Album Of The Year – 1985

Midway through the 80s , how was the decade going? Not well if you’d asked me.

In March 1985 the year long miner’s strike in the UK ended, a resounding victory for the Thatcher government. I heard the news at my friend’s house – he and his dad were true blue Tories and found it highly amusing, I just gritted my teeth. We are still mates and he has long since moved to the left. In South Africa, PW Botha’s apartheid government attempted to clamp down on dissent in the townships and this seemed to now be big news in the UK media, though Thatcher seemed just fine with it. Later in the year we had a spate of inner city riots in the UK demonstrating that nothing much had been learned from 1981 despite the Scarman report. Ronald Reagan attended a ceremony in at a cemetery in Bitburg , Germany despite several of the soldiers buried there being SS members, something which prompted an angry response from the Ramones of all bands. On arguably more positive notes Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union and helped oversee the end of the cold war, not that it seems to offer much comfort now. Live Aid also happened and saw optimistic talk about the world coming together to tackle famine in Africa, though these days you would think the cause was actually making Freddie Mercury even more famous than he already was. I may have written about this before.

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Earworms 26 September 2022

Alice fell into a pool of her own tears as she tried to work out “who in the world am I?”

Good evening, and welcome to your songs about Alison – sorry, Alice in – Wonderland. Or through the looking glass.

If you have an Earworm to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme with be fiscal incompetence – gambling, drinking, wine women and song, PPE and whatever else you can think of. I have no idea what made me think of this as a theme – as the pound is in meltdown – anyway, I digress.

Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 2 October. Many thanks to all contributors and stay sane.

Nina Nastasia – Ocean – shoegazer: Not Alice, but contains a similar growth spurt.

Mad Hatter’s Daughter – Hurt – DebbyM: Just one from me this week and it’s a bit of a cheat (I’m leaving my beloved White Rabbit for everyone else 😉 )

Stevie Nicks – Alice – glassarfemptee: Stevie Nicks’ 1989 solo album “The other side of the mirror” is loosely based on Alice in Wonderland. Here’s Alice.

Sol Seppy – Wonderland – glassarfemptee: Wimbledon-born Sol Seppy conjures up her own mad version of Wonderland “My friends transformed into cane toads/Sitting in a row blowing on cigars/And Arthur was replaced by a spacecraft”.

The Velvet Underground – I’ll Be Your Mirror – Suzi: Hoping that something very loosely connected with the books is acceptable, here’s VU’s lovely love song.

Kinks – Phenomenal Cat – Suzi: A very wise and well-travelled cat, sitting contentedly in his tree. If he’s not actually a Cheshire Cat – though he could well be – he does have a certain magical quality, so perhaps he’s related! It’s been said that this song is actually satirising a particular person, but of course, the Alice books themselves satirise various people and philosophies. Perhaps that – and the silly ‘Fum, fum, diddle-um di’ refrain – is why it seems to fit the topic – I think!

Charles Mingus – Alice’s Wonderland – Fintan28: If you can imagine Alice in a not quite walk of shame frame of mind, dawn approaching in a delightfully sinful way, this might be what it sounds like. The world slightly out of frame, the familiar suddenly evolved beyond her recognition yet nothing truly threatening. Definitely through the Looking Glass.

Stevie Wonder – Superstition – Fintan28: Very tenuous connection topic-wise but hey it’s got a Looking Glass and it’s definitely an earworm and it’s Stevie Wonder. More than enough for me. Jumped on board last week and now I pass it on.

Charlie Parker – Blues For Alice – Severin: I know very little about the various jazz genres and their history but like a lot of jazz-dabblers I enjoy a fair number of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis tunes. This one is from 1951 and features “bird changes” but not caterpillars or flamingos. Oh, hang on…

Half Man Half Biscuit – Bad Losers On Yahoo Chess – severin: I don’t have any songs about walruses or Tweedledum or (surprisingly) looking glasses so this is the nearest I can get to a plot reference.

Earl Bostic – Flamingo – severin: Another instrumental and I can’t hear the sound of a croquet mallet but I do love the raspy sax sound so off it goes.

Franz Ferdinand – The Lobster Quadrille – tincanman: From Almost Alice, the not-quite-a-soundtrack album released to coincide with Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland remake.

Tom Waits – Poor Edward – tincanman: From Waits’ and Kathleen Brennan’s soundtrack for a very short-lived 1990’s musical inspired by, but not a literal retelling of, Alice in Wonderland. Alice is epic Waits and worth a listen.

Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit – LongTallSilly: It just had to be, surreal!!

June Tabor and Oyster Band – White Rabbit – Suzi: Super version of the Jefferson Airplane original, with lots of references to both Alice books.

Shinedown – Her Name is Alice – MaggieB: Not sure if I like this very much really, but the lyrics are fairly interesting. (Swear, curse damn etc.! My daughter has tested positive so we are isolating, after all this time, and after having been so careful. We were due to get boosters tomorrow as well).

Sisters Of Mercy – Alice – wyngatecarpenter: About a “mentally wayward” young woman according to Andrew Eldritch but she’s almost certainly been renamed Alice for a reason. One of the definitive goth records whether Eldritch likes it or not. 

GBH – Malice In Wonderland – wyngatecarpenter: Not sure it’s really anything to do with Alice In Wonderland but since when did that matter.

Smokie – Living next Door to Alice – AliM: We went to see Jasmin Vardimon’s UK dance tour “Alice”, recently. A dark and clever interpretation of Alice in Wonderland, including a sequence where all the cast dressed as Alice and danced to this song, singing a chorus of “Alice! Alice! Who the f*ck is Alice?” Can’t get it out of my head.


The Most Classic Song By 1970s Genesis

I am being specific this week because I want to look at a band who changed dramatically after two key members quit in the second half of the 1970s.

(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty

Genesis, as a band go back to the 1960s when the band’s original members were pupils at Charterhouse Public School, but that isn’t really relevant to this piece. Therefore I will ignore their debut LP, From Genesis To Revelation, which was released in 1969 and is pretty much rubbish. After signing to the Charisma label, they worked on new songs and released a second album, Trespass in 1970, with a different drummer but retaining the core membership of Peter Gabriel (vocals and flute), Tony Banks (keyboards), Mike Rutherford (bass and 12-string guitar) and Anthony Phillips (lead guitars). It was a better album, by a long way, but the classic ingredients were still lacking. It has some decent tracks but nothing truly memorable. “White Mountain” is probably the best track and “The Knife” was a live fan favourite for the next few years. Guitarist Anthony Phillips left after the album was released. He wasn’t in good health and suffered from stage fright. The remaining core members decided to sack drummer John Mayhew and carry on with replacements on guitars and drums. This is where the story really begins.

The new recruits, drummer Phil Collins and guitarist Steve Hackett joined at separate times. Collins came first, which meant that the band began working as a four piece, which allowed Banks and Rutherford space to work on more complex material. They even gigged like this for a couple of months. However, guitarist Hackett was the missing piece, joining at the beginning of 1971. The classic lineup was in place. 1971 saw the band touring, writing and recording a new album, which would be released in November 1971 under the title of Nursery Cryme. It wasn’t commercially successful in the UK, but sales weren’t always important to Charisma boss Tony Stratton-Smith. The album was quite popular in Italy, though. This was the first Genesis record I bought. I’d never heard their music but I’d read about the band and what I read intrigued me. Also, the somewhat surreal, and creepy, album cover made me want to know more. It was love at first hearing. Genesis were doing things unlike anyone else. Maybe there were a few similarities to King Crimson, especially the mellotron, and possibly to Yes in places, but Genesis seemed to have weird interests and a gothic sensibility in terms of song content. Also, they had a reputation on the underground gig circuit. The album has several real standout tracks. The opener, “The Musical Box” is all weird creepy Victorian gothic melodrama and it remained a live staple for years. Elsewhere we get Greek mythology with “The Fountain Of Salmacis“, killer shrubbery with “The Return Of The Giant Hogweed” and pastoral whimsy. I was a convert. I wanted more Genesis. I had to wait for almost a year for October 1972’s Foxtrot, by which time I’d seen the band live twice.

Foxtrot is a bigger beast than Nursery Cryme. The songs are bigger, bolder, more complex and more sophisticated. The album was also commercially successful, probably on the back of the band’s heavy touring schedule and growing fanbase. It also contains three standout stone cold classics in “Watcher Of The Skies“, “Get ‘Em Out by Friday” and the truly epic “Supper’s Ready” which culminates with a Blakean evocation of the Apocalypse . For many people, Foxtrot is Peak Genesis, but the band weren’t finished.

1973 saw the band release a live album, surprisingly called Genesis Live and another studio album, Selling England By The Pound, which came a year after Foxtrot and signalled a move away from the epic sound of that album, but with a growing sophistication in terms of subject matter. It even has a hit single with “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)“, which got to Number 21 on the UK singles chart in April 1974. It is a clever album. It shows mature musical writing and, I think, an awareness that creepy gothic melodrama, mythology and whimsy will only take you so far. Having said that, the Genesis approach in the 1970s was never too far away from mythology and Lewis Carroll-style fantasy, even though SEBTP explores creeping Americanisation and a elegiac worry about the decline of Englishness. The big set-piece tracks are “Dancing with the Moonlit Knight“, “Firth of Fifth“, “The Cinema Show” and the whimsical fake epic “The Battle of Epping Forest“, based upon a fight between two East End criminal gangs. The album sold well, reaching Number 3 on the UK album chart.

As always seems to be the case, there were tensions in the band. Gabriel, Banks and Hackett were often at musical loggerheads and the band was heavily in debt. This led to more touring, especially in America.

In 1974, Genesis began working on a new album, which was pretty much Peter Gabriel’s baby. It was planned as a two-record concept album, the concept being a complex journey of spiritual, sexual and psychological awakening of a New York street punk called Rael via a series of surreal and fantastical episodes. I’ve never managed to work out what actually happens to Rael at the end. What I do know, though, is that the ensuing album, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway led to an irrevocable split between Gabriel and the rest of Genesis. The album itself is a game of two halves. LP1 has all the songs and the approachable music and LP2 is mostly instrumental, claustrophobic and nightmareish before we reach the final (possibly) apotheosis of Rael. Is it a masterpiece or just an overblown vanity project? It divides opinions dramatically, but the question here is whether it has any classic tracks on it. To be honest, I’m not sure that there are. The album needs to be heard as a single piece of work. The opening track, itself called “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” is memorable and musically bold and The Carpet Crawlers is probably the most well-known track, although lyrically it is dense stuff. The album sold well, climaxing on the UK album chart at Number 10. The band undertook a massive American and European tour to promote TLLDOB, over 100 dates. The set was the whole album, with none of the band’s previous repertoire being performed, except as encores. This, inevitably widened the gulf between Genesis and Gabriel, who announced that he was leaving the band once the tour was over.

Genesis almost called it a day at this point, but eventually decided to carry on. Without a singer, the four members of Genesis worked on new songs and tried to find a suitable voice, without success. Eventually, drummer Phil Collins, who had been auditioning singers had a go himself and was appointed as the new face of Genesis by the rest of the band. They recorded two albums as a foursome; A Trick Of The Tail and Wind And Wuthering, released at either end of 1976. To be honest, they sound like Genesis with Peter Gabriel, the first one more so than the second and have some terrific songs, the best being “Dance on a Volcano“, “Entangled“, “Ripples…” on the former album and perhaps “One for the Vine” and “Blood on the Rooftops” on the latter.

The story ends here, though, because Steve Hackett, who had already embarked on a part-time solo career outside Genesis decided that he would be happier solo all the time. Genesis as a threesome went on to be absolutely massive and had loads of hits, but I don’t like any of that stuff at all.

Is there a genuine Genesis classic song? Of course there is, but I’m sure that there will be different opinions about what it is.

THIS IS MY CLASSIC, THOUGH.

Album Of The Year – 1981

One of the best remembered musical moments of 1981 – but did you buy the album?

1981: I don’t know about you but the Royal wedding and inner city riots both spring to mind together simultaneously.  It’s yet another one of those years where it’s easy to make those punchlines about “you can’t imagine that happening now”. A female Prime Minister leading the most right wing Tory government for many years; an economically precarious position domestically with many feeling they were being thrown to the wolves; cold war tensions with Russia; and a massive Royal occasion distracting almost everyone. Of course, it’s decidedly questionable whether Liz Truss will be Prime Minister for much longer – but then the conventional wisdom in 1981 was that with unemployment so high it was inconceivable that Thatcher would win the next election.

I was 11 in 1981, and my concerns were much more parochial – I was unhappy at school although with hindsight things were just beginning to improve and continued to do so unevenly as I went up to high school. I was vaguely aware of pop music. I’m pretty sure that , looking at the UK charts throughout 81, that I didn’t actually watch TOTP for the first half the year. I had no recollection of Ultravox’s Vienna for example until a couple of years later, and in any case Shaddapa Your Face was much more popular at school. Acts that I was aware of included Madness, Toyah, Gary Numan, The Police, and Shakin’ Stevens but one band in particular seemed to dominate and that was Adam & The Ants. They were huge in 1981, and almost everyone in my year at school , girl or boy, liked them. I remember one lad getting sent to the headmaster for painting a white stripe across his nose in art. One of the only kids who didn’t like them was me – late as usual , I started listening to my 7 year old brother’s cassette copy of Prince Charming and became a fan – just as everyone else was abandoning them.

What I didn’t know was the back story. One of their fans at school once explained that Adam was “a cross between a punk and a Red Indian (sic)” as if that meant anything to either of us. Adam And The Ants had been a punk with a huge cult following, fixated on sexual fetishism and flirting with Nazi imagery (albeit while explicitly condemning racism). In 1979 Adam said in a fanzine interview “We are and always will be a cult band”. A couple of year later his tune had changed – “Cult is another word for loser”. He’d paid a consultancy fee to Malcolm McLaren and had squarely aimed for massive mainstream success. And the reason why I’m harping on about Adam & The Ants is that they weren’t just the biggest pop band in 1981, they symbolised pop in 1981. The charts were suddenly being infiltrated (and some of them certainly saw it in those terms) with former denizens of the post punk underground who’d decided that they wanted massive commercial success. The two biggest singles of the year were by the Human League and Soft Cell, formerly experimental electronic acts who had both hit on the ideas of using synths to record actual pop songs. The Human League’s Dare was one of the biggest albums of the year, although I still don’t quite get the fuss about that one. Phil Oakey’s former bandmates Heaven 17 also released a their slick electronic debut Penthouse And Pavement, while borrowing ideas from PIL and lyrical themes from the Gang Of Four. Synth pop was everywhere. Arguably the biggest ever band under the synth pop banner, Depeche Mode , released their debut album Speak & Spell  (a terrible album imho – not that I complained when two decades later I found a second hand test pressing for £1 and made a killing on ebay).

Also big on synths were the New Romantics , the chief peacocks of pop in 1981. These days the term is applied willy nilly to early 80s pop bands that used synths somewhere (and a few that didn’t) but at the time it was a bit more exclusive and elitist – if you couldn’t get past Steve Strange on the door at the Blitz club then you probably weren’t a New Romantic. .1981 saw the debut albums of the scene’s two main bands Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet, both of whom were unashamedly aspirational.

Elements of the music press were riled by this , and were condemning the new pop scene as escapist and even Thatcherite , but others like Paul Morley embraced the “New Pop”. In his book on post punk Rip It Up And Start Again Simon Reynolds comments “it looked like the old guard of seventies stodgy leftovers and stale MOR had been decisively ousted , as a horde of fresh-faced pretenders took possession of the mainstream: Altered Images, Haircut 100, The Associates, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode , ABC, Bow Wow Wow, The Teardrop Explodes, Japan, Fun Boy Three, New Order…”

If you wanted your music to be more gritty and authentic, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal was in full swing with the likes of Iron Maiden, Saxon and a young Def Leppard. Punk of course was dead … except it wasn’t, underlined by the Exploited releasing their debut Punks Not Dead and making one of the year’s least likely Top Of The Pops appearances. There was also a rockabilly revival going on led by the Stray Cats. There was also a lot of talk about British funk. And no doubt there was a lot of other stuff going on that you know about but I don’t.

The best selling album of the year in the UK was Adam And The Ants’ Kings Of The Wild Frontier, though that was released late in 1980. The no 2 biggest seller was Phil Collins’ Face Value, which was released in 1981. Interestingly I found yesterday that the engineer was Nick Lasunay, chosen by Collins because he was impressed by his work on PIL’s Flowers Of Romance , also released that year, which probably ranks as the most experimental thing John Lydon has ever done. The tentacles of post-punk were everywhere in 1981. It all seems symbolic – post punk experimentation giving way to pop running riot with the contents of the dressing up box, but with smooth, sophisticated adult pop lurking in the background ready to clean up as the 80s went on. Most of this passed me by at the time – Tom Baker leaving Doctor Who was bigger news to me – but what it did leave me was an impression that pop stars were not normal people and weren’t meant to be.

The biggest selling albums in the US were Journey’s Escape and REO Speedwagon’s Hi Infidelity, so clearly the “New Pop” wasn’t having much impact there , the “Second British Invasion” was a year or two away.

My Album Of The Year is a close call so I’ll chuck two in – Killing Joke’s What’s This For – Joke at their most relentless. No explicit mentions of riots or nuclear war among the impenetrable lyrics on this album , but it doesn’t need to mention them  , the sound is enough to instil a sense of dread. Slightly easier on the ear but still seemingly existing in it’s own musical world is Echo & The Bunnymen’s Heaven Up Here. Very hard to choose between them. Over to you

Earworms 19 September 2022

Good evening, hope you’ve had a peaceful sort of day, watching the Royal ceremonies or avoiding them, as you see fit. Or being on the other side of the ocean, wondering what all the fuss is about.

As a nod to the occasion, here is your selection of songs about royalty, headed by the beautiful voice of Abigail Washburn (above), a song brought to my attention by tincanman, I think, for which many thanks.

If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be Alice in Wonderland, or Alice Through The Looking Glass. You can throw in Alice in Chains as well, if you like.

Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 26 September. Many thanks to all contributors, and stay sane.

The Burns Unit – Majesty of Decay – glassarfemptee: The Burns Unit (brilliant name for a Scottish super group) flowered briefly, and this song lauds beauty in the midst of Elizabethan decay.

The Unthanks – The Queen of Hearts – Suzi: I’d never realised that this is a very old song, probably dating back to the 17th century. ‘Young man are plenty, but sweethearts few/ If my love leaves me, what shall I do?’ A gorgeous version.

Karine Polwart – King of Birds – Suzi: The story goes that the birds had a competition to see who could fly highest; the winner would be king. The eagle flew as high as he could, and thought he’d won, but a tiny wren had been hiding in the eagle’s feathers, and flew just that little bit higher. Here the wren is a motif for Sir Christopher Wren, whose cathedral, St Paul’s, rose from the ashes of the Great Fire of London, survived the blitz, and in 2012 was the scene of a protest camp by the Occupy movement. The wren becomes a symbol of hope.

Ukrainians – Koroleva Ne Pomerla – tincanman: A cover of The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead in Ukrainian seems nothing if not topical. The band is actually British, the brainchild of The Wedding Present’s Peter Solowka.

Faustus – The Death of the Hart Royal – DebbyM: Not a fan of human royals, so thought I’d go with something else instead. Am also still reeling in shock at the news of Paul Sartin’s death, so this track is an homage to him.

Blues Magoos – Queen Of My Nights – Fintan2: We really don’t do Queens much as you know. Still there are those who rule our hearts and our dreams.

T Rex – Planet Queen – severin: We don’t get a lot of T Rex on the Earworms. Always liked the mid-point between the old whimsical acoustic Bolan and the newer electric version. Flo and Eddie’s backing vocals add to the effect.

Mammut – Prince – severin: From their fifth album, Ride the Fire. Released in 2020 and the second one to have English lyrics. The mix of female lead vocal and gruff male spoken voice occasionally adding its two penn’oth reminds me a bit of the first Sugarcubes album.

Peter Blegvad – King Strut – Uncleben: He’s a philanthropist and connoisseur and he doesn’t get angry about pens.

Sudan Archives – NBPQ (Topless) – tincanman: Title track (sort of) of the musical polygot’s newly released second album, which I won’t attempt to describe here because she’s better heard than read about. She won’t bore you, I promise you that.

Japandroids – No Allegiance to the Queen – glassarfemptee: I’m not that keen on having a billionaire head of state, by accident of birth. Some Canadians, including Japandroids, seem to agree, as they sing “You need our money more than we need you”.

Wolfgang Press – King of Soul – shoegazer: There are not many themes where you can shoehorn a Press tune.

Rush – Bastille Day – LongTallSilly:And they’re marching to Bastille Day / La guillotine will claim her bloody prize / Sing, o choirs of cacophony / Well, the king must kneel to let his kingdom rise…” The French get it right sometimes!

Lorde – Royals – AliM: Let me be your ruler… You can call me Queen Bee… Let me live that fantasy.

Gothart – Polorum Regina – AliM: Czech band, started in 1993, interpreting medieval music, playing authentic instruments from that time. Our sovereign of all, morning star.

Fay Hield – The Looking Glass – Suzi: A setting of a poem by Rudyard Kipling. Queen Elizabeth I is haunted by the ghosts of her past victims. She has to face the truth.

Handel – Zadok the Priest – Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation 1953 – MaggieB: A coronation anthem, used at every coronation since Handel composed it 1727 for the coronation of George ll. Glorious 🙂

The Most Classic Song Produced By The Phil Spector Wall Of Sound

A clumsy title, I know, but I am looking at a very specialised genre this week, songs produced by Phil Spector and released on his Philles label during the 1960s.

This isn’t really going to be a piece about Spector as a person, I really don’t want to go there at all, but he does need to be talked about within the context of the music he produced, music that was amazingly distinctive and which created a sound that defined so much of the pop music of the 60s and beyond. In the final analysis, The Sound was more important than the artists but when everything came together a good artist or group could become great through The Sound.

Phil Spector was born in The Bronx in December 1939 but moved to Los Angeles in 1953, four years after the suicide of his father. Was that sad event significant? Who knows, but the move west certainly was pivotal in the musical development of young Phil. At high school, Spector learnt to play the guitar and became friends with a number of young aspiring musicians, including future Beach Boy Bruce Johnston, drummer Sandy Nelson and two singing friends, Marshall Lieb and Annette Kleinbard. Spector, Lieb and Kleinbard formed a vocal group, The Teddy Bears who had a global smash hit with “To Know Him Is to Love Him“, a song written by Phil. The group released a few more other singles but none did as well, so that was it. Spector had already started to learn how the recording process worked and, through a new acquaintance, music promoter Lester Sill, got to know Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. Returning to New York, Spector began working for Lieber and Stoller as both a writer and a session musician. He co-wrote the Ben E. King hit “Spanish Harlem” with Mike Lieber but also began to work as a record producer. By 1961, Spector was back in LA and working with Lester Sill. The jointly formed a record label Philles, using their first names for its name. Spector’s first group was The Crystals and they recorded the first ever Philles single There’s No Other (Like My Baby). It was a Top 20 US hit. The second Crystal single, “Uptown” did even better, reaching Number 13. Neither can be said to be Wall of Sound songs though. Philles also released a Goffin/King song, recorded again by The Crystals. The song was “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)“, a song that Carole King later disowned. It got airplay, but the subject matter, domestic violence led to protests and the song was later withdrawn.

In late 1961 and 1962 Spector was doing production work in LA for other labels and worked with Gene Pitney. He heard a Pitney song that he thought would be a hit. It was intended to be a Crystals release but they were unavailable, so Phil got Darlene Love and her group The Blossoms to record the song. It was called “He’s a Rebel” and was released under The Crystals banner. It was Philles first Billboard Number One and broke into the UK Top 20. The next Crystals record was also performed by Darlene Love and The Blossoms. Amazingly, perhaps, the actual Crystals continued to work with Spector, having a hit with “Da Doo Ron Ron” in 1963. I say, the actual Crystals, but there were several members over the years. Basically, what we are seeing here is Phil Spector developing a stable of performers who could come in and do a job for him. He did a similar thing with Bob B. Soxx & the Blue Jeans, another group featuring Darlene Love. The Crystals would release other Philles singles, most notably “Then He Kissed Me“.

In 1962, Spector bought Sill out, and took sole control of the Philles label. He was beginning to develop a particular way of working, using a particular studio, Gold Star in Los Angeles and often the same engineer, Larry Levine to create a big enveloping sound for his records. Arranger Jack Nitzsche was also a big part of the sound. Spector also began working with a roster of L.A’s best session players, people like bassist Carol Kaye, drummers Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon, guitarists Bill Pitman, Teddy Tedesco and Glenn Campbell, horn players like saxophonist Steve Douglas (a school friend of Spector’s) and keyboards players Leon Russell, Mike Melvoin (father of Wendy of Wendy and Lisa fame) and Larry Knechtel. These and many more became the Spector House Band, although the name later bestowed on them, “The Wrecking Crew”, wasn’t used at the time.

Spector’s records were all produced to a plan. Everything was recorded live in a single take. Instruments were doubled and maybe tripled by having two or three of them playing the same parts. Strings and other orchestral instruments were also included in the overall blend. There was a heavy reliance on echo, a big feature of the Gold Star sound, and the records were mixed in mono. The sound was layered by having lots of players, it was dense and forceful, designed to sound good on jukeboxes and on the radio.

This sound clearly worked and it was developed and refined over time. It’s first full use was on The Ronettes hit single, “Be My Baby“, released in the summer of 1963. Although they were a real group, the only Ronette on the record was the 20 year-old Veronica Bennett, who would become Mrs Ronnie Spector in 1968. The Ronettes would go on to have a string of hits on the Philles label. People will know many of them, especially “Baby, I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain“. In many ways, these songs really define the Spector Sound. There is something so absolutely glorious about them. It is a kind of timeless pop perfection that always gives me goosebumps and a tingling down my spine. Another Ronettes single, which wasn’t a hit, surprisingly was “I Can Hear Music“, although it was a big hit in 1969 when it was covered by The Beach Boys.

The Sound itself appears to have been dubbed The Wall Of Sound by Andrew Loog Aldham in 1964 in an advert for the Righteous Brothers’ single “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’“, another one of those spine-tingling pieces of timeless pop perfection. There is something about Bill Medley’s voice that just works perfectly within the Wall of Sound production style. You can hear this perfectly on the song “Just Once in My Life“, their second Philles hit single, released in 1965. There is also, of course “Unchained Melody“.

The Philles roster of artists was pretty much The Crystals, The Ronettes, Darlene Love and The Righteous Brothers from the middle of 1963 until the middle of 1966 when Spector first began working with Ike and Tina Turner. In reality, Spector wanted to work with Tina Turner, but money-grabbing control freak Ike wanted to be credited on any records Philles might release. The first fruit of this new arrangement was a masterpiece, “River Deep – Mountain High“. Strangely, the song wasn’t a huge hit in the USA, doing much better across Europe. All manner of stories exist about the recording of this song, including rumours of Spector threatening Ike with a gun and having Ike locked out of the studio. It is, by any standard a classic but Spector was unable to repeat the success with any more Tina Turner tracks.

I haven’t yet talked about any albums, but I’ll mention just one, released in November 1963, originally released as A Christmas Gift for You from Philles Records, but better known as A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector. For many people, myself included, this is the real sound of Christmas. It features Darlene Love, The Crystals, The Ronettes, Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans and the cream of the Wrecking Crew.

The Wall of Sound techniques and expansive widescreen sound was picked up by many others, not least The Beach Boys, who also used Wrecking Crew musicians on their records. You can hear the Wall of Sound with artists like Sonny and Cher and The Mamas And The Papas too.

Of course, all things come to an end and Philles Records stopped putting out records after 1967 and finally ceased to existed in 1969. Spector would move on to produce many other people, but that is another story.

So, what is the Phil Spector Wall Of Sound Classic Cut? There are plenty of options, I think and people will all have personal favourites. My is THIS ONE HERE.

Album Of The Year – 1967

By Nilpferd

Culturally, socially and politically, the mid-sixties were characterized by a resetting of post-war values.

Protests against the Vietnam War were taking off as that conflict became increasingly destructive. The US experienced one of its largest urban riots in Detroit and Israel recast the power balance in the Middle East by crippling its rivals during the 6 day war.

1967 saw heavyweight releases from The Beatles, VU, The Doors, James Brown, Dionne Warwick, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Otis Redding, Nina Simone  and Jimi Hendrix next to many others, but it was also an excellent year for cinema.

Buñuel’s Belle de Jour, Melville’s Le Samourai, and Jacques Tati’s Playtime showcased the range of European filmmaking, Roald Dahl and Ken Adam injected some Vernesque volcano-lair craziness into the Bond franchise with You Only Live Twice and the Peter Cook/Dudley Moore vehicle Bedazzled hilariously subverted “swinging London”. Skip the crappy remake though.

Playtime incidentally one of my all-time favourite films.

1967 represented something of a final fling for acoustic jazz, increasingly sidelined and with jazz-rock looming. The deaths of Billy Strayhorn and John Coltrane also confirmed, in different ways, the end of an era.

The exception proving the rule, it was also the year one of the the greatest ever acoustic jazz recordings was made- Miles Smiles, by the second Miles Davis Quintet. The same group also released Sorcerer later in the same year with Nefertiti still to come, but neither had the consistency and brilliance of the earlier album. (Sales-wise it will always be Kind of Blue, of course, but given similar levels of quality I’d favour Miles Smiles for the variety, the risk-taking, and the increased involvement of the rhythm section.)

1967. Summer of love or winter of discontent?

Over to you.

Earworms 12 September 2022

Well, there goes another weird and wonderful week, a new Prime Minister and a new monarch. Goodness knows what else has been happening, that’s all the media seems to be talking about. A good week, then, to explore some of our own mottos for life, expressed in your latest choice of music.

If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be royalty and rulers – kings, queens, princes, princesses, in any guise. Even twelve-inch rulers.

Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 18 September. Many thanks to all contributors, and stay sane.

Talk Talk – Life’s What You Make It – shoegazer: Tricky, but this’ll do.

The Rascals – Easy Rollin’ – Fintan28: Some aspirational advice to live by from my favorite feel good band. If I could capture the joy in the Gene Cornish harmonica and bottle it the whole world could smile. “Don’t you worry at all, don’t you worry no more”.

Neil Young – Walk On – Fintan28: If I truly have a motto this is it. Even when life is taking shots at you, you got to keep moving. Just don’t run. Life’s too short as it is and ” sooner or later it all gets real”.

Half Man Half Biscuit – Give Us Bubblewrap – severin: The world is far too complicated. “Don’t they realise we’re easily pleased?”

Mary Coughlan – I Can Dream, Can’t I? – severin: More a general comment about how I live my life, but I suppose the specific story sounds quite familiar too… Written in 1937 and recorded by everybody in the entire world.

The Temptations – Law of the Land – Fuel: Law of the Land by The Temptations is one of my favourite songs – a funky dose of realism and hope. Masterpiece is one of my favourite albums. Life is uncertain, let me hear you say (Yeah) / Death is final, yes it is / There’ll be days of sunshine and laughter / But don’t forget you gonna have to shed some tears.

The Godfathers – Birth, School, Work, Death – Fuel: From their eponymous album (1988).

Grateful Dead – Playing In The Band – Chris7572: “If a man among you got no sin upon his hand/Let him cast a stone at me for playing in the band”. This could well be the band’s motto and it’s one I heartily endorse for life in general: unless you’re perfect, keep your opinions about others to yourself.

Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters – Ain’t Nobody’s Business – tincanman: This reminds me to make my own decisions in life – and to try and let others do the same. Easier said than done – we’re such a bossy species! The versions with words distract me.

Kate Wolf – Back Roads – tincanman: This is my ‘stop and smell the flowers’ song. Reminding myself to “take a back road” helps me slow down and ask myself what’s the rush.

Leonard Cohen – Anthem – Suzi: It was back in 2008 that Dorian Lynskey listed this song which I’d nominated for Songs of Consolation. Still a favourite, both comforting and inspirational.

Megson – The Longshot – Suzi: Something good to remember, in football and in life. ‘You take the long shot, if that’s all there is / And put it in a very safe place where your doubt can’t get to it / ‘Cos once you’re certain, that all hope is gone, a long shot is better than none.’

Led Zeppelin – Nobody’s Fault but Mine – LongTallSilly: I love this. The locus of control is within me, not subject to the whims of the universe. Well apart from astrology of course🤣🤣🤣

Neil Young and Crazy Horse – Be the Rain – Maggie B: Saving the planet, that’s what I want to do my best to do.

Bob Marley – Three Little Birds – AliM: Stumped by my own topic, this song is far more optimistic than I usually feel. But a good rule to live by? What could possibly go wrong?

The Most Classic Song By The Yardbirds

The Yardbirds were an R ‘n’B and Blues group founded in 1963 in the leafy suburbs of south-west London. The band’s original members were singer Keith Relf, guitarist Anthony “Top” Topham, second guitarist (later bassist) Chris Dreja, bassist Paul Samwell-Smith and drummer Jim McCarty.

John Pratt/Keystone: Getty Images

Apparently they played their first gig at Kingston Art School in May 1963 as the backing band for British blued legend Cyril Davies. Originally known as The Blue Sounds, they soon became The Yardbirds, playing their first gig under their new name at the Eel Pie Island Hotel. They were spotted by impresario and music biz shaker and mover Giorgio Gomelsky, who owned The Crawdaddy Club in Richmond, where The Rolling Stones were the house band. When the Stones became too big for the club, Gomelsky hired The Yardbirds as the new house band. The band became professional musicians, but Topham, who was only 15 decided to stick with his studies and left the band. The replacement guitarist was another art student, Eric Clapton.

With Clapton on lead guitar, The Yardbirds became a “name” on the London blues circuit. With Gomelsky as their manager, The Yardbirds toured the UK as a pick-up backing band for Sonny Boy Williamson in the winter of 1963-4. Some of these dates were recorded, but not released until The Yardbirds were a well-known act in 1966. The album was called Sonny Boy Williamson & the Yardbirds. I’ve heard it. To be honest, it isn’t very good, with the band sounding pretty feeble and anaemic behind the actual real thing from Chicago.

Still, it would lead to the band signing for EMI subsidiary, Columbia Records. Their first release was another live album, Five Live Yardbirds. Remarkably well-recorded for 1964, it stands up pretty well musically too. It is pretty much all blues covers, which is what the British Blues Boom was all about in the early days. It has a lot of life and enthusiasm, with some pretty decent playing from Clapton. Interestingly, it contains a version of “I Got Love If You Want It“, the Slim Harpo number that would later be covered by The Who, lightly disguised as “I’m The Face” when they were calling themselves The High Numbers. Elsewhere they cover “Smokestack Lightning“, “Good Morning, School Girl“, “Five Long Years” and Bo Diddley’s hit “I’m A Man“. There is a fair bit of improvisation on the album, the kind of thing that the band referred to as “Having a rave-Up” when they played live. Despite the band’s growing live popularity, it didn’t sell well in the UK and wasn’t released in the USA. The band only ever released on other album in the UK in their career.

The band decided to concentrate on the UK singles market, but neither of their first two singles bothered the charts much. It took a shift to a less-purist, more commercial sound before they would get a hit record. This came in March 1965 with “For Your Love“, written by future 10cc member, Graham Gouldman. It got to Number Three in the UK and, perhaps more importantly Number Six in the USA. The change of direction was not to the liking of Eric Clapton, who quit the band on the same day as the record came out. The summer of 1965 saw their first US album release, For Your Love. It sold poorly.

Clapton recommended a mate of his, a session guitarist called Jimmy Page, but Jimmy was doing pretty well out of his session work and didn’t fancy the touring lark at all (of course he later had a change of heart). Page, in turn recommended a mate of his as the replacement lead guitarist. His name was Jeff Beck.

Beck proved to be the missing piece of the puzzle. Pop music was changing in 1965, people wanted bigger sounds, weirder sounds and more razzle-dazzle. Beck would provide all of that with his experimentation with effects pedals, feedback and distortion. The Yardbirds would follow up the success of “For Your Love” with another Graham Gouldman song, “Heart Full Of Soul“. This was also a Top Ten hit, reaching Number Five in the UK and Nine in the USA. August 1965 saw the band release an EP, which also did well and then another Gouldman track, “Evil Hearted You”, which was also a massive hit in the UK but wasn’t released in the USA. “Evil Hearted You” has a classic mid-60s Jeff Beck guitar break. By this time, The Yardbirds had toured America twice, where Epic was their label and seen an album, Having a Rave Up with the Yardbirds released with minor success. The album was pretty much a compilation of previously-released stuff plus a few new tracks recorded with Jeff Beck, notably “The Train Kept A-Rollin“.

More singles were recorded and released, “Shapes Of Things” (possibly the UK’s first psychedelic hit single), “Over Under Sideways Down” and “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” all explored new sounds and more experimental ways of being a pop group. 1966 also saw The Yardbirds record a new LP. Yardbirds, also known as Roger The Engineer, was the only other album the band would release in the UK. The title isn’t the same tasteless joke as the Captain Pugwash spoof “Roger The Cabin Boy”, it refers to the album’s sound engineer Roger Cameron. It was a hit! It got to Number 20 in the UK and 502 on the Billboard album chart. Yardbirds is a reasonable record, but not great. It is too patchy. The reality is that in the studio, The Yardbirds could never capture their live form. Beck is pretty good on it, though.

However, changes were afoot. Paul Samwell-Smith quit the band. The idea was for Jimmy Page to join as a temporary bassist until Chris Dreja became good enough to take over, whereupon Page would become a second lead guitarist. While Dreja was still learning the bass, the band went on another US tour. Beck became ill and the tour ended up with Page on guitar and Dreja on bass. Back in the UK, Beck rejoined and the twin-lead lineup became a reality. Their first release was the already-mentioned “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago“, with another Led Zeppelin link. John Paul Jones played bass on the record.

This lineup was featured in the classic 1966 film, Blow Up. They perform a version of “The Train Kept A-Rollin” called “Stroll On“. The Beck/Page Yardbirds didn’t ever record much else. As an aside, shortly before Page joined the band, he and Beck, plus Keith Moon, John Paul Jones and pianist Nicky Hopkin’s had a jam session, the outcome of which was the track “Beck’s Bolero“. Allegedly, Moon and Who bassist John Entwhistle were dissatisfied with Daltrey and Townshend’s constant bickering in The Who and a supergroup of Page, Beck, Entwhistle and Moon was mooted, but nothing came of it apart from one small detail. Entwhistle suggested that it would “go down like a lead balloon”. Moon said it would be more like a “lead Zeppelin”.

After Blow Up, The Yardbirds were booked to play as one of the support acts on the Rolling Stones 1966 UK tour. After the tour, The Yardbirds went back to the USA for some dates, after one of which Jeff Beck lost his temper and stormed out of the band leaving the band as a four-piece again. There were clear problems. Keith Relf was drinking heavily and Beck was increasingly unreliable. The outcome was Beck quitting (or maybe getting fired).

From this point on, Jimmy Page became the driving force of the band, experimenting with his guitar sound and using a violin bow to play his guitar. Little did anyone know, but Page was already building the foundations of a much bigger band. This was just as well, because The Yardbirds were a band in terminal decline. They dumped manager Simon Napier-Bell and signed up with Mickie Most’s company RAK Management. Most gave the job of managing The Yardbirds to a former Don Arden associate and partner in RAK, Peter Grant.

This didn’t help matter at all. Most wanted chart success but singles sales were poor and touring was taking a huge toll on Relf. In 1967 the band was in the States again, touring and recording another US-only album, Little Games. Page was pulling the Yardbirds towards a much heavier rock sound while Most wanted pop hits.

There are various ways of hearing what the Page-driven live Yardbirds sounded like. A live album Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page, recorded in New York in 1968 was released in 1971 to cash in on the success of Led Zeppelin. Page objected, legal action was taken against Epic Records and the album was withdrawn. CBS tried to release it again in 1976, but Page again took legal action and it was withdrawn again. I have a CD copy of it, released in 2008 on an Argentinian label, Lost Diamonds. I suspect that it is a bootleg. Anyway, I think it is pretty good, all things considered.

OK, back to the actual Yardbirds story. Something was going to break and it did. By March 1968, Relf and McCarty decided to leave the band, leaving Jimmy Page and Chris Dreja the sole members. The Yardbirds had touring commitments to fulfil. Various people were proposed as replacements; drummer Clem Cattini, singer Terry Reid and Procol Harum’s BJ Wilson were all mooted. Reid declined but recommended an unknown singer. His name was Robert Plant. He in turn suggested that his old mate John might be a suitable drummer. Bonham was soon in the band. At this point, Dreja decided to take up photography instead and Page’s session friend John Paul Jones offered his services in what was being billed as The New Yardbirds for the Scandinavian tour. Peter Grant was now the band’s full-time manager.

The rest, as they say is History.

OK, but what about the classic Yardbirds song, you might ask? Enough of this Led Ballooning. You did them ages ago.

Well, The classic Yardbirds period has to be when Jeff Beck was spanking his plank in 1965 and 66, therefore that is where I am going to find my classic.

IT IS THIS ONE.

Album Of The Year 1997

On the first of May, it was announced that the British Labour Party had won a UK election for the first time in 18 years and so young Tony Blair was Prime Minister. On August the thirty-first, Diana, Princess of Wales was taken to a hospital after a car crash in a road tunnel in Paris, shortly after midnight. She was pronounced dead at 4.00 a.m. The funeral was held at Westminster Abbey on September the sixth. It was watched by over two billion people worldwide. I was on holiday on the Greek Island of Cephalonia that day. Every TV screen was showing the funeral so I heard that Elton John song all the way to the beach. It was a very strange time for the UK. I know loads of much more important things happened all over the world. For example, on July the first, the UK handed sovereignty of Hong Kong back to the People’s Republic of China. But those two events are what will always stick in my mind when I think of 1997. A Labour government, albeit one that insisted on calling itself “New Labour”, and the shock of waking up to hear that Diana had died. The reaction to the latter seemed wildly over the top to many of us even at the time but I can still remember a feeling of slightly stunned disbelief.

Musically, it was not a very adventurous year for me at the time. I bought a few albums, mostly by people I already knew or, in one case, by someone who had suddenly and posthumously been championed by the British media. I think these were all in the collection by the end of ’98 at the latest:

Eva Cassidy – Eva By Heart, Half Man Half Biscuit – Voyage To The Bottom Of The Road, Bjork – Homogenic, Mary Coughlan – After The Fall, Portishead – Portishead, Spiritualised – Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space

Later “discoveries”, mostly discovered by everybody else at the time:

Roni Size & Reprazent – New Forms, Bob Dylan – Time Out Of Mind, Buena Vista Social Club – Buena Vista Social Club, Mogwai – Young Team, Scarfo – Luxury Plane Crash

Albums I really should be more than vaguely familiar with by now:

Erykaah Badu – Baduizm, Cornershop – When I Was Born For The Seventh Time, Radiohead – OK Computer, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Boatman’s Call

I’m sure most of you will know all of these and more. My own AOTY is Eva Cassidy. At least, it was at the time. Feel free to change my mind.

Rebellion 2022 – Sunday

A bit like what the inside of my brain looks like a week before Blackpool

Today is a game of two halves. This evening I see as a sort of leisurely stroll towards the finish line of this marathon weekend. Before that though is a manic sprint around the Winter Gardens with a nightmare scenario of multiple overlapping bands – a self-inflicted nightmare scenario of course. As you might have realised, I approach seeing bands at Rebellion with an almost military precision, both checking out unfamiliar bands online and planning my schedule. Some people don’t understand this. A few weeks ago, I was telling an old mate who was also coming that I’d worked out my schedule. “You know that’ll go out the window as soon as you get there” he said. “No it won’t” muttered Damp, who has seen my schedule-following at close quarters. Some people actually spend time making sure everything is tidy in their B & B room and then just go with the flow at the festival. My room is now covered with screwed up flyers and used underpants, but my time at the festival is organised within an inch of its life!  Some people think that this scheduling would take the fun out of the weekend, but for me it maximises my enjoyment by ensuring I get to see more bands.

Talking about organising stuff, I finally manage to arrange to meet up with my Swedish contact who turns out to be a nice guy and I’m soon the owner of a copy of Cat & The Underdogs’ Punk Rock Overdrive LP – very good punk rock & roll with shades of the Stooges and the Clash (are you reading this Daz Russell? Next year – just saying…)

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Earworms 5 September 2022

Good evening… is it? I don’t know. Anything to take your mind off current affairs should be welcome, so here is your selection of songs about hatching, matching and despatching. Just bear with me while I open another bottle…

If you have an earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be personal mottos – a song that exemplifies the way you think, or the way you want to lead your life. Or maybe even the way you do live your life – I leave it to your furtive – sorry, I mean fertile – imaginations. Sex n’ drugs and sausage rolls…

Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 11 September. Many thanks to all contributors.

John Mellencamp – Jackie Brown – Fintan28: Having someone to reach out a helping hand is a luxury for some.  They may not even have someone to say a word over their grave.  John wrote this song for those people I think. 

Leo Kottke – Born To Be With You – Fintan28: Finding your soulmate can be a kind of rebirth. Knowing the person you wish to stand with forever creates the peace of heart necessary for a good marriage I’d say.  Great take on the old Chordettes song. 

Cyndi Lauper Into Your Dreams – Fintan28: Having a newborn brings waves of emotions.  You might even do body melds and translate baby talk as Cyndi does so nicely here.  Love how she asks him of the future as if he were already a man. 

The Full English – Arthur O’Bradley – Suzi: Fay Hield, Nancy Kerr, Martin Simpson, Seth Lakemen, Sam Sweeney, Rob Harbron and Ben Nichols formed the folk supergroup The Full English. Sadly, they recorded only one album.  Fay and Nancy take it in turns to tell the comical story of Arthur’s wedding; there’s a general lack of cash, and Arthur is eccentric to say the least, as is much of the food on offer at the reception. But there’s plenty of drink available, and the wedding guests happily dance till dawn.

Jake Thackray – La Di Dah – Suzi: Enforced politeness to awful relatives may be necessary at a wedding…

Oysterband – Blood Wedding – Suzi: A wedding that sounds more like a riot.  ‘Please God/ This is the last time I get married,’ is the understandable refrain.

Elton John – The Greatest Discovery – Suzi: Really sweet song about a toddler finding out that he has a new baby brother. ‘They have made for you a friend.’ Admittedly this wasn’t the reaction of my late father-in-law, who, when he saw his new brother, said, ‘Throw him away!’ These things go down in family history!

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Your Long Journey – Suzi: Sad and touching song, very sweetly sung, about a couple who’ve been together for many years, but now one of them is dying.  From the album, Raising Sand.

Anthony Joseph – The Gift – tincanman: Mourning his father gives new perspective on family and mortality.

Sam Baker – Waves – tincanman: This story of a widower writing his wife’s name in the sand and watching it wash away needs no ornamentation or embroidery, so Sam doesn’t give it any.

Mighty Sparrow – Obeah Wedding – glassarfemptee: I grew up enjoying the great calypso rivalry between Lord Kitchener and his would be usurper the Mighty Sparrow. Here is Sparrow fighting a hitch via black magic.

Lucinda Williams – Death Came – glassarfemptee: Lucinda Williams’ 2016 album The Ghosts of Highway 20 features this dark song of death. 

Edvard Greig – Wedding Day at Troldhaugan: Greig was a top tunesmith. Here’s his song for his 25thwedding anniversary at his house in Bergen.

Lauryn Hill feat.Carlos Santana – To Zion – severin: From her only studio solo album back in 1998, a song about looking forward to giving birth to her first child.. She has six children now. Five of them with Rohan Marley.

WH Lung – The Second Death Of My Face – severin: Stretching the point but it has the word death in the title. I’m still puzzled about why their 2019 album Incidental Music didn’t make them much better known. I’ll blame the pandemic again.

Psychedelic Furs – Wedding Song – severin: Not the most celebratory wedding song you have ever heard.

Goran Bregovic – Death – DebbyM: More film music, this time from Arizona Dream.

Goran Bregovic – Wedding (Cocek) – DebbyM: Because there’s nothing like a Balkan wedding to get you tapping your feet.

Goran Bregovic – Le mariage – DebbyM: Film music from La Reine Margot.

Lambchop – Soaky in the Pooper – shoegazer: To die like Elvis.

Talking Heads – Stay Up Late – AliM: Hatch: Mommy had a little baby / There he is fast asleep / He’s just a little plaything. Why not wake him up? Cute, cute little baby. (Nooooo! Don’t wake him up!!!)

Marc Cohn – Perfect Love – AliM: Match: I love this song. Which is most out of character. I shall have to lie down with a damp copy of Spare Rib on my forehead.

Kathy Heideman – Sleep a Million Years – AliM: Despatch: Thanks to ghe for alerting me to this song. Don’t let your lips say no when you mean yes… don’t you know, that much too soon, we’re going to sleep a million years. Time is precious, and finite for us. Don’t waste it.

Rebellion 2022 – Saturday …. and mini social

Not a bad turnout at 1.15am for a new grime punk duo. I’m somewhere in this picture * ( photo from Bob Vylan’s FB page – hope they don’t mind)

Midway point – I’m having a great weekend now. Today is the busiest of the lot, with barely any room for a toilet break. Not only that but I need to find my man from Sweden. And Fuel. And maybe a future headliner for Rebellion as the old guard are getting on a bit – we’ll see how that goes later. First of all, though I need to find some gel insoles to help my feet on the recommendation of Damp – that man is useful to have around. A quick trip to Boots and I’m good to go.

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The Most Classic Song By Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival (henceforth CCR), were huge for around four or five years in the late 1960s and early 1970s, before imploding in a morass of egos, arguments and eventually lawsuits. In the band’s short life they released seven LPs, all of them achieving Gold or Platinum status and many singles, including a large number of Top 10 hits and Gold and Platinum sales. They were, to put it mildly, a phenomenon.

The band, consisting of brothers John and Tom Fogerty on guitars, Stu Cook on bass and drummer Doug Clifford was formed in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1959, originally as The Blue Velvets and later The Golliwogs (I know, terrible name) before deciding in 1967 that Creedence Clearwater Revival was a) less racist and b) 100% better.

They were something of an anomaly for the times, their music being what we might now call Americana, roots rock or blue collar rock. No psychedelia or acid rock at all. Back then it was just rawk ‘n’ roll, of a decidedly traditional style with country flourishes.

Oddly for a West Coast band, they tended to use a lot of Louisiana/Mississippi/Deep South imagery in their songs as well as being known for their opposition to the Vietnam War from a class-based perspective. Their most famous Vietnam protest song is probably the passionate and angry “Fortunate Son“, a song that surely even the dimmest President couldn’t confuse with a patriotic paean to American Values, except that Donald Trump appeared to do exactly that, resulting in a cease-and-desist letter from Fogerty’s lawyers. Clearly Trump never bothered listening to the lyrics, which attack rich draft-dodgers at the expense of ordinary young American men. Maybe those bone spurs had damaged his hearing?

Signed to Fantasy Records in the early 1960s, John Fogerty soon became the de facto leader of the band, as well as the only proper songwriter. Over time this would cause a lot of tension. By the time of their name change, Fantasy had been bought out by film producer Saul Zaentz, who it is said used the profits generated by CCR to fund his film career. It paid off, though because Zaentz won three Oscars for Best Picture; One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus and The English Patient. CCR would definitely disagree with his use of the money, though because they spent a long time in legal wrangles over where the money had gone and also buying back the rights to their songs.

The songs themselves were a goldmine. The list of the band’s hits is impressive, to put it mildly.

They were busy during their short existence, releasing seven LPs between 1968 and 1972, including three in 1969. Their albums were Creedence Clearwater Revival (1968), Bayou Country, Green River and Willy and the Poor Boys (all 1969), Cosmo’s Factory and Pendulum (both 1970) and Mardi Gras (1972). Two of these, Green River and Cosmo’s Factory were Billboard Number One albums. Each of their seven LPs contained at least one hit single, with some having several big hits. CCR never actually got a US Number One single in their existence but managed nine Top 10 hits, five of which got to Number Two. They did get a UK Number One with “Bad Moon Rising“, though. That song has also been used on a ridiculously long list of film soundtracks, including An American Werewolf In London, a film I love.

The list of hit singles (both A and B sides) contains some absolute classics, “Susie Q” (actually a cover of an older song), “Bad Moon Rising“, “Proud Mary“, “Born On The Bayou“, “Green River“, “Fortunate Son“, “Travelin’ Band“, “Who’ll Stop The Rain“, “Up Around The Bend“, “Run Through The Jungle“, “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” and “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” being the biggest and best known ones.

As I said before, there were tensions in the band, as well as tensions between the band and their record label and management. The band also toured constantly, even appearing at Woodstock, although they aren’t in the film and nor on the two Woodstock live albums either.

The biggest issue inside the band was that John Fogerty was the only songwriter as well as being their main instrumentalist (guitar, saxophone, harmonica, keyboards, percussion and kitchen sink), lead singer, arranger and producer of all their albums. He also pretty much dominated the artistic and business side of things. By the time of their sixth album, Pendulum, brother Tom was ready to quit, which he did in early 1971, leaving CCR as a trio.

At this point Stu and Doug started voicing opinions about the future of the band, wanting more say in how the thing should be run. Uncharacteristically, John agreed with them, insisting that all three of them should write songs for they next album. John also said that each band member should sing and produce their own songs, with all of them playing on everything. Fogerty may well have been calling their bluff, because the others didn’t actually like his offer. However, Fogerty threatening to quit CCR quickly turned Doug and Stu around.

The resulting album, Mardi Gras, was a commercial success but artistically a flop. The band soon called it a day, acrimoniously and with a lot of bad blood between all parties. John Fogerty went on to work alone on his next release, the enjoyable Blue Ridge Rangers, on which he played everything, including the drums. The other three also carried on in music, but that was it for CCR.

So, the music. Yes, it is pretty basic rock and roll with some swampy, bluesy, country and southern soul influences but when it is good, it is seriously good. It certainly lit up a lot of parties when I was in my teens and you could guarantee that pub DJs would spin a few CCR tracks to get things going. On their albums you get a wider range than you might expect from the singles, such as the lengthy guitar workout version of “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” on Cosmo’s Factory. I think of all their albums, Cosmo’s Factory is my favourite, although Willy and the Poor Boys runs it pretty close.

Well, what we have to do now is consider the Classic. Not everyone will like their muscular southern-tinged choogling, but what they most definitely weren’t was “an American version of Status Quo”, as someone once described CCR to me. Personally, I like them. They were uncompromising, honest and played no frills rock music, and managed to get hits played on the radio too. John Fogerty really drove his socially-aware agenda through the music. He was, and still is a working class Democrat

I have to nominate a piece of Classic Creedence, though. There are so many candidates, but I will choose THIS ONE HERE.

Rebellion 2022 – Friday

Hang on …… he looks familiar,,,,

This weekend presents a few challenges and one of those is getting breakfast. At our “B & B” we have en suite single bedrooms for a very reasonable price and a cheap bar. The one thing we don’t have is breakfast, supposedly “due to Covid regulations”. Of course.Boris having singlehandedly “got us through Covid”. We are in venues of several thousand people with no requirement to provide any evidence of our Covid status. But there’s no breakfast at the B & B, or B. Happily Damp is someone who can get things sorted. Via some connection involving the sandwich woman who serves his workplace, has found us a nearby B & B that will offer us breakfast that morning so that is that problem solved.

Other problems look a bit more tricky. One of these is trying to arrange to meet up with Fuel who will be something of a needle in a haystack, and this is complicated by Brexit making simple methods of communication more expensive. Another is that I am trying to meet up with a member of Swedish punk rock & roll band Cat And The Underdogs who I have been talking to online in order to get hold a copy of their LP without paying huge postal costs. They aren’t even on the bill, and I don’t know what my contact even looks like!

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Rebellion (incorporating R-fest) 2022 – Thursday

Oi! Oi! Oi! Punx, Skins and …..err…..what’s this???

It’s been 3 years since the last full Rebellion Festival. Last year had a 1 day mini fest , but that doesn’t count (I tried watching the live feed at home but fell asleep somewhere around GBH or Cockney Rejects – and with that I’ve completed my write up for 2021). However, this year Rebellion is back, and not only that, it’s back bigger than ever. That’s not just marketing hyperbole, this year they have a whole additional festival within a festival at a large outdoor stage near the sea front with the likes of Gary Numan, Squeeze and The Levellers appearing alongside some of the bigger Rebellion regulars. “A very retro line up” sneered someone on Numan’s FB page to which the obvious reply would be “Yes it is very retro, as evidenced by the fact that Gary Numan is playing”. It’s almost like a normal festival.

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Album of the Year: 1973

New Year’s Day 1973 saw the UK become a fully-participating member of the European Economic Community, usually called the Common Market by the media of the day. I have nothing more to say about this as Brexit still makes me incandescent with rage.

Elsewhere in the world, top end women’s shoe manufacturers anticipate a huge bonanza in sales as Ferdinand Marcos becomes President For Life of the Philippines, Richard Nixon is sworn-in as President of the USA and suspends offensive action in Vietnam. By the end of January, the USA ceases to be a participant in the war as it signs the Paris Peace Accords.

In March Comet Kohoutek is discovered as it heads towards the Sun. It was a bit of a damp squib really as it wasn’t as bright or visible as some had predicted. It hasn’t been back since, probably due to poor reviews. In the UK, March saw the publication of a White Paper on the possible creation of a Northern Ireland Assembly, to be elected by PR and April saw the replacement of Sales Tax with VAT. In the same month, in New York, a Motorola Employee made the first ever mobile phone call. It is unknown whether he bellowed “HELLO, I’M ON THE TRAIN” or not. The end of April saw the latest salvoes in the Watergate Scandal which would bring about the fall of Nixon in 1974.

The UK went to war in May, against that evil aggressor, Iceland in the 2nd Cod War. Like the first one, Iceland won, despite not actually having a proper navy. Iceland did, however have right on its side.

In the Summer, the USSR launched the Mars 5 space mission. It would arrive in February 1974, only to mysteriously fail within a couple of weeks. The chances of anything coming from Mars are a million to one, they say but………………….

October sees the beginning of the OPEC Oil Crisis (see photo above), launched by Saudi Arabia as a punitive action against the West, which was mainly supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur War, which was going on at the time. Oil prices rocket and petrol supplies dry up. You couldn’t see anything like that happening today, surely?

In November the USA launched a space mission of its own. Obviously not wanting to rub shoulders with the Soviets, Mariner heads for Mercury. November also sees Richard Nixon telling the US media that he isn’t a crook. Yeah, right.

December, in more personal news sees me attain my adulthood as I turn 18.

Musically, 1973 has an embarrassment of riches. John Martyn releases two albums, Solid Air and Inside Out, Pink Floyd start their path to global chart domination with the release of The Dark Side Of The Moon, Led Zeppelin decide to give their fifth album an actual name – Houses Of The Holy, unknown singer/songwriter Bruce Springsteen releases his debut album Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., Elton John weighs in with two albums, Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road with both going to Number One in the UK, Little Feat release Dixie Chicken, Rory Gallagher also releases a pair of albums, Blueprint and Tattoo, but neither get to Number One, Rick Wakeman gives us his Six Wives Of Henry VIII and his day job band Yes also release two multi-disc albums, the live Yessongs and the self-indulgent and divisive Tales From Topographic Oceans, John Cale gives us Paris 1919 and his former bandmate Lou Reed visits a different European capital with Berlin, The Stones release Goat’s Head Soup, and The Who give us a second sprawling concept album with Quadrophenia.

The list of albums worthy of some listening time goes on and on; King Crimson’s Lark’s Tongues In Aspic, Caravan’s For Girls Who Grow Plump In The Night, Todd Rundgren’s A Wizard, A True Star, Roxy Music’s For Your Pleasure and Stranded, Montrose’s eponymous debut, Robin Trower’s Twice Removed From Yesterday, Selling England by the Pound by Genesis and many many more.

There is some great stuff in the world of Jazz and Jazz Fusion too; Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, Birds of Fire from The Mahavishnu Orchestra, McCoy Tyner’s live Enlightenment, Lonnie Liston Smith’s debut Astral Travelling and Sun Ra’s Space Is The Place to just name a few.

So, much to ponder. I know that in 1973 the albums that I played the most were Quadrophenia, DSOTM and Houses Of The Holy and I would probably have said that DSOTM was my AOTY. Now, I am of a different mind. Today, I would have to say that Solid Air is my modern day AOTY for 1973, but with Lark’s Tongues In Aspic a close second.

So, over to you. What’s your AOTY?

Earworms 29 August 2022

Blasterbus – Paul Godier

All aboard! Hope you’ve enjoyed the Bank Holiday, if you’ve had one, and welcome to your selection of songs about public transport.

If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be hatch, match and despatch, or births, marriages and deaths, in no particular order, or any combination of the three.

Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday September 4. Many thanks to all contributors, and stay sane.

The Dodge Brothers – No.9 Train – glassarfemptee: Mark Kermode is film critic for the Observer, but also plays bass in the Dodge Brothers. Here they ride the No.9 Train.

The Delines – Night Bus – glassarfemptee: The Delines had a set back when singer Amy Boone was hit by a car in Austin, Tx. While she recovered, they cut the Scenic Sessions as a “filler”. Here they are on the Night Bus.

The Kinks – Last of the Steam-Powered Trains – glassarfemptee: The Kinks didn’t get much acclaim, or sales, for the Village Green Preservation Society when it was released in ’68, but it’s since been recognised as a classic. Here they bemoan the loss of steam trains.

The Divine Comedy – National Express – shoegazer: Neil Hannon takes a trip.

Elvis Presley – Mystery Train – Suzi: There are so many train songs, had to be selective. Elvis was just 20 when he recorded this.

John Prine – Clay Pigeons – Uncleben: Originally a Blaze Foley song, but I adore this version. Songwriting of the highest order about riding a Greyhound bus to somewhere you’ve never been and getting your life back into gear. And a fine example of a meta-song too – “get used to bein’ alone, change the words to this song and start singin’ again”.

Fred Wedlock – Bristol Buses – Suzi: A rueful look at the local transport in Bristol.

Flash and the Pan – Waiting for a Train – DebbyM: I’ve just spent a thoroughly enjoyable weekend at a local short film festival. The DJ at the after-show party was heavy on hits of the 80s, which might just have influenced my selection here a little. Yes, I did stay up dancing until 5 a.m. since you asked, and yes, my ancient bones are suffering all the more for it today. Such is life.

Oliver Koletzki feat. Axel Bosse – U-Bahn – DebbyM: A track (see what I did there?) about the Berlin Underground with noises from a real live Berlin U-Bahn station if you listen hard enough. Phenomenally interesting side-note: Axel Bosse is a quite popular singer over here and one of the bands TheBoyWonder plays in has been booked as support for his tour in September. (I suppose I should be calling him TheManWonder these days). (They grow up so fast! Ed.)

Elvis Presley – A Little More Conversation – DebbyM: Dedicated to Hamburg Transport, who have made my working summer an absolute misery by closing down every single section of the underground I’ve had to travel on for the past two months – and my job takes me all over the place. We’re talking about 2-hour bus trips replacing a 30-minute train ride disruptions and they’re still not finished, a good two weeks after the promised delivery date. Aaargh!

Erskine Hawkins – Tuxedo Junction – Fintan 28: 100 years ago the end of 2 Trolley lines in Birmingham, Alabama was a turnaround next to Tuxedo Park. The neighborhood was an amazing confluence of American music and the folks called it the junction. If you lived there you might see players like Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald or B.B King stepping off the trolley to gig in the Jukes and Nightclubs. If you were from the neighborhood, like Lionel Hampton and Erskine Hawkins you might step on the trolley just to see where it goes. Somehow it brought Erskine to New York City which is where he wrote this jumping tribute.

The Cure – Jumping Someone Else’s Train – severin: The follow up to the original release of Boys Don’t Cry and pretty different. About bandwagons really.

Jake Thackray – Country Bus – severin and Suzi: Clumsy and cumbersome, rusty and dusty but ok with us. The bus, not the song. (Sev.) I’ve been a fan of Jake’s songs for a very long time, and this is a favourite, a song of praise to a ‘North Country bus,/ Clumsy and cumbersome, rumbustious….you’re rusty and you’re dusty but you’re OK for us.’ Lovely descriptions of the bus and its passengers. (Suzi)

Lucinda Belle – Stop This Train – severin: From her Urban Lullabies EP, which was all covers. This one’s of a John Mayer song.

Shemekia Copeland – Too Far To Be Gone – tincanman: Shemekia Copeland can’t stop trying to make the world a better place. Sonny Landreth’s searing yet nuanced guitar almost takes over this lead-in to her new album, Done Come Too Far. The woman on the bus is of course Rosa Parks.

Oscar Peterson Trio – Happy-Go-Lucky Local (aka Night Train) – tincanman: Canada has just issued a new $2 coin paying tribute to the Montreal jazz legend. His seemingly effortless playing is a balm to me in our not-so-happy-go-lucky world.

Mindy Smith – Train Song – Suzi: I love everything about this song; the evocative opening verse, the tune which suggests the train’s wheels slowly turning, and Mindy’s plaintive, repeated question which she knows won’t get an affirmative answer.

Duke Ellington – Take The A Train – Fintan28: When Erskine got To New York he made it up to Harlem and found regular work at the Savoy Ballroom. Pretty sure he took Duke’s advice on how to get there. Take the A train.

The Justice Bus by Robb Johnson – treefrogdemon: It’s a long time coming, so for now we have to put up with the 46A instead. I’m about to move to Scotland, i.e. even further away from Robb Johnson (he lives in Shoreham). Still, there’s always Facebook.

YouTubers

Jonathan Richman – You’re Crazy For Taking The Bus – Fintan28: Except Anaheim (not actually a real world direct connection) I’ve taken this route by bus, train and mostly by plane. I prefer the train but make no mistake the bus is the most entertaining. 

New Model Army – Green and Grey – LongTallSilly: A poignant tale of the exodus of young people from Northern cities in search of work. The green and grey of Bradford as seen from the bus to Thornton apparently. New model army have a passionate following for good reason.

Half Man Half Biscuit – Time Flies By When You’re a Driver of a Train – LongTallSilly: Favourite train song given an unusual twist by half man half biscuit! 

The Steve Miller Band – Jet Airliner – AliM: Not that I’m encouraging people to fly.

Joe Bonamassa – Slow Train – AliM: Another train, but this one is s..l..o..w baby.

Autumn – yea or nay?

I greet autumn with mixed feelings. I find it’s crispness invigorating and the few perfect weeks in late-September/early-October is my favourite time to be out. On the other hand it will soon be too wet and chilly to leave the back slider open for the dogs and I will have to get up off the couch to let them in and wipe them down a hundred thousand times a day. Cheaper than a gym membership, I suppose.

But enough about me. It was such an effingly effing hot summer for most of us and I’m wondering if we’re mostly effingly glad it’s over?

The Classic Song Is In Pensive Mode

Or maybe hitting a brick wall?

I get this from time to time when deciding who to write about. Sometimes I know what I want to write about but at other times, my inspiration dries up. Occasionally, I listen to a band who I thought would be interesting, maybe a band I used to like in the past and find their music almost completely unlistenable, dull or pretentious and empty. Sometimes I even decide that a band or artist doesn’t actually have any sort of classic track which instantly identifies them. Humble Pie is like that for me.

Then, there is a category of artists and bands who have been around for so long that what they sound like now is completely unlike what they were doing in their early years or even during their heyday. There are also people whose body of work is so massive that it is pretty much impossible to hear all of it, even if it was all available via the internet.

This week, I was intending to write about Magazine, the band formed by Howard Devoto after he quit The Buzzcocks. I own two of their albums, The first one, Real Life and their third one, The Correct Use Of Soap. I can’t remember when I last played either of them, but I know that I must have liked them enough to buy them on CD after I’d sold the vinyl originals. I also owned their final album, Magic, Murder And The Weather, but never replaced it because I always thought it was dreadful. I never owned Secondhand Daylight because I never liked it at all. So, when I started thinking about a blog piece about Magazine, I decided to start with that one to see if my opinion of it might change. Bad decision. I found it an utterly awful piece of work, pretentious, empty of emotion (apart from a kind of studied undergraduate ennui which is pretty annoying) and with nothing meaningful to say, which was a huge shame, because it contains some excellent moments of John McGeogh’s guitar work. Therefore, I turned to Real Life.

Real Life was definitely a better proposition. It sounds fresh and brimming with ideas. OK, lacking in joy de vivre but that was all the rage in the 1978 post-punk world. If there is a classic Magazine track, it has to come from Real Life, and it does. No beating around the bush here, it is obviously “The Light Pours Out Of Me” with “Shot by Both Sides” a second strong contender. “Motorcade” is another good ‘un. Others may disagree, but there aren’t any tracks on their other albums as good as that, not even “A Song from Under the Floorboards” on the third album.

There are other artists around who had a certain appeal in the past, but who I rapidly lost interest in quite quickly. Alice Cooper is a prime example. If he has a classic track, it is “School’s Out“. I can’t think of anything else of his that is much good at all.

Now, someone I love hugely is Richard Thompson. A great guitarist and an even better songwriter, but his work is so varied. It is almost impossible to pick on anything that represents his classic sound. I do love “The Calvary Cross“, though from the first Richard and Linda Thompson album, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, but I don’t think it is really representative of the pair’s work together. Perhaps the Richard and Linda albums should be a subject of their own I could investigate some time?

Others who are too difficult to write about in terms of classic songs (or tracks) include Soft Machine, Van Der Graaf Generator, Tangerine Dream, Ozric Tentacles and the great Michael Chapman (mainly because he’s released at least 50 albums and I’ve only ever heard three or four of them). Solo Lou Reed and John Cale are also pretty hard to see in terms of even having a classic sound, although Lou is probably more straightforward than John. Another problematic band for me is Man, the Welsh version of Quicksilver Messenger Service, who are mostly known for stoned live jams of varying quality and some OK studio albums. I’ve seen them loads of times. Sometimes terrific, other times awful. Thinking about it, QMS are a tricky proposition themselves. Happy Trails is their only really satisfying experience, and that is a live acid-drenched wig-out.

So, this week, what I am really thinking about here are bands or artists who peaked early, ideally on their first or second album and never managed to get there again or kept on repeating the same groove with diminishing returns. Do you have anyone who fits the description, and what would you nominate as their classic?

Sound Motion

I’m changing my car next week (going all electric!) and so will have to manage without a 6-CD in-car player in future. Which is a drag, because GD concerts generally flow over 2 or 3 discs with no gaps between songs and burning the tracks via RealPlayer inevitably inserts gaps.

So I’m asking all you folk who have been living in a more modern music-playing environment, what is the best way to play music ripped from CD’s? There will be a USB and Bluetooth connection in my new chariot, so what device should I buy to get as close as possible to my current reality?

All suggestions welcome. Although I’d very much like to avoid Apple products.

Album Of The Year: 1979

New Prime Minster unites most of country in how much they dislike her. Over the hill actor decides to run for President of the USA. Quite a lot else going on too. What were you up to, & what was the Album Of The Year? Lots of left over disco, a new thing called “rap” (until we can find a more hip name) & post-punk shenanigans to choose from.

Earworms 22 August 2022

Greetings earthlings, and welcome to your selection of songs about all things sticky.

If you have an Earworm you’d like to share, please send an .mp3, .m4a or a link to adempster73@gmail.com, together with a few words about why you’ve chosen it. Next week’s theme will be public transport – this covers all sorts of transportation and as there’s a Bank Holiday coming up, and public transport will be at a minimum, it seems appropriate.

Worms should reach me by close of play on Sunday 28 August. Many thanks to all contributors.

Velvet Underground – I’m Sticking With You – MaggieB: Classic Velvets (see header above).

Aaron Neville – Feels Like Rain – Fintan 28: When It’s this steamy you find yourself begging for relief. Or is it release we’re looking for? Aaron brings the heat, Ry Cooder brings the sizzle and the wind cries out her name.

One Of Those Days – Eilen Jewell – Fintan 28: Heat like this slows down the world. Sometimes to the point it erases boundaries and we just break.

Robin Kester – Sweat and Fright – severin: About waking up in a cold sweat after weird, violent dreams. From her 2020 album This Is Not a Democracy which I expected to make a bigger splash than it did. Shows how much I know.

Macy Gray – Sex-O-Matic Venus Freak – severin: “Whip cream all over my skin, lick you from bottom to root, love to get down with you”. Yup, that sounds gooey and sticky, I’ll send that one. To be honest, she could be singing the phone book and it would still sound just as sexy to me. Not as gooey though.

BossHoss – Hot in Herre – DebbyM: Berlin cowboys covering the Nelly song (they were judges on the first series of The Voice of Germany, a surprising choice as they weren’t particularly well known on a national scale, and are probably the biggest winners that show has ever produced).

Status Quo – Ice in the Sun – DebbyM: Not sure this is quite what we’re looking for this week, but I’ve always liked this song, so there you go.

Laura Nyro – Beads of Sweat – glassarfemptee: This track by the late, lamented Laura Nyro is from her 1970 album, ‘Christmas and the Beads of Sweat’.

Shannon Stephens – In Summer in the Heat – glassarfemptee: Shannon Stephens used to lead a band which included Sufjan Stevens. This was the single from her 2009 album ‘The Breadwinner’, in which she sings ‘And his arms are surrounding me/In salty sleep, so sweaty sweet/In summer in the heat.’

Eddi Reader – Brose and Butter – Suzi: From her album, The Songs of Robert Burns, a traditional Scottish song which the poet collected and…added to. Brose is a kind of uncooked porridge made with oatmeal and hot water, however, like some other food-related songs, Brose and Butter is full of sexual innuendo and general bawdiness.

Richard and Linda Thompson – Hokey Pokey – Suzi: ‘Hokey Pokey’ was the cry of ice-cream sellers long ago, possibly due to a mishearing of the call of ‘oh che poco’ – ‘oh how little (it costs),’ by Italians who used to sell it from handcarts in the UK and elsewhere. Various kinds of stickiness are implied in a song which turns out to be not as innocent as the opening lines may suggest.

Beatles – Savoy Truffle – Suzi: Sticky, gooey treats may present an irresistible temptation, but sweatiness may occur when your teeth rot and have to be pulled out!

Miley Cyrus – Black Dog – AliM: Unexpected cover of the Led Zeppelin classic. Hey hey momma dig the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove… Watch out for that dripping honey, too.

The Rezillos – I Love My Baby ‘cos she does Good Sculptures – AliM: She’s got no time for one night stands, or naughty boys with sweaty hands… Obviously a discerning woman.


The Most Classic Song By Peter Gabriel

This week I am looking at the solo career of the former Genesis frontman, Peter Gabriel. I am not going to discuss any of his work with Genesis.

Image by Ebet Roberts

Gabriel left Genesis in 1975. It seems that he was becoming disillusioned with life in the band and the heavy touring schedules and wanted to take a different direction. He also said that he wanted to spend more time with his family. There were also tensions inside the band which must have contributed to his decision. In the documentary, Genesis: A History, Gabriel said “There was all this big time stuff happening with long tours being planned way in the future, and I just felt I was getting to be part of a machine. I felt I was becoming a sort of stereotype, sort of ‘rock star,’ or falling into wanting that ego gratification. I didn’t like myself, I didn’t like the situation, and I didn’t feel free.

Anyway, once a free man, he began writing the kind of songs that one really couldn’t imagine Genesis ever wanted to record and perform.

His first solo releases were his eponymous first album (his first four albums are called just called Peter Gabriel, but are sometimes known as Car, Scratch, Melt and Security from the cover images and also just 1, 2, 3 and 4) which came out in February 1977 and the single “Solsbury Hill” which is all about leaving Genesis, escaping from the rock machine and making a new beginning. It was released in the wake of the album, becoming a UK Top 20 hit. It is also a clear contender for Classic Gabriel status.

The album itself contained a group of musicians who were, it has to be said, streets away from Genesis. Guitar duo Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner, who had previously worked with Lou Reed and Alice Cooper, bassist extraordinaire Tony Levin, synth wizard Larry Fast, session drummer Allan Schwartzberg and King Crimson’s Robert Fripp combined to deliver a record that was not only unlike Genesis but also not really much like the zeitgeist of 1977. If the album has a fault it is that he is doing too many things at once, but perhaps that just reflected his sense of freedom and rejuvenation after quitting Genesis. The album isn’t just “Solsbury Hill” either. There are other tracks worthy of classic status, not least the album’s closer, “Here Comes the Flood“. The album was produced by Bob Ezrin and was a UK Top 10 record but it seems that Gabriel wasn’t that happy with the production work. For his second album, he would turn to Fripp for help.

His second album was recorded in the winter of 1977 and early 78 and released at the beginning of June 1978. On the album, Gabriel moved further away from Genesis again, using more electronic and synths and with Fripp playing guitar and providing some of his Frippertronic atmospherics. In places it is pretty direct slick rock, such as on the opener “On The Air“, but it also contains some moments of quiet and occasionally disturbing intensity, such as on “Mother Of Violence“, embellished by the piano of The E Street Band’s Roy Bittan. I think that Scratch is a more complete record than Car. It has better songs and Gabriel is clearly finding his feet as a solo writer, but it seems to me that he is still striving for a sound that he hasn’t yet discovered, despite delivering such gems as “White Shadow“, “Exposure” (co-written with Fripp) and the closing track “Home Sweet Home“. The album didn’t sell as well as its predecessor, but it did get to Number 10 in the UK. The album also features drummer Jerry Marotta, who would occupy the drum seat on Gabriel’s next two albums. His third album would bring about the change that he had been looking for.

Melt” or Peter Gabriel or 3 was recorded in Bath and London in the summer and autumn of 1979 and released halfway through 1980. Produced by Steve Lilywhite, it featured his former Genesis band mate Phil Collins on drums on some tracks and is notable for the use of gated reverb on the drums, an effect which would become almost ubiquitous throughout the 1980s. The album also sees Gabriel using African rhythms and is notable for the absence of cymbals from either Collins or Jerry Marotta. The music is difficult to pin down. It often sounds pretty radio-friendly, but the material is intense, paranoid and unsettling, right from the opening track “Intruder“. through to the closer, “Biko“. The range of subjects is pretty heavy stuff; assassination, racism, nationalism, war, police brutality and occasionally just incredibly creepy. It isn’t really hyperbole to call Melt his masterpiece. There are clear contenders for Classic Status. I’ve already mentioned two, but “Games Without Frontiers“, “No Self Control“and “Family Snapshot” are probably worthy of consideration too. The album was a big success for Peter Gabriel. It gave him a UK Number 4 hit single in “Games Without Frontiers” and the album itself was a UK Number 1. His US distributor Atlantic refused to release it, apparently because it was too weird and “esoteric”. Gabriel signed as US deal with Mercury and the album got to Number 22 on the Billboard album chart.

Gabriel’s fourth eponymous album was mercifully the last without a proper name. After it, he would start calling them something. The album was recorded at Gabriel’s home using a mobile studio. Recorded between spring 1981 and summer 1982, it was released in early September 1982. In the USA it was handled by Geffen who gave it the name Security. It is an interesting record. Gabriel takes the Melt sound and takes it further, adding in more “world music” textures and rhythms, but somehow it is less impressive overall than his previous record, despite having many of the same players; e.g. Tony Levin, Larry Fast, Jerry Marotta and guitarist David Rhodes. Don’t get me wrong, it is another terrific record, but perhaps the subject matter is more introspective, metaphorical or opaque? The most well-known track is probably “Shock The Monkey“, which isn’t actually about experiments on animals, but tracks like “The Rhythm of the Heat“, “San Jacinto” and “The Family and the Fishing Net” are amongst his best work.

After the fourth album, Gabriel released a live album and worked on the soundtrack album for the film Birdy with Danial Lanois. His next proper Peter Gabriel album was 1986’s So. Once again, it was recorded at Gabriel’s Somerset home and was co-produced by Gabriel and Danial Lanois (who seemed to produce every second or third album released in the 80s). A much less experimental album than his previous work, So still managed to take in a wide range of influences and use a varied sound palette. It is clear that Gabriel wanted to make a song-orientated and accessible record. The project paid off handsomely, because So was a massive record, with a string of huge hits both in the UK and USA. I think that most of us know the hits; “Sledgehammer“, “Red Rain“, “Don’t Give Up“, “Big Time” and “In Your Eyes“, each of them terrific examples of how to have hit records that manage to be emotionally and artistically satisfying at the same time. Each one could be Gabriel’s Classic Song. It is an interesting (and slightly funny) fact that “Sledgehammer” knocked Genesis’ “Invisible Touch” off of the Billboard Not 100 chart, giving Gabriel his only US Number 1 single. It is probably best-known by many because of its Aardman Animations video. It is almost certainly Gabriel’s rudest song, seeing as it is about shagging. So was his last proper album for a long time, until 1992, to be precise when he released Us. He’d been busy in between, though, doing many things including a soundtrack for Martin Scorsese’s film The Last Temptation Of Christ.

Is Us any good? Well……maybe. It is clearly a Peter Gabriel record. The writing is as good as on any of his other albums, the subject matter as serious and thoughtful as ever, being about his divorce and his estrangement from his oldest daughter, but it is all a bit clinical and lacks a spark. It is perhaps all a bit too polite and it has a ridiculously large list of performers on it. It did well commercially, though, but it doesn’t actually have any contenders for classic status.

After Us, he did some more soundtrack work and did music for the Millennium Dome 200 thingy. I’ve never listened to it, so I can’t comment. His last proper album was released in 2002. He was being economical with his use of letters again Just as So begat Us, Us begat Up, but most definitely not musically.

Up is a very difficult record. It isn’t a bad record, just a hard one to peel open and get to grips with. Although it doesn’t sound like them, it shares a similar emotional and musical space to Scott Walker’s Tilt or Tim Buckley’s Lorca or Starsailor. It is worth listening to, though because Gabriel always makes music that deserves hearing. It is a very dark record, mostly about death, grief and loss. Regardless of its merits, it doesn’t offer us any contenders for the Classic. Do try and hear it, though. It is a bit like listening to Peter Hammill records. You have to concentrate and listen to them over and over to get the best from them. Up is the same.

He’s done a couple of more recent albums that aren’t his own material. They are a kind of musical game where he gets other people to cover his songs and then he covers theirs. The albums are called Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours. I’ve not heard either of them, because I think the idea is silly.

Well, where does that leave us? Peter Gabriel is undoubtedly a very intelligent, passionate, politically-engaged and complicated guy. He makes music that stretches what he’s done before and his takes ideas from pretty much anywhere. He works with talented musicians and his output is polished, intricate and well-crafted. He has a following and he is well respected. Does he write classic songs? Well, I think so, but I’m obviously a fan, but what do I think is his real Classic Track?

I am sure that many people would pick “Solsbury Hill” and why not? It is great. I’ve considered it myself, but there are others worthy of the accolade. I’ve mentioned pretty much all of them. I think, though, that I want a track that represents the political Peter, the world music Peter and the uncompromising Peter, that is, a song that represents all the reasons why Gabriel left Genesis. For me, there is only one choice.

IT IS THIS SONG.

Album of the Year 2008

In February 2008. the British government was forced to nationalise the Northern Rock bank. Northern Rock had earlier asked the Bank of England for financial help after institutional lenders became nervous about lending to mortgage banks following the US sub-prime crisis.

Which in turn happened because between 2001 and 2007, US mortgage debt had risen almost as much as it had in the whole rest of the nation’s history. And home prices had doubled. Mortgage salesmen had persuaded Americans to borrow more money for houses without asking borrowers for proof of income, job or assets.

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