Wednesday 13 March 2024

Knockin' On Heavens Door

Written for the 1973 film Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, the original single release hit the Top 20 in majority of countries (except France and Germany for some reason? - maybe they're just not big Dylan fan's there).

Based around 4 chords - G D Am / G D C (and repeat) - even the most ham-fisted of guitarists (ie me) can get their chubby fingers around that

Referring to the Second Hand Songs site, which counts the numbers of different versions available:

"Yesterday" = 1252 versions

"My Way" = 679 versions

"Hallelujah" = 608 versions

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" = 406 versions

Note: at the other end of the scale The Cockney Rejects "Greatest Cockney Rip Off" has only 2 versions

"Knockin' On Heaven's Door" shows 251 versions

James Last had quickly done a loungey/big band/easy listening version in 1973, before Arthur Louis reggaefied it in 1975, and Eric Clapton (who had played on the Louis version) placed his own stamp on it..

Kevin Coyne - hippified it

Booker T Jones - Stax-ed it

Sisters Of Mercy - added darkness

The Alarm - enormodomed it in a U2 wannabe moment (and came close for a time, but ultimately fell away and returned to small venues)

Guns n Roses - just cos it sold the most, don't make it the best

Bryan Ferry - stylised it on 'Dylanesque'

Tracy Chapman - infused it with raw emotion

Randy Crawford - gospelises it, imbues a bit of soul, but ultimately places it in the middle of the road

Avril Lavigne - delivers a Canadian pop princess version (but how many teenyboppers note the darkness in the lyrics?)

Wyclef Jean - locates it in New York, and casts it as a tribute to Biggie Smalls, Tupac, Princess Aaliyah and other departed R&B rappers (and does a fine Bob Marely impression in the mix too)

Roger Waters - Waters always sounds a bit angry or in pain, and it's no different here

Tom Petty - the  Live At The Filmore sounds more like Dylan than Dylan at times

Warren Zevon - adds a certain poignancy, because he was ...

Enjoy every sandwich

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Physical Product vs Streaming

How does one consume music?
Well, both methods are acceptable, seemingly with streaming being the preferred method of many.

But not me ... me, dinosaur.  I like physical product (CD mainly, but I maintain a vinyl collection) and only really use streaming as a "try before you buy" option, or in the case of Youtube, something to listen to as the muse and the moment occurs.

There is an element of ritual, and perseverance, with physical product.  One must go through in the order given to arrive at favourite choices, and who knows by doing this you just might find new delights in an album you thought you knew inside out.
Cherry picking is all very well, and has it's place (see the Youtube reference above), but you wouldn't choose to watch a film and fast-forward through to your favourite scenes, spin on again to another, and then select another film for a 30 second scene.
No, so why do it with music?

I do "get" the concept, and inexorable rise of streaming but just do not indulge myself.
But I am more than happy for others of my acquaintance to go down this route (even if I have to put up with the conversation telling me how many albums they have stored on their phone).
Why?  Because as they have decluttered themselves and are now living with 1s and 0s, I am gradually filling up my house with the unwanted product.

Weekends and evenings can be spent going through boxes saying "Got, Got, Need, Interesting ..." in a sort of musically-flavoured shoutback to collecting Panini Football stickers as a kid.
So I'm filling gaps in the collection, finding new stuff I never got round to buying first time out or never actually knew I wanted.  But, I'm also finding myself stumbling across stuff that I have no interest in, but at least can claim ownership.

A great voyage of discovery is on the cards, but I am constantly asked (and my wife does have a good point here): "where are you going to put it all?".
And this is true - I am rapidly running out of storage space (again!), and now need to start getting creative about my storage solutions.
There is some shelf space I can commandeer - basically, that space that was left unshelved/unfilled with the express intention of breaking up the flow with ornaments and general toys and (so I'm told) "it doesn't look like a flipping record shop".
Well, some of the boxsets I can move to the top of the units, some of the inaccessible spaces can be made accessible. but ... space is becoming premium.
The compilations may have to be moved to another bookcase (sadly, in another room - which breaks the cardinal rule of having the collection all in one place).
The second option is to do a bit of pruning by getting shot of the things I'm just never going to listen to, but have ownership of (does anyone want a complete set of Robbie Williams CDs?).

When asked where I will put it all, my response is the same: "It's OK, I'll find room"
Thing is, I'm not so sure at the moment.

There's a fine line between a collector and a hoarder ... but I don't believe I have crossed it yet

Friday 1 March 2024

Sniffin’ Glue: And Other Rock ‘n’ Roll Habits

In July 1976, Glam Rock fan and Bank Clerk Mark Perry was wandering his favourite record stores when he asked at the Rock On Stall in Soho Market if they had any magazines about this new “Punk thing” he’d been reading about in the NME – his interest piqued by the first Ramones album, The Flamin’ Groovies at the Roundhouse, and the spying of familiar faces at Gigs.

The Rock On Stall had nothing to offer other than an American publication, but nothing about what was clearly happening in London.
The man on the stall – half-jokingly – suggested that he start one himself if he can’t find what he was looking for. So that’s just what he did – he returned to his bedroom in Deptford, armed himself with a ream of paper, a cheap typewriter, and some felt tip pins and produced Issue 1 of Sniffin’ Glue.
He went back to Rock On with the 50 copies he’d photocopied, and to his surprise they sold and Rock On gave him some money to produce more.

Issue 1 was pieced together on enthusiasm and adrenaline, rather than a journalistic ideal. And it was this DIY style that appealed and gave the confidence to produce more – not on a regular basis, but as and when the moment took him.

One thing to note: at the time of publication, they were few bands about and even fewer records – Issue 1 featured 2 pages reviewing Blue Oyster Cult albums.

By Issue 2, Mark Perry had been invited, along with Caroline Coon (Melody Maker) and Jonh Ingham (Sounds) to Eddie & The Hot Rods gigs, travelling in the back of their van.
He got to see the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club, and as Sniffin’ Glues reputation spread, Brian James asked to be on the cover of the next issue and offered The Damned up for interview. 3 issues in, and they’re getting exclusive access already.
Just after Issue 4 in October 1976, Sniffin’ Glue moved from a Deptford bedroom to a backroom at the Rough Trade shop, and then onto office space provided by Miles Copeland, who also gave Mark Perry his own record label.

From 50 hand made copies to quitting his job at the bank inside 3 months. He also roped in 2 friends to help with the scribbling and reviewing – Steve Mick and Danny Baker – and Sniffin’ Glue became a job, rather than something knocked up cheaply and flogged off quickly.

Sniffin’ Glue was now a mainstay of the scene, and even started to take on advertising – mostly from Rock On and Chiswick Records, but also offering advance membership of the (yet to open) Roxy in Covent Garden.
The style was becoming more confident, the content richer, more photos and more (freebie) records to review, and still for the bargain price of 30p

Issue 12 was the last, appearing some 14 months after the first issue (Note: although nominally Issue 12, it was actually Issue 15 as the had been 3½, 7½, and a Christmas Special (Sniffin’ Snow). The final print run was 20,000 copies. What started as a mouthpiece for enthusiasm, was becoming a commercial enterprise, and Sniffin’ Glue – although the first – was now just one of many fanzines competing for attention.
Better to end it while it was still “fun” – and the perfect opportunity to promote your next venture by sticking a flexi-disc of your new band Alternative TV on the cover.

This book (first published in 2000, re-published in 2009, and now available again) collects together all those issues, and through the pages one can see the rise and fall (or should that be disillusionment?) of Punk from it’s DIY, small scene London-centric beginnings, ending (I think) presciently before both Punk and Sniffin’ Glue became a bloated parody.

One of the last items written is from Danny Baker expressing annoyance with the cheering reaction from the crowd when the DJ at The Vortex announced that Elvis Presley had died.

What is surprising about the book is that what on the face off it essentially a disposal artefact has now been preserved. One can only assume that the copies are drawn from Mark Perry’s Master copies as it’s unlikely that any of the purchased copies survived and probably ended up littering the floors of The Roxy and The Vortex, or floating in the wind down Wardour Street.

Learning point: Don’t go looking for the “Here’s chord, here’s another, here’s a third – now form a band” headline. That was another fanzine – Sideburns – in January 1977, but is attributed to Sniffin’ Glue – so much so, you can buy a t-shirt with the Sniffin’ Glue headline, and the picture from Sideburns.