Don't Try This at Home'
  • Carter USM '30 Something'
  • Elvis Costello 'Mighty Like A Rose'
  • Farm 'Spartacus'
  • Jesus Jones 'Doubt'
  • KLF 'The White Room'
  • Levellers 'Levelling The Land'
  • Kirst MacColl 'Electric Landlady'
  • Massive Attack 'Blue Lines'
  • My Bloody Valentine 'Loveless'
  • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers 'Into the Great Wide Open'
  • Saw Doctors 'If This Is Rock and Roll, I Want My Old Job Back'
  • Saint Etienne 'Foxbase Alpha'
  • Teenage Fanclub 'Bandwagonesque'
  • Tin Machine II (well, I like it)
  • Wonderstuff 'Never Loved Elvis'
Special mention too for two compilations which reminded punters that the past is something that should be embraced.  As compilations go, these fall into the category of "not a duff tack on it"

  • Specials - Singles
  • Thin Lizzy - Dedication

But ... in amongst all this film-backed soppy number one singles, coffee table albums, and minority sellers that deserved better (see above), there was a moment in August and September which saw a string of albums which seemingly turned the music world on it's axis.
It was loud, it was brash, it found a ravenous audience, and most of it came from the US.

  • July
    • Mudhoney 'Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge'
  • August
    • Babes In Toyland 'To Mother'
    • Metallica 'Metallica'
    • Spin Doctors 'Pocket Full of Kryptonite'
    • Pearl Jam 'Ten'
  • September
    • Hole 'Pretty on the Inside'
    • Guns n' Roses 'Use Your Illusion I' and 'Use Your Illusion II'
    • Primal Scream 'Screamadelica'
    • Pixies 'Trompe le Monde'
    • Soundgarden 'Badmotorfinger'
    • Red Hot Chili Peppers 'Blood Sugar Sex Magik'
    • Nirvana 'Nevermind'
    • Status Quo 'Rock til You Drop'

If the 1960s (and arguably the early 80s) were termed the British Invasion, the surely those 3 months in 1991 is the US returning the favour.

Can you spot the ringer in that lot, the sole UK entry in the midst of the Grunge Invasion?

Primal Scream being un-Primal Scream like.  Unleashing their heady mix of dance beats, dub, acid house, funk and psychadelia - all mixed up with Stooges-lite/Stones-esque moments.  As much a product of the studio as it is a live band, Andrew Weatherall fashioned the bands demos into something that probably they, and indeed most of the listening public weren't expecting.  They'd never sounded like this before (really), and never sounded like this again.  And 'Screamadelica' remains one of their best, most acclaimed, albums.

It more than holds it's own against the US onslaught.
To consider a couple of them:

'Metallica' was the album that was smoothed by Bob Rock's production with the deliberate aim for commercial success.  Which was duly delivered.  The band sounds more direct, less complicated in construct, but (sadly) not as interesting or committed.

'Use Your Illusion' would've massively benefited by being shrunk to a single album.  Across 2 albums, there is just not enough variety in what they do to sustain

Pearl Jam's 'Ten' was more rock than grunge, but by associations of geography, the album became a key work of the genre.  Thing is, it is an "OK" album with a few undoubted high-points, but again feels limited in capability.

Spin Doctors 'Pocket Full of Kryptonite' was Grunge-Pop to be sold through quickly while the bandwagon was rolling.  There isn't too much redeeming or classic about this album (It's not bad - I listened to it again fairly recently - just not that great)

And now the sacred cow ...

Nirvana 'Nevermind' - If there is one record and one band that pretty much defines the genre and period, then it's this one.  A heady mixture of anger, angst, recycled riffs, energy, passion and attitude.
It is a great little album, but I'm just not convinced by the argument that it is one of the most important albums ever released.  Yes, I agree it's monumental and certainly created a shift in commercial attitudes and thinking, and indeed has a pervading influence.  But ... is it an absolute stone-cold classic?
I think it's gradual decline in those oft published "All Time Top 100 Best Ever Ever" lists is suggestive that maybe the content is not wall-to-wall stonkers, and that over-playing (and indeed over-mythologising) could be it's downfall too.

I know it looks like I've slaughtered 3 months of music, and it sounds like I haven't got a good word to say about any of them.  Not true, I like many of those albums, and still play them from time to time.  I'm just not convinced that they turned the music biz on it's head as the legend (and the rock press) would have us believe - and in the case of Metallica, Guns n' Roses and The Pixies, I'm not even convinced those are their best albums.
And of those clutch of albums that saw the light of day in those 100 days of Summer/Autumn 1991, the most returned to the turntable is ... Primal Scream 'Screamadelica'
(and that's not even my favourite of theirs)

Primal Scream - Loaded

Nirvana - Smells Like Teen Spirit

Weird Al Yankovic - Smells Like Nirvana

Saturday, 10 July 2021

ZZ Top

In December 2019, I took the whole month off work.  All that accrued holiday that I was unable to use in a stupidly busy year was splurged on a whole month of doing "not a lot".
And as I wasn't working, the razor stayed in the drawer and slowly ran out of charge, whilst I developed a lustrous beard.
(for "lustrous", read "patchy, with bits of grey")
And then came New Year and time to return to work, I kept the facial hair, trimmed it down a bit, and returned to work for a full 3 months until Covid took hold, and I've been working at home ever since.

The beard is now part of me, and I'm not getting rid of it.  I have harboured ambitions of getting it to ZZ Top standards, but for one dissenting voice shouting "oh no you're bloody not!".

The most famous beard wearers in all of Rock Music (apart from the drummer who is ironically called Frank Beard), Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard have been working together since 1969, with just a few solo sojourns in between.
(Are they the longest surviving band with no personnel changes?  They may very well be)
The early years of the band weren't as hirsute - Beards and tache, yes.  But not until 1979, and the release of 'Degüello' was the full length topiary that made their legend first seen.

My entry point to ZZ Top (like may others I'm sure) was 1983s 'Eliminator' - a bright, clean sounding but bluesy rocking slab of 12 tracks, which spawned 4 singles "Gimme All Your Lovin", "Sharp Dressed Man", "TV Dinners" and the lascivious "Legs".  The look of the band, and the visuals created by the album and it's sound sat them in prime position for MTV, and lap it up they did.
Although I didn't know it at the time, 'Eliminator' was another evolution of the bands desire to innovate and develop their sound - starting on the aforementioned 'Degüello - enhancing their basic 3 piece Bar Blues sound, using a range of synthesisers and studio technologies.

And what's so wrong with innovating and trying to stretch yourself?  Absolutely nothing, and fair play to them for doing so and keep it interesting.
But if anyone asks me (and they haven't yet) my advice would be that a fine place to start the ZZ Top journey is at the beginning in the swampy-blues sound of 'ZZ Top's First Album' (1971) or 'Rio Grande Mud' (1972).

Over and above those though, my go to "you must hear this" choice would be 1973s 'Tres Hombres'.
This is their third album and they've now got  feel for the studio, and are becoming more adept at recreating their sound in the studio confines - not going in, plugging in, and laying it down.  This album feels stronger than previous efforts - the playing is more solid, certainly at the bottom end - allowing the guitars to sit above the groove and the songs to bloom, rather than replicate what you would hear on stage.

There is much to like (and move your feet to) on the album.  From the somewhat funky-blues-boogie of opener "Waiting For The Bus" through "Jesus Just Left Chicago" to "Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers" and "Move Me On Down The Line".

But surely the standout track is "La Grange" - a John Lee Hooker-like Boogie, with a searing guitar bolted to it.
Undoubtedly one of the highest points in ZZ Tops's half decade, and one often overlooked in favour of the Beards, Cars, and Girls videos of 'Eliminator' and 'Afterburner'

Sunday, 20 June 2021

Nick Heyward - From Monday To Sunday

In the early 80s, Haircut 100 were ploughing a joyful jazz-funk type groove, and  realeased a clutch of truly great singles ("Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)", "Love Plus One", "Fantastic Day" and "Nobody's Fool") and one great album ('Pelican West') before falling apart and frontman Nick Heyward starting a sol career with moderate success (moderate compared to the critical and public adoration that Haircut 100 received, and could have continued to receive).
By 1986/87 success had all but dried up and Nick was probably consigned to the "Where Are They Now?" file.

And then in May 1994, snuck away on late night ITV (Bob Mills – In Bed With Me Dinner) Nick Heyward was introduced as the musical guest.  A near incendiary version of "Fantastic Day" flew out of the telly.  This was followed by "Caravan" – a track I didn’t know but I needed to hear again.  A cover version of The Jam’s "Sounds From The Street" finished things off.

Strange how 15 minutes of TV can have such an effect and re-launch a career in the viewer’s mind.

And here is the performance(s):

"Caravan" was from Nick's latest solo album 'From Monday To Sunday' which arrived in my sweaty little hands the following weekend (yes, this is a time when a trip to Our Price - or often other record shops if looking for something in particular - was a necessary pert of the process) and was probably played solidly for about a month (or more).

Although his solo career had never hit the heights investors hoped he was capable of, he'd somehow wound up signing to a major label (Epic) and was releasing his fourth solo set (something of a comeback, as it was his first album for 5 years).

There was a slight departure in sound too - the funk-edges of his previous work were replaced with Rock-centric tropes.  The melody and songcraft of old remained, but there was an injection of energy and jangle too.

At the time I first heard this album, Britpop was gathering pace, and it fitted the mould.  In fact, I see it now as one the pre-cursors - a sort of proto-Britpop, alongside names such as Boo Radleys, Primal Scream, Elastica, Gene, SMASH, These Animal Men, Menswear and Shed Seven

And to these ears 'From Monday To Sunday' is the beginnings of Britpop.  Its full of melody, strong songs, and rooted on this side of the Atlantic.  It takes near nostalgia such as The Stone Roses and blends with The Beatles, Squeeze and The Jam to fill out the picture.
A trick repeated by many a Britpopper.
And to my eyes, the album cover is a picture of a Full English Breakfast served in a greasy spoon cafe (completed with chequered vinyl tablecloth) - the type of British Culture celebrating image that would become a common site, most notably the pictures of Blur at the Dog Racing on the inner cover of 'Parklife' 

For me, it’s up there with Britpop touchstones 'Parklife', 'Definitely Maybe' and 'Stanley Road'.
And off the back of 'Stanley Road', Paul Weller was anointed The Modfather Of Britpop.
I'm not suggesting that Nick Heyward is the equal of Paul Weller, but they are certainly contemporary.

And who knows?  With a little more luck and recognition, he could be making guest appearances on albums and/or playing larger venues.  Instead, Nick remains on the 80s nostalgia circuit.

Maybe, just maybe, Nick fired too soon.

Quality is high across the album's 12 tracks - there is a danger that it can be seen as front-loaded with "He Doesn't Love You Like I Do", "Caravan", and "Kite" filling 3 of the 4 opening solts.
But no, there is more than enough of equal calibre filling the space.

The pick of the bunch for me is "kite" - it's rich, jangling, undertated and plain glorious.  This song says as much to me about the summer of 1994 as Parklife and Live Forever.

Also vying for attention of the yearning "How Do You Live Without Sunshine", the jumping (almost echoes of Haircut 100 past) "January Man", and closing track - the almost epic and yearning (again) "Everytime"

Life's like that, delicious with clause.

You never get the truth, just promises galore.

Don’t let them shoot your kite down


Thursday, 10 June 2021

Matt Berry - The Blue Elephant

Matt Berry is a bit like that kid at school where everything he turns his hand to is a success.  But his charisma prevents you from disliking the annoying over-achiever.

And so it is with his music career.  He's been releasing albums for a decade and a bit, and with this one he really has gone full polymath - playing all instruments (except the drums), writing, producing, arranging, even supplying the painting for the cover.

'The Blue Elephant' is a journey through summer sounds against a backdrop of 60s Garage-Psych, The Doors meets Deep Purple, Proggy moments, and even a near David Bowie vocal impression.  But it's not a retro exercise - this is as much a product of 2021 as the debt it owes to the past.  Breezily familiar yet brand new.  Relaxing yet occasionally jarring.  An exercise in audience pleasing as much as pleasing the artist himself.

Berry's sometimes over enunciated tones fit the musical styles, although the album is sometimes let down by weak lyrics.  Actually, those lyrics might be weak on purpose - maybe Matt Berry can't help himself returning to Comedy-type.

"It's a drag to be set on fire, I've been sacked from the choir, I came back to Bedfordshire"
("Now Disappear")

"There's something in the air, There's someone on the street, There's something in my hair, There's someone you should meet"
("Life Unknown")

"Me, me, I don't care, Don't touch my hair, Try not to stare"
"In my home, all alone, Hide my bone, Live alone, kill my phone, Watch my tone"
("Like Stone")

But the lyrics are a minor quibble - it's all about the music and ambiance that the album delivers.
"Abroad" is a breezy instrumental easing you in before "Summer Sun" goes full on 60s Garage-Psych.  Probably the most incessant (and best) track on here.  It is familiar yet unheard before.  A rare trick to pull off.
As you progress through the tracks, you get the notion that The Doors were something of a touchstone/reference point, even closely cribbing "Riders On The Storm" through the breakdown of  "Alone".
All tracks closely butt up to each other rendering the album best consumed as a whole rather than split out to individual tracks.
There are a couple of instrumental linking tracks - notably in the form of "Safe Passage" and "Safer Passage" which to these ears are the same track fed in different directions through the Tape Machine.
A trick I feel is repeated with "Story Told" and "Forget Me".  These two tracks are either a backward recording, or a forward and backward version combined.

After "Summer Sun", special praise goes to "Blues Inside Me" - a blues-rock / late 60s / Glam Rock stomp which starts in Jim Morrison territory before mutating into something that feels like an early David Bowie cut.

The listing of instruments used includes 11 varieties of keyboard ranging from piano, Wurlitzer, Hammond Organ, Vox Continental and a bank of synthesisers.
Vastly under-rated rock instruments like Xylophone and Glockenspiel are also listed, giving rise to the cry "More Glockenspiel!" as some tracks unfold.

Although Matt Berry plays everything (and at points feeds his vocals through a vocoder), in a lot of cases it's the drums that drive the songs - managing to stay on dead beat but with enough randomness and flourish to add more depth and colour to the picture.

There is much to like with 'The Blue Elephant', but aside from the 2 stand out tracks highlighted, one wonders how substantial the songs are.  In context, they work together creating an almost perfect soundtrack for relaxed summer evenings - as a whole it definitely hits a spot.  Just not convinced there is a "Great" album here - a "Very Very Good" one perhaps, but just falling short of Greatness.

Summer Sun

Blues Inside Me

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Derek And Clive

 Peter Cook and Dudley Moore first worked together in Beyond The Fringe with Alan Bennett and Jonathan Miller.
When Beyond The Fringe completed it's last tour, Dudley Moore was offered a BBC Series - Not Only But Also - showcasing his comedy and Music.  He brought Peter Cook in as a scriptwriter and occasional performer.  Cook's role in the show expanded to equal billing, and the Pete and Dud Dagenham Dialogues were born.
Much of Not Only But Also has been wiped, but the shows that do remain show the two performing together in an irreverent, often improvisational way - a result of not really having time to rehearse, Cook's propensity to go off-script when a new thought came to him, and the devilment in Cook's eyes when he spots a new way to make Dud corpse 

Like here (at about 5:25)

Not Only But Also ran for 3 series, but by the end relations between the 2 were strained, primarily due to Peter Cooks increasing un-reliability and increasing alcohol intake.
In 1973, they assembled their best sketches into a revue show - Behind The Fridge - and set off on tour of Australia and USA.
While in America, Peter Cook attempted to smooth relationships with Dudley by booking some time in a studio and the pair just taking some time out to have rambling conversations, a few drinks, and see what happened.
What happened was basically the Dagenham Dialogues peppered with swearing.  And so was born the alter egos of Derek and Clive.
Chris Blackwell - Head of Island Records who'd booked the studio for them - gave out Bootleg copies to friends, who passed them on, and passed them on again.  When Peter Cook heard about this, he pushed Chris Blackwell to release it commercially (Dudley Moore was a little concerned as it may impact the Hollywood career and image he was looking to build).
For the commercial release, some other sketches were added from their current Stage Show - it's not that they're bad sketches, they just don't flow with the tirade of filth and bad language of the other tracks
(no less funny though)

And so was born the legend of a pair of toilet cleaners discussing philosophy, meeting strangers, and reminiscences of past employment.  As the sleeve notes said, they're basically just a couple of c*nts.

The album may not have sold in droves (it did make number 74 on the Australian Album Chart), but was picked up and shared by the many (it was packaged like a bootleg, and it was bootlegs that reached the ears of more than those who actually laid out hard cash).
But it's reception (and reputation) was enough for Pete & Dud to revisit the characters the following year, releasing 'Come Again' and this time finding a place in the Top 20 of the UK Album Chart.

'Come Again' is basically more of the same, but with the shock quotient turned up several notches.  It was known that Peter Cook's decent into alcoholism was rampant at this time, and the clanking of glasses and slurred speech on the album suggest that Dudley Moore was in a similar state of inebriation.
The other noticeable thing about the conversations on 'Come Again' as a sign that their working and personal; relationships with each other were strained almost to breaking point - Peter Cook never missing an opportunity to have a dig or snide remark in Dudley's direction.

The third installment of Derek and Clive - 'Ad Nauseum' - came in 1978, and marks the end of their working relationship.
The album itself was effectively recorded sober - as can be seen in the accompanying film (Derek and Clive Get The Horn, released 1979) - and for the most part a happy and cordial affair.  But there are moments when Peter Cook cannot stop himself sticking the knife in and going just too far for Dudley Moore's liking.
Towards the end of the recording, and after a particularly spiteful attack - Dudley Moore walks out saying "It's no wonder we're splitting up".  And indeed, 'Ad Nauseum' was to be the last joint project they worked on.

But the legacy of Derek and Clive was not over - Peter Cook and Richard Branson had organised for the recording of the album to be filmed, and the resultant film (although not granted an official release due to censorship issues) was put out on video.
Unfortunately, about as many copies of the video were impounded by the Police as were sold to the British public, resulting in the Video company (part funded by Peter Cook) going bankrupt.
It was finally given a proper DVD release in 1993.

I may have listened to the albums too much, but it is difficult to hear the name Jayne Mansfield without raising a smile, questioning inept leadership without asking "is this anyway to run a ballroom", or even listen to Horse Racing commentary.

If there is a true-ism that there is a Monty Python quote for any occasion ("all roads lead to Python"), then many of those same roads (often with a vulgar fork in the road) will also lead to Derek & Clive.

The Worst Job I Ever Had

The Worst Job He Ever Had


Horse Racing

Monday, 17 May 2021

Paul Weller - Fat Pop

 Paul Weller has been in the game for nigh on 45 years, and his catalogue boasts 26 studio albums.  Those of his sol career have often been an exploration of his latest musical passion - each album has enough difference about it to make it unique from it's predecessor.  And in all those switches of style, he's remained relatively clunker-free.

Now into his seventh decade (he's 63 at the end of May), one would think he might start slowing down a bit, revel in his elder statesman position, make the odd guest appearance on mates albums and live shows.
No chance - he's maintained his lifetimes work rate of an album every couple of years.  In fact 'Fat Pop' comes just 10 months after 'On Sunset'.

When you hear that a new album is due, the initial excitement is often tempered by "OK, how much experimentation, will he be doing this time?" or that unfortunate thought that there may be a couple of diamonds amongst the tracks, but probably not enough to pull from the shelves again at a later date.

I am very happy to report that 'Fat Pop' may be the album to break that sequence of folly and may well take it's place along side 'Sonik Kicks' as my most played PW album of the 21st Century.
With 'Fat Pop' you get the impression that Paul Weller is writing songs for himself and his audience - something of a departure from previous works where the audience has to catch up and tune in to the vibe.
In doing so, there is an almost perfect balance of the familiar and the new about it, and plenty of diversity in the grooves (or 1s and 0s if you have the CD - which I do)

The opening track - "Cosmic Fringes" - sets the ground for what's coming.  A guitar led track with psych overtones bolted to a vaguely recognisable riff, and a virtual spoken word (sing-speak?) delivery.
"True" is a marriage of The Jam and David Bowie's "Heroes", complete with Mott The Hoople-esque honking sax sounds.  It's full of energy, and over too soon.
Title track "Fat Pop" slows proceedings down finding laid back soul groove, before a Weller classic-in-waiting arrives - "Shades Of Blue".  A valid addition to the Weller cannon.  One of his best for many years.
"Glad Times" drops into another soul groove akin to Style Council with dubby and jazzy overtones, complete with a great horn section.  Like "Fat Pop" above, this feels like it might be a leftover from 'On Sunset', or at the very least authored around the same time.
"Cobweb / Connection" is acoustic driven with some Spanish guitar interludes.  There's a real summery shimmer about the track, if a little insubstantial.
If I'm honest there is a bit of a lull with next 2 tracks - "Testify" and "That Pleasure".  There's nothing wrong with the tracks, a bit of blaxploitation funk, a touch of Motown, and more soul grooves just doesn't feel like it's moving forward apace.
With "Failed", I'm not sure if Paul Weller has been hanging about with Noel Gallagher too long, or he's just trying to show him how to do it properly?
"Failed" does lift the album in time for "Moving Canvas" and then into the reflective sounding "In Better Times" which does sound like a throwback to 90s PW.
"Still Glides The Stream" closes the album with lush strings, and a couple of lines that I may be mis-interpreting, but for me seem to sum up the rasion d'etre for the album:

Be careful with what you ignore
Look for greatness in the small
For the man who never was
Still knows what his public needed
Yes, he knows what his public needed

OK, I admit the album is not without some skippable moments, but there is more than enough to just press play and let it run (plus it's not that long an album - just because you can get 70 minutes onto a CD, it doesn't mean you have to)


Shades Of Blue

Still Glides The Stream

Monday, 3 May 2021

The Coral - Coral Island

The Coral's first album came out 20 years ago.  And a fine album it is.  After this, and over the next 8 albums, The Coral went about their business with quiet consistency, and whilst perhaps not receiving untold riches or high profile interviews in the music press, there really is very much to like in their catalogue.
Phase 1 of their career was closed out by 2008's 'Singles Collection'.  1 more album came before a 4 / 5 year hiatus which was broken in 2016.

And now they're back again with a double concept album titled "Coral Island".
Except ... it isn't really a double album (done and dusted in under an hour!) more two companion albums telling 2 sides of a story.
And it isn't really a concept album - there is a theme and outline narrative (best explained in the accompanying book), but no underlying story, main characters, or narrative conclusion.

Coral Island is an imagined seaside resort, and the album is split into 2 parts telling the story Summer point of view when the place is buzzing with incomers (Part 1: Welcome To Coral Island) and then looks at the town and the residents remaining when the visitors have gone (Part 2: The Ghost Of Coral Island).

There are 15 stand alone songs in the 24 song package.  The remaining tracks are narration provided by James and Ian Skelly's grand-dad.  The tunes themselves (in Part 1) are bright, melodic, a sort of Britpop-Psychedelia which has been a common thread of The Coral's work.  Part 2 (as the sub-title suggests) is a darker affair, but still has moments of lift and breeze.

From the 60s-esque, oh-so Coral sounding "Lover Undiscovered" through the Garage Rock meets The Doors meets Inspiral Carpets of "Vacancy", the busked, wistful "Autumn Has Come" - and that's just Part 1.
Part 2 starts on a darker tone - "The Golden Age" sounds like you've mistakenly played a Richard Hawley album by mistake, but also remains Coral-ly.  In fact Part 2 probably contains more musical diversity and also has echoes of ? And The Myserians, The Shadows, Neil Hannon, Johnny Cash and Crosby Stills & Nash.
"Watch You Disappear" seem s to pull all these influences/sounds together whilst also pulling in Del Shannon, Joe Meek, and even a touch of "The Legend Of Xanadu".
And if this wasn't enough, penultimate track "Calico Girl" sounds like it wouldn't sound out of place in a trove of undiscovered 'White Album' demos.

The album displays real ambition, and delivers on that.  It's intricate in creation and delivery, and doesn't fade or attempt to fit a song to the theme and move the album on in a jump.

'Coral Island' is very probably the best album of their career.  And very probably the best album of 2021 so far.
(and who knows, may also be in the running for album of the year when critics and others tapping at keyboards assemble their "Goodbye To Another Year" lists)

Lover Undiscovered


Take Me Back To The Summertime

Friday, 23 April 2021

The Who Sell Out - Deluxe Edition

The Who’s 1967 album is given the Super Deluxe enormobox treatment. And there is a lot to get through.

If you are new to this album, this 80 quid box is unlikely to be your starting point, so the assumption is that buyers of this will already be familiar with the album content.

It’s been suggested that Sell Out was an early concept album. Not convinced – there is no narrative, no story thread linking the songs, and no conclusion. What it is is a collection of great songs linked by jingles and adverts. It is more an attempt to celebrate (or perhaps re-create) the experience of listening to Pirate Radio.
The original plan was to sell the space between tracks for real adverts – when this idea didn’t fly, the band created and recorded their own (many of them created by John Entwhistle and Keith Moon in the Pub round the corner from the Studio).

The 13 tracks that make up the original album are a mix of psychedelia, tough-egded pop, and with “I Can See For Miles” a rock edge that would become The Who’s trademark.
Like previous outing ‘A Quick One … While He’s Away’, the album is rounded out with a Pete Townshend mini-opera (“Rael”) – another exercise in Pete stretching himself by taking fragments of ideas and songs and weaving them together into one whole, and yes I think he succeeds. Whatever, it is certainly good practice for (what we now know) was coming next.

This box gives 112 tracks across 5 CDs and 2 additional 7” singles.
You get both the mono and stereo mixes of the album stuffed in this box, plus a host of extra tracks – some have appeared before in the guise of the Maximum R n B Box Set, Odds and Sods compilation, or bonus tracks on previous re-issues, but many are seeing light for the first time.
Also included as bonus tracks of the mono and stereo albums are the contemporary singles “Pictures Of Lily” / “Doctor Doctor”, “The Last Time / “Under My Thumb”, a host of unused advert jingles, and a Who’d up version of Grieg’s “Hall of The Mountain King”

But that’s not all …

A third CD of various takes from the Sessions for the album, and another CD (titled “The Road To Tommy”) of work in progress recordings from 1968, including the singles “Dogs” / “Call Me Lightening”, and “Magic Bus” / “Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde”.

Thing is these 1968 recordings I don’t believe are a nascent Tommy – I believe that was a singular and separate concept, but there are certainly some themes, thoughts, riffs and motifs here which would be re-cycled or re-purposed for Tommy.Like Quads from 1966 (which spawned “I’m A Boy”) or Lifehouse, what this is may be an embryo of an idea, or an unrealised story which would later be broken-down with the best bits salvaged.
Completing the CDs is a disc of Pete Townshend demos which sound well formed – Townshend would always attempt to provide a fully formed demo of his vision for a song and these are no different.

The only issue I have is, that although nice to have – and I think I have 3 albums of Townshend demos (the Scoop series) – I’m not sure they’ll get many plays. Maybe once or twice, but not as often as the original album (but now I have to choose the mono or stereo versions).

The 7” singles in the box are:

- the UK Track single of “I Can See for Miles” / “Someones Coming” (both mono versions)
- the US Decca single of “Magic Bus” / “Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde”.

That may be it for the music, but in the package is a host of extra bumph as we would expect from Super Deluxe boxes.

First off is an 80-page, hard-back full-colour book, including rare period photos, memorabilia, track by track annotation and new sleeve notes by Pete Townshend with comments from the likes of Pete Drummond (Radio Caroline DJ), Richard Evans (designer) & Roy Flynn (the Speakeasy Club manager).
And the extra bits and bobs are: nine posters & inserts, including replicas of the original album posters, a gig poster from The City Hall Newcastle, a Saville Theatre show 8-page programme, a business card for the Bag o’ Nails club, a flyer for Bath Pavilion concerts, a bumper sticker for Wonderful Radio London, Keith Moon’s Speakeasy Club membership card and a Who Fan Club newsletter and photo.

The vaults must now be pretty sparse for this period of The Who. This set offers just about everything before, during, and after this album.

Sell Out is the point where The Who became more focussed as a band on their work, rather than being a singles band, and it shows in Pete’s songwriting, Roger voice, the tightness of the band, and the fact that Sell Out contains no real duffers across it’s 13 tracks.

If you’ve heard (and like) the original album, what could be better than wallowing in the vaults of these songs and times, and all the additional stuff you get with it.

Armenia City In The Sky



Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Carry On Carrying On

They're predictable, they're formulaic, they're bawdy, they're filmed on a tiny budget.
They're a regular fixture in TV Bank Holiday schedules.  The best bits have been compiled, re-compiled, re-re-compiled, spoken about, written about, and generally quoted whenever a slight double-entendre is used.  But despite all that, they're eminently watchable and always entertaining (even if you have seen it 1000 times, are speaking along with the script, and you can see the jokes coming a mile off - you still watch it)

1950s Britain was particularly well-served with Comedy films, including the peerless Ealing Comedies. Norman Wisdom films, and the St Trinians and Doctor franchises.  And into this rode a low budget, farcical, and almost satirical dig, at respected professions and conventions.

Conceived by Producer Perter Rogers and Director Gerald Thomas, the Carry On films ran from The core films ran from 1958 to 1978, and was then re-booted for a single film in 1992.
Throughout its life, the films probably had a total budget of about £27, and the furthest location shot was Maidenhead Town Hall. In truth, they did venture to Snowden, Camber Sands, Brighton and Weymouth. but rarely left the confines of Pinewood Studios or the immediate surrounding area.

There are 31 films in the franchise (32 if you include the 1977 compilation film fronted by Kenneth Williams and Barbara Windsor).
Actually, that 1977 compilation (a contractual obligation?) acts as something of a full-stop to the Carry On heyday.  What came after it was the trading on the name, brave attempt, but not very good Emmannuelle, and then the re-booted name vehicle Columbus.

The first batch were written by Norman Hudis with the laughs coming from the ineptiude of the subjects in unfamiliar surroundings, and/or light satirical jabs.
Talbot Rothwell took over writing duties in 1963, and the smutty quotient rose, and continued to rise when Carry On changed film distributors to the Rank Organistion (the first batch were distributed by Anglo Amalgamated, and with the exception of Cruising, Jack, Cleo, Cowboy and Screaming, in Black and White.

The Cast was effectively a Repertory Company with the same actors and actresses playing differently dressed versions of themselves - Sid James (invariably always called Sid) dirty laugh, Bernard Bresslaw's often terminally confused lurch-type character, Kenneth Williams admonishments (almost veering back to Julian and Sandy territory), Barbara Windsor's giggles, Charles Hawtrey's meek Mummy's Boy, Hattie Jacques Matron (or similar battle-axe-ish character) and Joan Sims big hearted and often the voice of reason.
This cast was joined by a host of other supporting actors, often appearing in many films.
For 1967s "Follow That Camel", big name American actor Phil Silvers was cat in the lead role (as Sid James recent heart attack and recovery prevented him appearing).  For this one-off appearance, Silvers was paid £30,000 (equating to approx 15% of the entire Film's budget) - a marked increase from the top pay of £5,000 for the usual cast.

And the Budget thriftiness did not just apply to the Actors.  Throughout Carry On History there is a litany of Cost Saving measures, including:

  • Carry On Cleo - uses sets left over from Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor's "Cleopatra"
  • Carry On Camping - filmed in October.  Leaves and Grass painted green.  Camera angles set to avoid the mud and shivering Actors
  • Carry On ... Follow That Camel - the Sahara Desert? No, Camber Sands 
  • Whenever a shot of a Housing Estate is required, this will invariably be Pinewood Green Housing Estate.  And it was not uncommon for 2 or 3 House exteriors to be used and re-used on later films
  • Multiple use of the High Streets of Maidenhead, Slough and Windsor

The job of Location Scout for Carry On must've been the easiest in the world - go for a walk around the Pinewood Studio lot, and find a suitable looking building or yard area, or see what other films are being made and what sets are available.

Between 1964 or 1972, 2 films per year were generally released.  So I suppose one can understand the Budget constraints, and the insistence of the Director that the first take is usually the only take required.

Carry On films were always pushing the boundaries of the Film Censors, and on only a couple of occasions were cuts required to achieve and A (or PG in new money) rating.
Two of the cuts being "remove the phrase 'Can I help you with your erection'" (from Carry On Camping), and "leave a pause between the words Fakir and Off" (from Carry On Up The Khyber) 

But were they any good?

In the great tradition of British Music Hall, Seaside Postcards, Mother-In-Law Jokes, and many other things now declared un-PC, they more than hold their own.
If you really wanted to be academic about it (and I'm sure someone has) the Carry On series is an object text on the development of British Society from the slightly repressed, stiff upper-lippedness, "know your place" times of the 1950s, and then watch as the world becomes more colourful and more daring.

And today ... they represent "good, clean fun".  They play to the Britsh humour of farce, word-play, double entendre.  And even though it's the same actors playing versions of themselves, the script and the characterisation creates enough difference.

Personally, I could happily sit for a few weeks watching them all again from start to finish (in fact I did that very thing recently)

I've never seen a Carry On film - where do I start?

For a Carry On novice, my sage advice would be:

Start with Cleo, spin forward to the high point Rank era with Doctor, Up The Khyber, Camping, Again Doctor, Up The Jungle, Henry, At Your Convenience, Matron, Abroad, Girls, and Dick.

From there, devour the rest - try Screaming, Don't Lose Your Head, and Follow That Camel.  And once you've followed the Camel go back to the Anglo-Amalgamated Black and Whites (Sergeant, Nurse, Teacher, Constable, Regardless, Cruising (the first in Colour), Cabby (return to Black & White), Jack (Colour), Spying (Black & White), Cowboy (Colour).

And now mop-up the series with Behind (basically a re-tread of Camping, but in Caravans), England (not one of their best, but watchable nonetheless), and Emmannuelle (how to sully a legacy in 90 minutes)

And here is your handy Cut Out And Keep Guide to the series:

  • Carry On Sergeant (1958)
  • Carry On Nurse (1959)
  • Carry On Teacher (1959)
  • Carry On Constable (1960)
  • Carry On Regardless (1961)
  • Carry On Cruising (1962) 
  • Carry On Cabby (1963)
  • Carry On Jack (1964)
  • Carry On Spying (1964)
  • Carry On Cleo (1964)
  • Carry On Cowboy (1965)
  • Carry On Screaming! (1966)
  • Don't Lose Your Head (1966)
  • Follow That Camel (1967)
  • Carry On Doctor (1967)
  • Carry On Up the Khyber (1968)
  • Carry On Camping (1969)
  • Carry On Again Doctor (1969)
  • Carry On Up the Jungle (1970)
  • Carry On Loving (1970)
  • Carry On Henry (1971)
  • Carry On at Your Convenience (1971)
  • Carry On Matron (1972)
  • Carry On Abroad (1972)
  • Carry On Girls (1973)
  • Carry On Dick (1974)
  • Carry On Behind (1975)
  • Carry On England (1976)
  • That's Carry On! (1977)
  • Carry On Emmannuelle (1978)
  • Carry On Columbus (1992)

Finish off with Columbus - although Carry On in name and intention, and with a few Carry On-esque lines.  It also has Rogers and Thomas at the helm and is partly written by Dave Freeman (who wrote a couple of the later originals).  A Few of the surviving original Cast also put in an appearance.
But it is just trading on the name - the world has moved on, it is no longer "a product of it's time", and some of it feels forced in some places.
It's good, but it aint Carry On

This is ...

Friday, 16 April 2021

Neurotic Outsiders

Bringing together well known names under a single umbrella often achieves success.  And why wouldn't it each member of the new collective has their own fan-base- so if you form a super trio, then it follows that your album sales will be 3 times the size of your previous bands efforts.
Good logic, but not exactly correct.

wikipedia defines a Supergroup as:

A musical group whose members are already successful as solo artists or as part of other groups or well known in other musical professions.
The term is sometimes applied retrospectively when several members from a group later achieve notable success in their own right. Supergroups are sometimes formed as side projects and thus not intended to be permanent, while other times can become the primary project of the members' careers. 

I wanted to say "see them Supergroups?  They're not all that super you know."
And then I started looking a bit deeper, and I fear I may be wrong.

When it works:

  • Million Dollar Quartet
    Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash - now that's a SUPER Group (OK, not so much a Supergroup, more of a glorified jam session.  But it fits the bill)
  • The Highwaymen
    The great and good of Outlaw Country -  Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson - come together to produce the best album of their latter years careers
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
    Mancunian Pop bloke relocates to Laurel Canyon, hooks up with a Byrd, 2 Canadians from Buffalo Springfield, and a big bag of grass.  Close harmony country-infused folky soft rock has never sounded this good - before or after.
  • Cream
    Quite simply the best Jazz-Blues players in London at that time (OK, there were a couple of others ..).  In the space of 3 years and 4 albums, and not always the most cordial of relationships, they started and finished on a high, and their influence and legend remains undimmed after 50 years
  • Emerson, Lake and Palmer
    Key players from The Nice, King Crimson and Atomic Rooster, virtuosity was the key, as eventually representing all that was over-blown and pompous about 70s Prog and Rock.  The albums were well received and bear repeated listening (up to about 1977).  But their legend now involves taking 12 Trailers full of kit on Tour, a 2 and a half ton drum kit with a 6 foot diameter gong, and a £6000 Persian rug for the singer to stand on.
  • Bad Company
    Another escapee from King Crimson links up with 2 members of Free and 1 from Mott The Hoople.  Securing the advocacy of Led Zeppelin, the management of Peter Grant, and a fist signing to the Swansong label, Bad Company were pretty much at the top before recording anything.  And when they did, it only re-enforced opinion.  And that opinion continues across 3 further albums (after that it's "tread carefully time").  Like their sponsors - Led Zeppelin - the 80s were not the right time or place fro Bad Company, and they slowly dissolved, save for a couple of (unsuccessful) reformations.
  • Travelling Wilburys
    George Harrison said in the late 80s "I want to be in a band with a bunch of mates and just have a bit of a laugh", and then a couple of years later he was.  He was already working with Jeff Lynne, Jeff Lynne drafted in Roy Orbison (whose album he was producing), George Harrison pulled in Bob Dylan (and not just because he had a studio available), and when he went to retrieve a guitar from Tom Petty, he was invited in too.  The 2 albums they produced were quite simply joyous, harking back to 50s/60s Rock n Roll, with a Country twist, and an update production sheen.
    The Travelling Wilburys were based on the West Cost - shame really, as I think if they'd pulled in Bruce Springsteen it might have been even better.
  • Tin Machine
    Now here's a divisive one - David Bowie wanted to get out of the spotlight and be an equal member of a band.  He took his current guitarist and combined with Iggy Pop's rhythm section to form the band that either adds to his legend (it certainly does in my opinion) or is seen as little more than a footnote or folly.

Seemed like a good idea at the time:

  • The Firm
    Paul Rodgers was still under 30 when Bad Company fell apart - so why not join up with his sponsor Jimmy Page?  The finest set of pipes aligned to the finest plank spanker in Christendom.
    I mean what could possibly go wrong?  Apart from the lack of great songs, a lack of energy in the recording, and the lack of a real audience (only the staunchest of Zep, Free, and Bad Co fans seemed to be on board).
    And denying their past by refusing to play "the hits" can't have helped their case much either.
  • Asia
    Prog Rockers loved a supergroup - members were forever moving between themselves - John Wetton and Carl Palmer being among the most prolific mover-abouters.  But other Steve Howe and Geoff Downes did a fair bit of supergrouping too.  Asia arrived in the early 80s, but were up against it trying to sell Prog in the decade of decadence.  Forever known for their one big song - "Heat Of The Moment".  It was a moment taht, over the course of 4 years never roise above tepid again. 
  • Gogmagog
    2 ex-Iron Maideners (Paul Di'anno and Clive Burr), a soon to be Maidener (Janick Gers), 1 previous Leppard (Pete Willis), and a bass player adding to his already long CV (was it Neiul Murray's ambition to be in every British Heavy Metal band?).
    Brought together by Jonathan King for a purpose long since lost to history (Eurovision probably, knowing the ideas King had), there life span was one EP before they ran out of songs, inspiration, and Mr King lost interest.
  • Power Station
    Take one of Britain's finest Blues singers (Robert Palmer), two parts Duran Duran (John Taylor and Andy Taylor), and the drummer from Chic (Tony Thompson).  Add in Bernard Edwards on the production desk, and what comes out is a collision of Led Zeppelin riffs against a backdrop of Chic grooves.  Well, nearly ...  But it all sounded a bit flat - every player made a contribution, but you just get the feeling they were treading water and filling time until the next shiny thing came along.
  • Velvet Revolver
    Outside of Guns n Roses, is has Slash really achieved that much?  First there's Slash's Snakepit - all well and good, but a tad predictable in sound and delivery.  He then recovened with Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum, added Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots, and set about taking the world by storm.  Problem is they didn't - the album is "OK" but not exactly essential. 
  • Hollywood Vampires
    Named after the 1970s drinking club featuring Alice Cooper, Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Harry Nillson, John Belushi,and anyone else in LA who liked a drink.  The band was put together by Alice Cooper, Joe Perry amd Johnny Depp with the intent to honour the fallen by covering their songs.  Their first album of covers is (honestly) only let down by the inclusion of a coupe ot original songs.  By the second album, more originals were tried with no real success - what the band failed to realise was that as a bar room covers band they were at the top of their game.  But not with original material.

Straddling the 2 camps?

  • Sky
    Musicality to the fore, but their lack of image or public persona may have hampered their chances.  Not everything they did found an audience, and in truth I'm not sure what audience they were aiming for.  Made some good music though.
  • Electronic
    Johnny Marr and Barney Sumner join forces with (variously) Neil Tennant and Kraftwerk's Klaus Bartos.  Sounds like a winner, and in the main it is.  I remain unconvinced by their longevity or intent, and see (hear) some of it as being "a bit experimental" for the sake of it, with the songs getting a bit drowned in the production values.
  • Them Crooked Vultures
    Dave Grohl, Josh Homme and John Paul Jones join forces and produce a sound that is a combination of it's parts (Nirvana/Foo Fighters meets Queens Of The Stone Age meets Led Zeppelin).  The debut album gives a clue what Led Zep may have sounded like in the 2000a, but as the album goes on it becomes more of a QOTS record with guest players.  Properly great guest players, but I'm not convinced they could've sustained for a second album.  

The Neurotic Outsiders probably belong in the Straddling 2 Camps category (but have a tendency to veer into "Seemed like a good idea at the time" territory) - it was an idea that looked good on paper (or a Viper Room beer mat) but didn't fully translate to the studio.

Formed in the aforementioned Viper Room Nightclub in Hollywood, and like The Hollywood Vampires above as a bar room Jamming band, Steve Jones (Sex Pistols), Duff McKagen and Matt Sorum (Guns n Roses) and John Taylor (Duran Duran) were signed up by the moneyed up Maverick label and produced one album of attitude-laden, loud rock music (albeit with a slight nod to late 80s Hair Metal).
But don't let that put you off - songs like "Angelina", "Revolution" and "Jerk" rock and swing with the best of them - hook laden, earworm-esque melodies.  Myabe there is one too many Clash cover versions (there is only one on the album), but on the whole it all works.  There's even a change of pace as Steve Jones becomes almost melancholic on "Union" (his view of the Pistols, and how he wanted the inter-band relationships to be better) and "Story Of My Life".
OK, it's not going to win any awards, but if you want some loud stuff, that isn't trying too hard to be clever, then the Neurotic Outsiders will do the job.

The Neurotic Outsiders lifespn was one album and an EP, so I don't think the Supergroup idea was a career move of all involved, more a way of filling up time until the next Cash Cow arrived - for Duff and Sorum thsat would be the Guns n Roses reformation, John Taylor returned to Duran Duran, and Steve Jones landed a radio presenting gig on LA Radio - Jonesy's Jukebox.  Episodeas are available on YouTube, and those I've seen, it looks like Jonesy can't believe his luck, and every one has been a good watch/listen



Friday, 26 March 2021

My First Festival ...

I'm not a great one for Festivals - not a lover of standing in the rain with a pint of under strength lager, sleeping in tents, or trying to find a useable chemical toilet.
In short - I'm a grumpy middle-aged middle-class bloke who likes a bit of comfort.

I've never been to Glastonbury, but have experienced many Festivals over the years including various Reading Festivals., Monsters Of Rock/Download Festivals, Rewind, and a few of the Butlins Holiday Camp Out Of Season shindigs.
Remember what I said about comfort?  have you ever been in a basic chalet in Skegness?  The phrase "Comfortable" should be preceded by "Not very" and suffixed by ",but it'll do".

The first Festival I went to was Reading Rock 1987, and living in Reading travel was not an issue - one bus to the Town Centre and then walk it.  As a Festival Virgion the walk to the Site was a part of drinking in the experience (basically watching all the crusty old rockers venturing into town for breakfast and a pint to start the day, before returning for a days vigorous headbanging and Rough Cider.
1987 was also the Festival with the "Rock" name before it tried to broaden the appeal and public persona by simply becoming Reading Festival and booking some bands who had not formed in the early 70s and looked forward to their one open air gig each year (see the Enid on Sunday's bill below).

So, 1987 - having just started work, an Apprentices Wages could only stretch to a one day ticket - I had a choice to make:

I discounted the Friday because I didn't own anything black or gothic enough for the mood of the day.  And then had to choose between Status Quo and Alice Cooper - a tough call.
Sunday also offered Zodiac Mindwarp and The Stranglers, but the Quo won out because:
(a) they're the Quo
(b) Bad News were on the bill
(c) I think my mate couldn't go on the Sunday anyway

As with every published Festival line-up, bands were added and some dropped out - although as I recall Sunday remained as published.  The only change on Friday was the non-appearance of Spear Of Destiny (Kirk Brandon broke his leg(?)) to be replaced by Graham Parker.

The first change on Saturday though was announced at 12:00 - Blues n Trouble had broken down on the way to the gig.  It was too late to find a replacement, so The Quireboys went on early and ghot an extra 15 minutes.

Dumpy was Dumpy - a last hurrah/hangover of the Reading Rock Glory Days - and played a growling Biker Metal set of Hawkwind/Motorhead inspired noise.  I liked them and saw them again a couple of years later (in a Pub in Aldershot)

Mammoth were replaced by Shy - all big hair and sub-Bon Jovi "nice" metal, but I bought the album anyway.

Now whether it was a combination of late Summer sun, cheap beer, and too many Benson & Hedges, I have no recollection of Glory, Terraplane or MGM
(in fact, to this day I have no clue who Glory actually are?).

I do remember Lee Aaron though - those sort of memories stay with a 17 year old ...
(in truth, the music was nice enough, but not really substantial or indeed a classic live performance)

Georgia Satellites and Bad News swapped, meaning Bad News lifted the waning early evening spirits (and brought Brian May on stage), and Georgia Satellites got the early evening slot (as the sun was fading) with a storming set of Southern Boogie.
Taking Status Quo out of the equation, The Georgia Satellites were the best band to stand on that stage on that August day in suburban Berkshire.

Competent though they were, there was no way the Prog affectations of Magnum could follow that lot.  And many burgers and beers were consumed while the band noodled on stage.

And then darkness fell, the stage lights descended and then slowly rose again - "Allo Reading!" and straight into "Whatever You Want".
Wall-to-Wall bangers for 90 minutes, including the live crowd joiner-inner "Dirty Water (always better live than the studio version) - a proper party atmosphere in a field.
Just looked up the set list on the ever helpful - they played 13 tunes (17 if you include each separate track in the medley), and 4 tracks as an encore.  Not a bad way to break your Festival cherry.

Grinning from ear-to-ear I left the site, bought a cheese sandwich, a cheap bottle of lager, and a bootleg Status Quo T-Shirt and wandered home.

1988 I did both Donnington Monster of Rock and Reading Festival within a fortnight of each other. Again, a one day ticket for Reading meant I missed out on seeing Iggy Pop and The Ramones on Friday and Squeeze on Sunday - an annoying oversight I am happy to report I have rectified many years later.

And I returned to Reading (often for full weekends) for some years after that (and finally catching Iggy Pop live in 1991).  I may have missed the 1992 Festival as I have no recollection of the now mythical Nirvana live performance.  I think the last one I went to was 1994 (I'm sure I saw Primal Scream, the Manics and Radiohead standing in a muddy field) but despite living less than 2 miles from the Site I have no real desire to return.  The line-up never seems to be strong enough on a single day to warrant the investment (or the "Festival Experience") and besides I'm an old fart now, so would need a quiet nap halfway through the day, and the organisers would probably balk at someone taking a deck chair in (although not at the 80s Rewind Festivals - they don't seem to mind there).

Like many things, you never forget your first ...

Quireboys - Mayfair

Georgia Satellites - Battleship Chains

Status Quo - Dirty Water


Thursday, 18 March 2021

2 Tone

Has one single record label done more for shifting thoughts, cooling tensions, and throwing some banging good tunes into the mix, than a small enterprise founded in a small Coventry front room?

By the late 70s, Punk was over - Post-Punk and New Wave were now the preferred terms.  And a Mod Revival was gathering pace.  Close partners in style, attitude and sound of the original Mods in the 60s were the Skinheads.  And as you can';t necessarily have one without the other, the Skinhead revival was happening alongside the Mod Revival.
In truth these sub-cultures had never really gone away, it's just now they were receiving attention again.

Whilst the Mods went for sharp suits and a look that tried to break their connection to Working Class roots and environment, Skinheads revelled in their roots and wore the clothing of their environment - atoned down -but equally sharp - mod look and close cropped hair, and then modified the Mod look with .  The look was not far removed, and was certainly influenced by, Jamaican Rude Boy.  And completing the Caribbean connection, the Skinheads soundtrack was Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae.

The true reasonings for a faction of the late 70s Skinhead becoming associated with far right attitudes and violence is lost somewhere in the mists of my research.  Maybe it was the rise of Oi, disaffection for their environment, rabble rousing and the rhetoric of the rise of the National Front, or a combination of all these things?
From a simple historic view, the archetypal skinhead is now pictured with a Union Jack T-Shirt, a swastika tattoo on their forehead, and a general air of snarling violence.
But hang on - there was another -possibly larger group of the skinhead population which were perhaps truer to the original movement, remained (generally) apolitical and continued to party to the sounds of Prince Buster, The Maytals, Desmond Dekker, and anything on the Trojan label.

And it was from this second group that spawned Jerry Dammers band - The Coventry Automatics, soon to be renamed The Specials.  Politics though, or at the very least Racial politics and disaffected youth politics, were very much to the fore in the (surprisingly?) savvy Jerry Dammers.

And in this sleepy Midland town of Coventry he found he was not alone with ska being performed by multi-racial bands, chief among them The Selector.  Darn sarf in That London, Madness were adopting a similar look and sound, while to the West in the badlands of Birmingham The Beat were knocking around.
Never one to pass up an opportunity to spread the word, Jerry Dammers did a deal with Chrysalis Records to fund the recording of 10 or 15 singles a year and a couple of albums.

First off the blocks was The Specials re-working of Prince Buster's Al Capone backed with good mates The Selecter, and for the next 6 years 2 Tone released a host of singles and albums of influence and popularity.  The Specials manged 2 number one singles and a slew of Top 10 hits, and other bands on the roster weren't far behind.

And the roster is best described as small but perfectly formed - and also did what no other label did.  Gave the bands the freedom to record as much as they want before going elsewhere.
Madness, The Beat, and Bad Manners got their first releases on Two Tone (in the case of Bad Manners it was 2 tracks on the Dance Craze album) before departing the Good Ship.
It's easy to see 2 Tone as a Specials vanity label, but they were joined by The Selecter, The Bodysnatchers, The Swinging Cats, and latterly The Appolinaires and The Higsons.
OK, they may not have set the charts on fire but they all added value and worth the not just to the label but the thoughts and actions of the listeners, both then and in the future.

The label may only have existed for 6 years (1979 to 1985) but it's sound, attitude, and politics captured a moment, made people think (a bit), and no doubt had a lasting influence.

The Specials - Gangsters

The Selecter - On My Radio

The Specials - Doesn't Make It Alright