Thursday 23 February 2023

I'm Riding, I'm Riding As Fast As This Car Goes / Girls, Cars, Sun, Fun

 If there was a league table for "Cars Mentioned In Songs", then Chevrolet (and variants thereof) would be sitting at the top.
A quick Google (other search engines are available) reveals many, many songs with "Chevrolet" in the title, many more with "Chevy", and more with reference to Chevrolet models (Corvette, Camaro, El Camino).  And then dig again for mention of Chevy vehicles peppered throughout lyrics.
The American Dream writ large - there is a good chance that every major music artist has at some point namedropped the Chevy somewhere in their career:

Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger, Tom Waits, The Eagles, Neil Young, Prince, The Ramones, Tammy Wynette, Dawes, ZZ Top, John Mellencamp, Snoop Dogg, Beastie Boys, Elton John, Billy Joel, Elvis Costello - the list goes on.  Don McLean drove his to the levy, but the levy was dry.

Chevrolet formed in 1911 when ex-GM Board Member William Durant (sacked for over-stretching General Motors finances in pursuit of takeovers) joined force with Swiss Racing Driver Louis Chevrolet.
Early developments for the company were primarily the development of efficient engines (based on designs from previous employer Buick (part of General Motors).  Their first car -  the Series C Classic Six - did not appear until 1913.  Just a year later, Louis Chevrolet sold his share of the company to Durant.  The name remained, but the Chevrolet family were no longer on board.
Design and development work, and healthy sales, of engines continued so by 1916, Durant was able to buy a stake in General Motors, incoprorate Chevrolet into the company alongside Cadillac, Buick, Oldsmobile and Pontiac.  GMs prime competiton was (and remains) Ford.
On a slightly less nostalgic/romantic note of the great American Motor Industry, GM also acquired UK company Vauxhall Motors in 1925.

Chevy may have a whole fleet of history in it's back catalogue - basically say the word "Chevy" add a 2 digit year, and you're bound to find an image of prime American automobilia on the interweb.
But beyond car production, Chevy also did a nice line in engines.  They were doing engines before designing cars, so they got pretty good at it.
Their first engines were evolutions of Buick engines, and then refinements and developments resulted in some big and heavy but very reliable engines.
In the world of Hot Rods and Kit Cars, it is usually the Chevy V8 small-block that is the got to power-unit.  Unless you're in the UK (and much of Europe) where the Rover V8 is the preferred lump.  Interestingly, both engines can trace lineage back to the same original source - Buick

Like many US car manufacturers, Chevrolet also have a successful Truck division. The most refined and powerful versions named Thunder.

Spector formed in 2010 in London, and by 2012 their debut album was on the shelves and was among the choice albums of the year.
I first became aware of them on Sky TVs Soccer AM (back when it was good, before sponsors and humour by-passes took over) - I was impressed by both the tune, as well as the band themselves (really, really just pleased to be on the telly and looking like they didn't believe they deserved it).
"Chevy Thunder" became a heavily played, heavily youtubed, and heavily shared and recommended track.  The album arrived a few months later - 'Enjoy It While It Lasts' - and it was good.  It enjoyed many plays, but then the novelty and enjoyment started to wear.  Nice enough, but I'm not sure it had any depth or longevity.
There was a 3 year gap to the second album - 'Moth Boys'.  Problem with such a long gap is the listener is hoping for something a bit special, a bit of a development.  Sadly, album #2 sounds like a re-hash of the tropes of album #1 (with fewer tunes).
"Chevy Thunder" remains Spector's crowning glory, and one hopes that they did follow the advice of the album title and enjoy it while it lasted.


By 1987, The Ramones were 10 years and 10 albums in.  They were also on the verge of losing their third drummer (Marky had replaced Tommy in 1978, allowing him to return full-time to the production desk, and Richie replaced Marky in 1983 due to alcohol and reliability problems.  Richies tenure was short, and after the 1987 'Halfway To Sanity' album and ongoing clashes with Johnny Ramone, Richie left the band.  After a couple of gis with Elvis Ramone (aka Clem Burke from Blondie) Marky returned to the drum stool.

'Halfway To Sanity' may not be the greatest of Ramones albums, but there is some good stuff on there - "I Wanna Live" and "Garden Of Serenity" being the pick of the bunch.
And continuing the Blondie link, Debbie Harry was drafted in (at the request of Joey Ramone) to provide backing vocals on "Go Lil' Camaro Go"
(some sources cite this song as a duet - I don't think it is)

Tuesday 14 February 2023


To paraphrase George Orwell, I'm of the opinion Four Wheels Good, Two Wheels Bad.

Never been a fan of the motorbike, much preferring the comfort and warm surroundings of the roofed cabin ("here in my car, I feel safest of all ... in Cars")
But I do know some motorbike-ists, and I get it.  I can see the attraction, just maybe not the comfortable delivery from home to chosen destination.

Japanese motorcycle industry - incorrectly assumed that it's rise to prominence came after World War II when it imported a Triumph Bonneville, pulled it apart, and re-built it more efficiently.
True, it wasn't until 1959 that a Japanese motorcycle (a Honda 125) was first seen competing at the Isle Of Man TT, but the Triumph story goes back further to 1907 (the first import) and by 1922 imports included Harley Davidson, India, and Norton.
(however, the rest of the story is pretty much true - they were pulled apart, mulled over, re-designed, and mass produced (at least in Japan))

The Japanese Big Four are:

  • Honda (since 1946)
  • Suzuki (since 1952)
  • Kawasaki (since 1954)
  • Yamaha (since 1955)
Each have had high domestic sales since their launch - like the car industry a combination of affordability and reliability stole a march on the Italians and United Kingdom (the biggest manufacturers in Europe), and also made a sizeable dent in the US market.

As most vehicle manufacturers know (knew?), Motorsport is a route to get your brand noticed.
As said above, Honda first appeared at the Isle Of Man TT in 1959, and by 1961 was winning races in various engine size categories.
Honda also started competing in the World Champiuonships, and won all categories in 1966.  Normal order was resumed the next year with Italian manufacturer MV Augusta dominating (as it had done since the late 50s).  And then in 1974, Yamaha repeated the trick, and Japanese bikes from one of the big 4 had a virtual clean sweep of everything until the 90s when Italian bikes from Aprilla and Ducatti (periodically) broke the dominance.

Chris Spedding's musical career started around the time Honda were breaking the Italian monopoly.  By 1970, his name was on the list of tried and trusted session musicians providing him an income in the absence of a successful band or solo career.
A proficient guitar player in any style, he was a fast learner and could get in, lay down a track, get out, take the money, and move onto the next session.
Notable contributions include  Harry Nilsson's 'Nilsson Schmilsson' and the original recording of 'Jesus Christ Superstar'.
The mid-70s period provided Chris Spedding with perhaps his 3 defining moments

1. He was a Womble - he played on the tracks, and when Top Of The Pops called he appeared as Wellington, complete with his trademark Gibson Flying V

2. He was the producer of the fist studio sessions for the Sex Pistols.  He'd already appeared at the 100 Club Punk Festival (backed by The Vibrators) and released the single "Pogo Dancing"

Whilst not being a Womble, and before he produced the Pistols, Chris Spedding's abilities weren't going un-noticed and he was on the list of "possibles" as a replacement for Mick Taylor in the Rolling Stones.
Legend (or myth) says he was either unavailable to join the Stones tour later in the year, turned it down flatly when offered, got the wrong day and/or venue for his audition, or bluntly refused the invitation to audition stating "if you want me, I'll join.  But I'm not auditioning".
Whatever the reason - Chris Spedding didn't join up with Mick, Keef, Charlie and Bill.
What he did do was sign a solo deal with Mickie Most's Rak Records, and ...

3. released the single "Motorbikin'" and appeared on Top Of The Pops donned out in leather, motorbike boots, and a heavily greased quiff.  Plus the Gibson Flying V was on show again.

You can bet your life that if any TV programme has a feature including motorbikes, Chris's song will be soundtracking it.

Tuesday 7 February 2023


Wingmen is a collaboration between Baz Warne (The Stranglers), Paul Gray (The Damned), Leigh Haggerty (Ruts DC) and Marty Love (Johnny Moped).

Each have floated in and out of each other's existence at venues and festivals up and down the country, and two of them (Gray and Love) have recorded together before (with Captain Sensible under the Sensible Gray Cells banner).

Started as a project to keep sane in lockdown, files were shared between members, bits added, bits re-written.  All this was done without any of the members actually meeting until they convened at Panther Studios in Reigate (helmed by ex-Tenpole Tudor man Dick Crippen).
To complete the slightly odd nature of conception and recording, Marty Love's drums were the last sounds to be added.  The songs were effectively complete, and Love had to find a route in and maintain the swing and the beat.  Credit to all the players,as this unorthodox method does not compromise the finished article in any way.

The DNA of each host band is in evidence - the slight confrontation of The Stranglers, the low bass rumble and psychedelic tendencies of The Damned, the innate musicality and tightness of The Ruts, and the solidity veering towards the bombastic ramshackle of Johnny Moped.
But this is no "pick the best bits, throw it in a pot, and see how it mixes together" - Wingmen stand on their own feet as a musical collective, informed by experience but not afraid to step out on their own.
So whilst you get passing moments in song where you think "oh, that's a bit like XXX" it never becomes facsimile or tribute.

Born in lockdown, there are plenty of State Of The Nation commentaries, mixed up with melancholy, darkness ("Down In The Hole") and hope ("It's Raining All Over England", complete with the refrain "Happy Days Are Here Again"), and a takedown of social media ("Backstage At The Opera") - including a vitiolic Baz Warne exasperated monologue.
Instrumental "Starting Blocks" opens up affairs, before a mix of pop-punk-blues-riffing imbues proceedings. Highlights are plentiful, beyond those already mentioned, "Brits", "I Would If I Could" and "Oh! What A Carry On" vie for supremacy

Even though the members were apart and the creative process potentially slowed by seclusion, the album is full of ideas, tricks, great lyrics, and top notch playing.

This may be the only output for this collective, but it's a worthy addition to their respective CVs.  Proof that something good came from the time when we locked ourselves away from the world.
And who knows, as live performance and studio visits for bands give way to down time, Wingmen may reconvene for live shows and maybe even another album - although if that one is birthed in the studio would it lack the feeling of necessity and exasperation of this very very fine album.

Down In The Hole

Oh! What A Carry On

Backstage At The Opera