Friday 30 September 2022

My Baby Drove Off In A Brand New Cadillac

Madness once said: "Think of seven letters, begin and end in C, like a big American car, but it's spelt with a D".
They were trying to invoke a thought of "Cardiac" which admittedly has 7 letters, and begins and ends in C.  But spelt with a D?  But Cadillac has 8 letters ...
(I'll stop now because I'm over-thinking it again)

Cadillac the company came to life in 1902 (making it the ninth oldest in the world and fourth oldest in the US).  By 1909 it was acquired by General Motors - which already owned 2 the other 3 (Buick and Oldsmobile).
And when they did get under GM's wing, they taught the Industry about inter-changeable parts and mass production techniques - first done by Henry Ford with the Model T, but Cadillac were doing across their entire vehicle range.
Luxury Cars was their stock trade - for "Luxury" read "Massive Boats", and the development of their V8 engine ensured that the cars got bigger and bigger.  And they stayed that way.
In an old Top Trumps pack, the 1974 Cadillac Elderado Fleetwood was a key card - it had the biggest engine (8.2 litres) and the largest dimensions.  Granted it could still be trounced on top speed or number of cylinders, but if played properly it was a general winner.

The Cadillac is mentioned in numerous songs

  • Bruce Springsteen (and later Natalie Cole) has a 'Pink Cadillac'
  • Hot Chocolate found Heaven on the Back Seat of a Cadillac
  • Johnny Cash built one One Piece At A Time
  • Marc Bolan promised to buy his latest beau one
  • The Stray Cats told us all to look at one
  • Arianne Grande (singer or font?) sung about riding round in one remembering when her and a special friend first met
  • Jimmy Liggins (as far back as 1948) Boogie Woogied with one and kept rolling along
  • Camper Van Beethoven found Joe Stalin's Cadillac.  And ones also owned by Lyndon B Johnson, General Pinochet, and Samoza
  • Imelda May just wanted hers back - her boyfriend left but all she wanted was the car back
  • Lightnin Hopkins had the big black Cadillac Blues
  • Dwight Yoakam has a Long White one

But there is one song that was once called a "key part of the development of British Rock n Roll", and then largely forgotten about until The Clash covered it on 'London Calling' 

Vince Taylor started out hanging around the 2i's Coffee Bar.  There he met Tony Meehan and formed a band called The Playboys to back the newly monikered singer - he chose the name Vince from some Latin written on a Pall Mall cigarette packet.  Taylor?  Maybe he just liked the sound of it (I can find no evidence as to why it was chosen).
Still - bearing in mind that Larry Parnes was recruiting in the 2i's he could've ended up being called Brian Angry or something.

With his re-configured Playboys (without Tony Meehan, who'd joined The Shadows instead) he signed to Parlephone and released two singles - "I Like Love" and "Right Behind You Baby".  Although not successful, Parlephone persevered and released "Pledgin' My Love" with "Brand New Cadillac" on the B Side.  But still success eluded him, and Parlephone ended the contract.
Undetterred, he signed with a minor label and released another single.  And you've guessed it - nothing doing.
Even appearing on Oh Boy alongside Cliff Richard, or a new ABC Television show with Dickie Pride, Billy Fury, Joe Brown, Jess Conrad, Little Tony, and Johnny Kidd & The Pirates did nothing for his profile or sales.

'Brand New Cadillac' though had found favour on the continent, and specifically in Scandinavia where it was given the cover version treatment to some notable success.

At odds with his charismatic stage persona, off-stage he was sullen and suffered erratic mood swings, and drinking and drugging didn't help matters.
The Playboys went through various line-up changes, and due to continental success re-located to France where Vince Taylor was rewarded with a 6 year contract with the Barclay label.

Success (albeit not in his homeland) though did nothing to alter his mood, and The Playboys were disbanded and re-formed a couple more times before the drink and drugs took hold.  Eddie Barclay though never truly lost faith and offered Vince Taylor the chance to continue recording and performing in the 70s and early 80s.  Over time though, performances became more and more sporadic  It's not that he stopped performing, more that he just didn't bother anymore (or not enough to keep him in the public eye).

Vince Taylor's rise has often been cited (not least by the author himself) as the inspiration (or one of them anyway) for Ziggy Stardust.
David Bowie had met Vince Taylor after one of his breakdowns at a time when he believed himself to be the new messiah and/or some form of alien.
(Gene Vincent, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed are also cited - for a relative unknown rocker, that's quite some company)

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Suede - Autofiction

And there's me thinking Michael Head has got this years Album Of The Year sewn up, and then this one comes along to make me go "Hmm?"

This is Suede's ninth album, and their fourth since 2010s reformation.  And is probably the best of those 4 (although 2018s dystopian-epic 'The Blue Hour' runs it close)

They have successfully pulled off a re-invention of sorts with each release, and there is a slight feeling of going full-circle with this album.  The songs are tight, the band tighter, and Brett's histrionic vocals on top form.

Some write-ups have referred to this release as "their Punk album" - well, maybe Punk in attitude and exuberance, but not in songcraft and presentation.

Opener "She Still Leads Me On" - Brett Anderson's song to his departed Mother - opens the album, sets out the stall, conjures reminders of the debut, and all-in-all is a copper bottom Suede classic (a trick repeated with "15 Again", and very probably a couple of others here too).

In old money, Side 1 is a superb listen, and closes with "Drive Myself Home" which has the melancholic feeling of an album closer proper - akin to "The Next Life" from the debut.  However, where that one closed the album on a quiet note (I always wanted more out of that album after it ended), this one peaks in a euphoric string section before returning to the plaintive (with a bit of Grimethorpe Colliery Band brass).

But this is no closer, as 'Autofiction' serves up another 5 top notch tracks, the picks being "Black Ice" and "What Am I Without You".  The sweeping epic "Turn Off Your Brain And Yell" rounds off the most complete album since 1996s 'Coming Up'
(and in my confused mind, and where I stand alone, it's still a better album than 'Dog Man Star')

She Still Leads Me On

15 Again

Black Ice

Wednesday 21 September 2022

It Says Morris On The Door

The Morris Minor was launched in 1948.  It was originally conceived as a low cost Family Vehicle by BMC before World War II, but it's design and development was put on hold.  When the War finished, the plans were pulled from the shelf, re-configured and production began on the new model.  It's price point saw it called "the Vehicle to get Britain back on the roads", and it did that and more.  In it's 23 year life, it became the first UK production car to sell 1,000,000 units, and sold in excess of 1,600,000 when UK production ceased in 1971.
It's birth was not the easiest - as with most British inventions.  The original design for the car was much thinner.  This gave the car a slightly harsh look, and the designer - Alec Issignois - decided to experiment a bit.  He moved the wheels, cut the prototype in two and made the car 4 inches wider to give that now slightly gormless smily look.
However, the tooling had already been manufactured, so a 4 inch plate was inserted giving a rib down the bonnet line.  In retrospect, this bodge actually enhanced the overall design.

Chris Foreman worked for Camden Town Council Parks Department with Lee Thompson.  They joined up with Lee's mate Mike Barson to form The North London Invaders in 1976.
By 1978, after just about everyone in the band had been sacked and re-instated, the line-up finalised and the band re-named themselves Morris And The Minors - a name inspired by the Camden Council van and their band transport.  The name lasted for one gig, before a new name chosen from the set-list and Madness was born.

Their transport was celebrated 4 years later with the release of "Driving In My Car"

"I've been driving in my car, It's not quite a Jaguar"
True when it was launched the Morris Minor cost just under £250.  An E-Type Jaguar of the same age was a shade under £2.500.  So by that comparison, a Morris Minor was tenth of a Jaguar.  But in a mirror of Price vs Sales, the E-Type production and sales were a tenth less than the Minor's

"I bought it in Primrose Hill, from a bloke from Brazil"
Primrose Hill is in the Borough of Camden, so they may well have bought it there.  But as the van was borrowed from the Parks Department, it may just have been liberated from the depot in Primrose Hill.
The Brazil line is interesting, as Brazil was one of the last countries to continue manufacturing Minor's after production ceased in the UK.  I'm guessing Mike Barson knew this, and was just adding in a bit of hidden history in the lyrics.

"It was made in fifty-nine, In a factory by the Tyne"
No it wasn't - all Minors in the UK were built at the BMC Cowley plant in Oxford

"It says Morris on the door, The GPO owned it before"
The name Morris was not on the door, it was on the front wings.  But that just mucks up the rhyme in the next line.
The GPO did indeed own a fleet of Morris Minor panel vans similar to the Madness vehicle

"I drive in it for my job, the governor calls me a slob.
But I don't really care, give me some gas and the open air.
It's a bit old but it's mine, I mend it in my spare time.
Just last week I changed the oil, the rocker valves and the coil"
This is possibly the only song I can think of that mentions Rocker Valves - Bruce Springsteen (in "Racing In The Street") tells us he has "69 Chevy with a 396, Fuelie heads and a Hurst on the floor" but never once mentioned the cam shaft balance settings or his ignition system.

"Last week it went 'round the clock, I also heard a little knock.
I dented somebody's fender, He learned not to park on a bender
I've been driving in my car, it don't look much but I've been far.
I drive up to Muswell Hill, I've even been to Selsey Bill
I drove along the A45"

and in the video for the song he didn't stop to give the Fun Boy Three a lift back to Coventry - again  it's the little details.  The A45 does indeed go to Coventry, so Terry, Lynval and Neville were hitching on the correct road (even if their one-time label mates ignored them)

"I had her up to fifty-eight"
This is good going for a nigh-on 20 year old British car whose top speed (in later Series II guise) was 61 mph

"This copper stopped me the other day, "You're mistaken, " what could I say?
The tyres were a little worn, they were OK, I could have sworn.
I like driving in my car, I'm satisfied I've got this far.
I like driving in my car, it don't look much but I've been far.
I like driving in my car, even with a flat tyre.
I like driving in my car, it's not quite a Jaguar.
I like driving in my car, I'm satisfied I've got this far"

"I'm satisfied I've got this far"
At the risk of over-thinking this line, could this be a philosophical review of the last 4 years - 12 singles (10 in the Top 10) including a Number 1, 3 Top 10 albums, and one of those unimpeachable compilation albums in the shape of 'Complete Madness'.
Yep, I'd be quite satisfied too.

Then again, maybe it's just a decent line that rhymes with "Driving in my car"

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Car Trouble

Owning a car is the final step towards self-mobility, freedom and adulthood (note: I didn't say anything about growing up).
But to achieve this, one first needs to pass the driving test.  I managed it eventually (after 6 failed attempts), and soon threw £700 at a 1980 white (and rust coloured) Vauxhall Chevette GL
(the GL meaning I got a cigarette lighter, a clock, a heated rear window, and cloth and fake leather seats).
In fact, by the time I'd finished with it, the rear of the vehicle read "Vauxhall Chevette 2.8i Ghia Turbo"

And I was free to get my motor running and head out on the highway ... briefly

I think it spent as much time up on ramps as it did on the road - if something could go wrong, it did go wrong.  Eventually, just about every component under the bonnet was replaced.

Car Trouble ... oh yeah!

Adam Ant played bass for London Pub Rock band Bazooka Joe (which also included John Ellis - later of The Vibrators, Arrabella Weir - later of The Fast Show, and Dave Barson - brother of Madness keyboard basher Mike).

Vibrators Trivia Note: The original bassist for Bazooka Joe was Pat Collier, who would join up with John Ellis to form The Vibrators.  Collier's replacement in The Vibrators was Gary Tibbs, who in 1981 would join Adam & The Ants - it's a strange circular world ...

Their place in history was secured when they headlined a show in 1975 at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design.  The support band that night (playing their first ever show) was the Sex Pistols.
Adam Ant left Bazooka Joe soon after to form his own band - The Ants - with encouragement from Jordan (who he appeared with in the film Jubilee) and later support for Malcolm McLaren.

Touring, radio sessions, and positive reviews led to a one-off single - "Young Parisians" - with Decca Records.  However, commercial failure led to Decca dropping the band, and they signed to independent Do It Records.
Do It released a re-recorded version of the planned second Decca single - "Zerox" - followed by the recording an release of first album 'Dirk Wears White Sox'.  The album was a mix of punk, glam, arty affectations - sort of Roxy Music meets Siouxsie & The Banshees.

However, by the end of 1980 manager Malcolm McLaren had nicked the band (to set up Bow Wow Wow) leaving Adam in search of a new band.

And he found one with Marco Pirroni (providing both bass and guitar), Jon Moss filling in on drums, and Chris Hughes (later to become Merrick) producing.  They de-camped to Rockfield Studios and re-recorded "Cartrouble" (or "Cartrouble Part 2" as it was on the album) with a cleaner more commercial sound in an attempt to beat McLaren's Bow Wow Wow to the charts.
Unfortunately it didn't bother the charts, but with the addition of Kevin Mooney (bass), Chris Hughes (Merrick) and Terry Le Miall on twin drums, and a CBS contract, they were soon unplugging the jukebox and doing us all a favour.

Why did the Chevette GL have a heated rear window?
To keep my hands warm when I was pushing it.


Friday 2 September 2022

Let's Go Round Again

In 1990, Adrian Smith left Iron Maiden.  Bruce Dickinson followed him out in 1993.
In January 1999, both re-joined and the legacy of Iron Maiden was secured, and I think with the albums since then enhanced.

For short periods in 1968 and 1969, both Ringo and George left The Beatles.  Both soon re-joined, and The Beatles future record making was not harmed (even if the life of the band was limited)

Rick Wakeman has left and re-joined Yes no fewer than 4 times (5 if you include the collective of Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe.  6 if you add Aderson Rabin Wakeman).

Ian Rush left Liverpool for Juventus, and returned after a year - apparently it was like living in a foreign country - and his return did not dent his goalscoring prowess.

Nigel Tufnell left Spinal Tap after his wireless guitar started picking up radio signals on an air-base.  He re-joined soon after when David St Hubbins invited him back on stage a couple of months later.

In 1984, REM advised us Don't Go Back To Rockville (I've never been there in the first place, but I follow the sentiment)

In 2014, Stiff Little Fingers stated they were not going back to their dark places, and the parent album told us, in no uncertain terms, there is No Going Back

Hang on ... what are you banging on about?

My point is for every Frank Lampard returning to Chelsea, there are probably about 20 instances where returning to the scene of glory and comfort is the right thing to do.

About a year ago, I changed jobs - moving from nigh on 30+ years old world of Projects to the new exciting opportunity of IT systems administration.  And I think it has been pretty successful, if not a truly great fit for me personally.  Frankly, I've grown a bit bored of it - there's a lot of repetition, and the peaks and troughs of activity are not easy for my brain to deal with - I much prefer a constant engagements thing, rather than stop-start-stop.
So when the opportunity to return to more comfortable surroundings arose, well there was a little umming and ahhing (and a slight feeling of "have I failed?"), but the move was made, albeit on a "phased transition" over the next couple of months (ie 1 to 2 days in the new role, 3 days in the current one).
It might only be half a week, but I'm enjoying the return to the old world (Brave New World - spot the Iron Maiden reference ...)
And as a brief justification (mainly to myself) - it's not an exact return to my old job, this one is Resource Management (a sort of Project Management / Human Resources hybrid type role).  All about making sure we have the right people, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time.

So despite conventional wisdom suggesting one should never return to the scene of the crime (or duff firework), that is pretty much what I'm doing - and looking forward to it too.

What better way to celebrate than a slab of 1970s Funk-Soul-R&B

Average White Band - Let's Go Round Again