Stevie Wonder – 20 Deep Cuts

To celebrate the great Stevie Wonder’s birthday, we bring you 20 Deep Cuts from Stevie’s classic mid-70s era. From Music of My Mind through to Songs in the Key of Life the music he created will forever stand as some of the greatest ever made.

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Stevie Wonder is only 71. He signed to Motown records at the age of 11, and by 20 he was a certified star. In 1971 and at the age of 21, his existing Motown contract had expired and he negotiated a new deal which saw him receive an unprecedented 14% of all royalties, and importantly, complete creative control. The following five years Stevie would release five albums of unparalleled brilliance, brimming with a musical positivity and it would become known as his classic period. This collection of tracks highlights what happens when you give a brilliant artist freedom to create. Select track to listen.

TRACKS:

  1. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing Innervisions
  2. Smile Please Fulfillingness’ First Finale
  3. Jesus Children of America Innervisions
  4. Please Don’t Go Fulfillingness’ First Finale
  5. Happier Than the Morning Sun Music of My Mind
  6. Joy Inside My Tears Songs in the Key of Life
  7. I Love Every Little Thing About You Music of My Mind
  8. Knocks Me Off My Feet Songs in the Key of Life
  9. He’s Misstra Know-It-All Innervisions
  10. You’ve Got it Bad Girl Talking Book
  11. Maybe Your Baby Talking Book
  12. Seems So Long Music of My Mind
  13. Love Having You Around Music of My Mind
  14. Summer Soft Songs in the Key of Life
  15. Tuesday Heartbreak Talking Book
  16. Lookin’ For Another Pure Love Talking Book
  17. Have a Talk With God Songs in the Key of Life
  18. Creepin’ Fulfillingness’ First Finale
  19. Visions Innervisions
  20. Love’s In Need of Love Today Songs in the Key of Life

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In 1972, Stevie Wonder released the first of these five classic albums: Music of My Mind. Inspired by the soulful genius of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, this album was unlike anything Wonder had released before. On his preceding releases he was occasionally writing and playing keys. Here Stevie plays everything here except guitar, displaying a virtuosity both musically and vocally, and unleashing a full-length artistic statement with the songs flowing together thematically. Opening with back-to-back epics Love Having You Around and Superwomen, both colossal funk narratives clocking in eight minutes each, Stevie steers the direction towards the Tonto synthesizer, something he had been heavily into and loved experimenting with on his vocal. What resulted was a challenging, multi-dimensional LP, proving the artist had gone stratospheric creatively. The album was not hugely successful commercially, it was too wild and experimental for his audience at that time. They would come around.

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The follow-up album Talking Book was released only six months later (also 1972), and delivered a stark shift in sound and lyrical subject matter. Stevie’s Fender Rhodes and Hohner Clavinet textures were more up front, developing what would become his signature sound. The lyrics touched on manhood (Lookin’ for Another Pure Love), maturity (I Believe) and spiky personal themes such as his recent divorce (Maybe Your Baby). Again Stevie is all over this musically – his drumming is a major highlight on the timeless Superstition for a start. His drums mesh with the congas and his bass drum/high-hat/snare work are as good as any. There are more guest musicians on board this time too. Big names such as David Sanborn on sax and Jeff Beck on guitar and the artwork for Talking Book was also the first with a colour palette of browns and oranges which would be repeated thematically for the subsequent classic releases. The album launched an avalanche of Grammy’s and chart topping achievements which would also be repeated over the next three releases.

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Stevie followed up the magnificent Talking Book only nine months later with perhaps his finest single album: Innervisions (1973). Incredibly, this was yet another step up in brilliance and musical expansion and something of a continuation on the themes and sounds of the previous album. Here we find Stevie tackling world issues such as politics (Mistra Know It All), religion (Jesus Children of America) and racism (Visions), and again he plays the majority of the instruments, however it’s his vocals and lyrics that take it all to another level. With a developing studio expertise and occasionally using sounds of the street, Stevie creates a dazzling and cinematic experience like no other. Lyrically cerebral, there is an increased social consciousness turned inwards on the man: he’s asking big questions, like on the prophetic and funktastic Higher Ground to name but one. Following the release of yet another classic, Stevie Wonder was involved in a car accident that saw him in a coma for four days, he would come out and into a spiritual epiphany and a challenge to his art.

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Several months later he released 1974’s introspective Fulfillingness’ First Finale. This underrated album finds our hero pondering life, death, relationships, and God. It is slow and sombre at times and the expansive textures are toned down somewhat. There’s a lot more acoustic piano for instance and the lyrics talk about spirituality and the afterlife on more than a couple of occasions. There are some major highlights where Stevie shows us his prowess as a producer with exquisite opener Smile Please and the vibrant soul album closer Please Don’t Go. As before, Fulfillingness’ First Finale is mostly the work of a single man mixing in reggae grooves and piano synth, and it’s refreshing to hear more songs devoted to the many and varied stages of romance. Despite more Grammy’s, it’s the calm before the storm and is seen now as the least heralded of the classic run, but an album well overdue for revaluation.

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In 1975 Stevie took a break from touring and recording, only to unleash the following year his pièce de résistance, the stunning double album Songs In the Key of Life (1976). This saw a culmination of everything Stevie had been working towards thus far in his career. With Songs in the Key of Life he delivered a concept album about love and life and effortlessly achieved the pinnacle of his recording career with this far-reaching commercial and artistic extravaganza. Unlike the previous albums, Stevie surrounds himself with a host of talented musicians including Herbie Hancock and George Benson, and takes on production duties adding a personal touch to the sound and general feel of the album. Some of the best drumming of his career is here. Stevie’s perfectly in the pocket on this album, again it’s the lyrics that are the most striking of his career. He addresses a dystopian reality in Village Ghetto Land and lands some of his finest songwriting ever can be found on this record (eg: Knocks Me Off My Feet). Stevie Wonder’s career was building to something like this, and succeeded in unleashing a work of unparalleled artistic genius. It was a massive seller and marked the end of his classic period, accomplishing what few artists could only dream of.

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Posted in Downloads, Mixtapes, On This Day, Stevie Wonder | 9 Comments

Pink Floyd: Madison Square Garden, 1977

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In July 1977 Pink Floyd put in four sensational performances at the world famous Madison Square Garden in New York. The band were nearing the end of the long and gruelling Animals tour and inter-band relations were on the slide. The crowd was extremely noisy during the MSG shows, with a lot of fireworks, which led to the Montreal incident a few days later, where Roger Waters exploded for good. 

This was the only tour in which Pink Floyd played songs from Animals live. It was also during this tour Waters began to exhibit increasingly aggressive behaviour and would often scold disruptive audiences who yelled and screamed during the quieter numbers. The cliché of the sound of a band “tearing itself apart” has been used many times throughout the years, but I don’t think it’s ever been more appropriate than when used to describe a lot of the legendary shows of the ’77 tour. The atmosphere is electric although it would be that Canadian concert on the 6th of July that the infamous ‘spitting’ incident occurred that drove Roger Waters to pen The Wall; noting this tour was known as the “In the Flesh” tour, the title of the track that opens that album. 

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There were a couple of dates that sounded like they were having a great time like Oakland and Boston, and here in New York, but Montreal was the last straw. It was also a time when audience saw fit to let off fire crackers during the show. These are an infamous set of gigs before the American independence day celebrations and before the national holiday when it is customary to set off fireworks, and it’s clear the audience is in a “festive” mood.

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Having said that the visual impact of the show is undeniable, and the playing captured here is exemplary. Highlights include David Gilmour’s guitar solos on Dogs. During the long middle segment, several large inflatables were floated to the ceiling – a father, a mother sitting on a couch, a little boy, and a car. Gilmour’s bluesy workouts on the funky space-rock epic Pigs (Three Different Ones), Roger’s screams, Rick Wright’s gorgeous keyboard work, the mighty track extends to a mind-bending 20 minutes and its here where the giant inflatable pig is finally revealed. With glowing eyes, he travelled along a guide wire from one end of the arena to the other, only some ten feet above the fans. Then two mechanical arm-like devices, emitting showers of white sparks, arise from the sides of the stage.

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The first half of the concert sees the band playing all of Animals in a different sequence, and the second half of the concert the entire Wish You Were Here album in its exact running order, finishing with an encore of a couple of Dark Side of the Moon-era classics. 

The quality is good for an audience analogue. The first half is a little echoey and hollow. The second half is where things really improve. The opening to Shine on Crazy Diamond is glistening in quality. Envision dry ice bellowing from the stage, breathtaking animation, and goose bumps as Floyd’s Syd Barrett ode swirls through the speakers. The intro is restrained, then extended compared to the new concert recordings released recently (eg: Knebworth 1990 on The Later Years boxset). Dave goes again with another blistering solo after Rick’s part before Roger’s vocal kicks in.

Do not listen to this gig/bootleg to enjoy the beautiful quality of the recording. Listen to it to hear classic musicianship. Listen to it to understand Waters hatred of stadium shows, and listen to hear the sound of a band at their musical peak: this makes up for the non-professional sound quality, giving one the feeling of being there.

Pink Floyd – Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY, 2 July 1977 mp3

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TRACKS

1. Sheep (11:08)
2. Pigs On The Wing (part 1) (1:59)
3. Dogs (17:24)
4. Pigs On The Wing (part 2) (3:02)
5. Pigs ( Three Different Ones) (18:44)

6. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (parts 1-5) (13:35)
7. Welcome To The Machine (8:17)
8. Have A Cigar (5:54)
9. Wish You Were Here (6:26)
10. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (parts 6-9) (21:12)
11. Money (10:48)
12. Us And Them (7:18)

Total Time: 2:05:54

Tour band

  • David Gilmour – lead electric guitars; lap steel guitar on “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part VI)”; lead and backing vocals
  • Roger Waters – bass guitar; lead and backing vocals; electric guitar on “Sheep” and “Pigs”; acoustic guitar on “Pigs On the Wing (Parts 1 and 2)” and “Welcome to the Machine”
  • Rick Wright – keyboards; backing vocals
  • Nick Mason – drums; percussion

Additional musicians:

  • Snowy White – guitars (harmony lead on “Dogs”, lead on “Pigs On the Wing (Part 2)”, “Have a Cigar” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” 
  • Dick Parry – saxophones

Posted in Downloads, Gigs, Performance of the Day, Pink Floyd | 3 Comments

David Bowie: Rotterdam 1976

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Our Bowie bootleg bonanza continues with this remastered soundboard recording of Bowie live on stage at the Sports Palais Ahoy, Rotterdam, Holland on 13 May 1976, during the Station to Station White Light tour. This is one hell of a nugget and has emerged recently. A quality recording, this full concert performance finds Bowie in good voice as usual, and the band featuring the Davis/Alomar/Murray rhythm section in career-best form. Bowie would go on to perform two further shows at the Pavillion De Paris on the 17th and 18th which would bring the tour to a magnificent close.

The essential compilation Changes One was released a few days later (the setlist features a lot of these tracks) and he would then famously pack up and leave LA, record Iggy Pop’s The Idiot and Low at the Château d’Hérouville in France, move to Berlin and live in relative anonymity by end of the year, and would continue to create some of the greatest music of all time.

David Bowie – Rotterdam, 1976 mp3

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This concert was recorded by RCA and the setlist is not dissimilar to his Brussels show from the 11th or indeed his triumphant six sold out London shows at the Wembly Empire Pool from the first week in May. During Dennis Davis’ Panic in Detroit drum solo (it was the 70’s remember), Bowie introduces the band:

“Good evening Rotterdam. I’d like firstly to introduce my band Raw Moon, and I’ll introduce the personnel. On keyboards, the original Yes keyboard player Tony Kaye. On guitar, co-writer with myself and John Lennon on Fame, Carlos Alomar“.

Tony Kaye sets in the first notes of Changes. 

“On percussion Dennis Davis, on bass guitar George Murray and on guitar Stacy Heydon … Tony, Tony, hold it a minute”.

Tony stops playing. 

“Um, how many of you here speak English? You’re very kind, because we’re very rude and we don’t speak your language but we do speak English. I’d like to tell you that most of us in this band tonight are very ill … ha ha … with bronchitis, but we wanna try and rock and roll as much as we can. And my name is David Bowie, and this is a bronchial version of Changes“.

The song is of course performed superbly, ending with a magnificent bass solo by George Murray. At the end of Jean Genie Bowie says: “We’ll see some of you tomorrow”. He played two Rotterdam shows 13, and 14.

David Bowie

TRACKS

01. Station To Station (11:00)
02. Suffragette City (3:24)
03. Fame (4:22)
04. Word On A Wing (5:58)
05. Stay (8:22)
06. Waiting For The Man (6:42)
07. Life On Mars (1:56)
08. Five Years (3:36)

09. Panic In Detroit (10:47)
10. Band Introductions (1:20)
11. Changes (4:17)
12. TVC15 (4:31)
13. Diamond Dogs (6:07)
14. Rebel Rebel (4:49)
15. The Jean Genie (6:50)

The Band – The White Light Tour

• David Bowie – Vocals, saxophone
• Carlos Alomar – Rhythm guitar, music director,backing vocals
• Stacy Heydon – Lead guitar, backing vocals
• George Murray – Bass guitar, backing vocals
• Dennis Davis – Drums, percussion
• Tony Kaye – Keyboards

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Posted in David Bowie, Downloads, European Rock Pilgrimage, Gigs, On This Day, Performance of the Day | 3 Comments

Welcome to the Car Smash: The Best of The Birthday Party

UntitledNick Cave looked out at the crowd and spoke. “You can turn off the disco. The rock stars have arrived.” Cave rolled across the stage, stood up, bent over double, and screamed into the mike. Welcome to the car smash!!”

Few bands rivalled the sheer emotional charge and inflammatory passion Melbourne’s Birthday Party could evoke, either on vinyl or live performance. One of rock’s most volatile and destructive bands, they only lasted three years and produced an album trilogy that is one of the most influential catalogues of the genre. Singer Nick Cave emerged as one of the most ferocious live performers since Iggy Pop, and the band sported an extraordinary set of musicians who seemed intent on redefining rock by poisoning its very essence: Mick Harvey (guitar and later, drums), Tracy Pew (bass), Phillip Calvert (drums), and Rowland S. Howard (guitar) made up the group which could sound simultaneously inept yet agile, a razor edge in which they crept with both scepticism and skill; the approach resulted in some of the most tense and threatening music put to record during the early ’80s.

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The Birthday Party formed out of the ashes of The Boys Next Door who, having released their likeable album Door, Door, which included the Howard penned Shivers, changed their name to The Birthday Party and released a five-track EP on Missing Link called Hee-Haw in December 1979. While only six months between releases, their sound was increasingly abrasive, chaotic and uncompromising, a quantum leap from their previous comparatively rock-oriented cabaret approach. Influences such as The Pop Group and Pere Ubu made themselves felt on this release and the band had discovered space in a sound, not to mention forging a fearsome live reputation in their own distinct Australian cultural identity, rather than merely imitating British or American music.

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Having realised Melbourne wasn’t big enough for them, they relocated to London in February 1980 and scraped together enough gigs (and drugs) to release a very good and well-received single in October 1980 on 4AD called The Friend Catcher. Extremely disappointed with the new-wave scene in the UK at the time, their shows were all about provoking a complacent audience in the mould of the Stooges and the Sex Pistols; they wanted a reaction. Some of it was theatre, a lot of it was threatening and dangerous. Their self-titled album, released in November 1980 (recorded the previous year), expanded on their unique sound and by now Cave’s proto-goth image, coupled with unexpected musical trajectories, abstract lyrics of depraved sexuality, bestial urges and sadomasochism, accompanied the tribal thud of floor toms, shards of Rowland Howard’s trebly guitar, and Pew’s signature bass heavy rumble.

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The groundbreaking, hugely influential and cohesive, Prayers on Fire, was released in April 1981 and recorded in Melbourne once again with Tony Cohen as producer. Cave was in the throes of an infamous heroin habit that would both fuel and plague him for most of the ensuing decade, and on tracks such as King Ink his lyrics are darkly humorous and self-referential; he’s growling and shrieking images of murder, decay and blood; crazed-funk Zoo Music Girl and horror-film atmosphere of the single Nick the Stripper finds The Birthday Party’s aural assault standing out amid the disposable new wave synthetic trends of the time. Prayers on Fire is a scintillating collection of barely definable jazz inflected art-rock has aged infinitely better than most bands’ 80s output, bearing none of the technical sheen that dates so many records of that era.

Recorded in London, the rockabilly-goth live favourite Release the Bats was a standalone hit single in 1981, and Cave was often captured introducing it: “This is the one you love the most, and we hate the most”. It’s simply one of their best singles. The theatricality of Cave’s untamed camp and tongue-in-cheek stream of consciousnesses is delivered by a man possessed:

baby is a cool machine
she moves to the pulse of her generator
says damn that sex supreme.
she says, she says damn that horror bat
sex horror sex bat sex sex horror sex vampire
sex bat horror vampire sex
cool machine
horror bat. bite!
cool machine. bite!
sex vampire. bite!

Things were getting hairy for The Birthday Party moving from 1981 in to 1982. The b-side to Release the Bats was the wild and anarchic Blast Off! which finds Nick delivering a 20-second non-stop scream and almost passing out in the studio. To see The Birthday Party during this time was nothing short of witnessing the very physical extremity of rock ‘n roll taken to the very limits of expression. The gigs were turning pretty chaotic at this point and at their final London December show Nick attempts to climb the PA on numerous occasions then beats up a heckler during She’s Hit and subsequently forgets the lyrics so Mick Harvey punches him in the mouth. Tracy Pew keeps falling over backwards unconscious and fights erupt onstage and off, not necessarily in that order. During King Ink, Cave would grab an audience member and wrap the microphone cord around their neck and scream into their face. Amid all this inter-band dysfunctional behaviour, including Tracy OD-ing before the show and Nick after, the band record their third album Junkyard.

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The album cover was designed by hot-rod artist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth who disowned the work once he’d heard the album, because Junkyard takes the mayhem to another level entirely. Where their previous output was wild, it was still disciplined and consistent. Here, there’s some seriously murderous and American Southern Gothic imagery (“he likes the look of that Cadillac”, Big Jesus Trash Can, “the glorious singing stars of Texas”) all over the more bluesy music (She’s Hit), more misogynistic lyrically (6″ Gold Blade); setting things up for what’s to come with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

It’s also extremely loud and nerve-splintering. It’s all tops and bottom, no mid-range. They wanted it to sound like Trash, and they succeeded. Less funky and relatively conventional, Junkyard opens with the rambling six-minute slow blues of She’s Hit and is followed up by one of their most terrifying songs, the thrashy Dead Joe. Their bass player served jail time for a lot of the recording sessions, so the ever-faithful Mick Harvey plays a lot of bass and drums, shining on the grinding epic Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow) and the album-closing title track. The band had taken it as far as they could, and with this album The Birthday Party had run its course. Once they had fully edged out Phil Calvert, the final EP Mutiny (1989) was released after the band’s dissolution in ’83 and contains some of their finest material ever put to tape.

This long-deleted 1992 compilation has it all. Never likely to outstay their welcome, The Birthday Party were a short-lived yet explosive and extraordinarily bright shining light while they around, and they continue to hold a unique place in the post-punk landscape. There has never been another band like them, before or since, who not only broke new ground but destroyed themselves in the process. It’s a wonder Nick Cave came out of it alive.

The Birthday Party – Hits (1992) mp3

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  1. The Friend Catcher
  2. Happy Birthday
  3. Mr Clarinet
  4. Nick the Stripper
  5. Zoom Music Girl
  6. King Ink
  7. Release the Bats
  8. Blast Off!
  9. She’s Hit
  10. 6″ Gold Blade
  11. Hamlet (Pow, Pow, Pow)
  12. Dead Joe
  13. Junkyard
  14. Big Jesus Trash Can
  15. Wild World
  16. Sonnys Burning
  17. Deep in the Woods
  18. Swampland
  19. Jennifer’s Veil
  20. Mutiny in Heaven
Posted in Birthday Party, The, Downloads, Mixtapes | 12 Comments

Didn’t Know It Was A Cover?

David Bowie – Red Sails

Bowie was dabbling in German rock as early as Diamond Dogs’ Sweet Thing (reprise), and he clearly loved the likes of Kraftwerk, but his music was far more influenced by the Köln rhythms of Neu!, and here on the marvellous Red Sails off Lodger (1979) he studiously avoids the mainstream; co-written by Brian Eno, the backing track here is pretty much a direct lift from Harmonia’s Monza off their 1975 album Deluxe.

Harmonia – Monza 

A spin off band from Neu!, the guitarist Michael Rother and the duo from Cluster consisting of Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Dieter Moebius, got together and called themselves Harmonia, a West German supergroup formed in 1973. Eno had worked with them (and Cluster), describing them in the mid-70s as “the world’s most important rock group“. Ok so not a direct cover, but Red Sails is so close to Monza you can sing along using Bowie’s lyrics. Plagiarism is an ugly word. In this case its all about the flavour, the beat, the rhythm; Bowie layered it, pulled it apart and pasted it back together again resulting in one of his best songs of the 1970’s. 

Posted in David Bowie, Didn't Know It Was a Cover, Neu! | 2 Comments

Genesis Unearthed – Live Performance 1973

A pristine video has just seen light of day of Peter Gabriel-era Genesis performing live in 1973 at the Bataclan in Paris. This jaw dropping never-seen-before concert footage captures Genesis in all their live intensity, in stunning 4K quality.

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This was the Foxtrot tour and Gabriel had just started to incorporate costumes into the show. Fresh off the Dublin show where he appeared unannounced (even to the bandmates) in red dress and fox head as seen on that 1972 album cover and causing quite a storm, he goes again here, but this is just a glimpse of what was to come for Gabriel’s theatrics and costumes fronting Genesis in the early 70s.

After decades of listening to this line-up on both live and studio recordings, this new footage provides a world of insight into how it all worked onstage. Peter is otherworldly; it’s a captivating performance, an artist in total control of his environment. Phil holds it all together on the drums and looks like he enjoyed a bit of the good smoke after or before the show. It’s amazing to think that the little bearded drummer will become one of the biggest stars on the planet in a decade.

The only full song is The Musical Box from 1971’s Nursery Cryme and even that features a brief audio patch from the 1973 LP Genesis Live since sound was missing from the beginning of the recording. It is followed by the first half of the Foxtrot centrepiece Supper’s Ready and large chunks of Return of the Giant Hogweed (Nursery Cryme) and The Knife from Trespass (1970).

The French TV video concludes with an the interview segment where which Peter says he learned to perform by watching Alice Cooper and David Bowie. Enjoy it before it gets pulled.

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Posted in Genesis, Performance of the Day, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins | 9 Comments

All Work And No Play Makes Jack A Dull Boy

Jack Nicholson is straight up one of the coolest people who has ever lived. Here he is, aged 32, getting high and listening to some records, circa 1969. But which records? The Press investigates….

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In September 1969, not long after the actor charmed moviegoers and critics with his deceptively easy going performance as a sweet-natured, booze-sodden, small-town lawyer in Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider, LIFE Magazine sent Arthur Schatz to photograph actor at his new home on Mulholland Drive, in Los Angeles.

There he is lounging around at home, smoking a joint, listening to some records on his KLH 20 turntable with a sweet vintage pair of aviation David Clark H8532 cans (perfect for “flying”), overlooking Franklin Canyon and preparing for his career-making role as Bobby Dupea in Five Easy Pieces.

Can you make out what he’s been listening to? The Press has done some hard yards for you.

Against wall: Doors s/t, CSN s/t, Buffalo Springfield Again
On floor: Bee Gee’s 1st, Young Brigham Rambling Jack Elliot, Procol Harum? (any help would be great)

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of these pictures, over 50 years later, is how very Jack he is in them: the charisma, the charm, and well-known (and often parodied) grin: these are all familiar traits of this colossal Hollywood figure who has given viewers so many unforgettable roles. 

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Just in time for Jack’s immanent 84th birthday, enjoy the man enjoying some tunes, and the good life, at his new home. Oh, Jack. You magnificent cad!

If you wouldn’t open your mouth, everything would be just fine.

That colourisation is off…..

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Posted in David Crosby, Doors, The, Images, On This Day | 13 Comments

Bowie: Rare 1972 Interview

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In this good little interview, recorded in February 1972 prior to the release of the legendary The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars album, Bowie briefly discusses some songs that had been slated for the album, until he recorded a new batch of songs in January 1972 to shore up the record, eventually released in June.

How do you know about all these?

The original running order of the album opened with the Chuck Berry cover Round and Round, and included the Jacques Brel cover Amsterdam (which would be released as the B-side of Sorrow in 1973), a new beefier version of Holy Holy, and another somewhat salacious track called He’s a Goldmine, later retitled Velvet Goldmine which was released in September 1975 as a B-side to his first UK No.1 Space Oddity single repackage. According to Bowie authority Nicholas Pegg, at one stage the album was even to be titled Round and Round as late as 15 December 1971. 

In this recently resurfaced brief interview, a well informed Jon Scott discusses the forthcoming Ziggy Stardust album by phone from Bowie’s Beckenham pad.

Audio here: http://www.5years.com/FM100.mp3

Interviewer: Could you explain a little more in-depth about the album that’s coming out …Ziggy?

Bowie: I’ll try very hard…its a little difficult but it originally started as a concept album, but it kind of got broken up because I found other songs I wanted to put in the album which wouldn’t have fitted into the story of Ziggy…so at the moment its a little fractured and a little fragmented (I’m just lighting a cigarette) so anyway what you have there on that album when it does finally come out is a story which doesn’t really take place…its just a few little scenes from the life of a band called Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars…who could feasibly be the last band on Earth – it could be within the last five years of Earth…I’m not at all sure. Because I wrote it in such a way that I just dropped the numbers into the album in any order that they cropped up. It depends in which state you listen to it in. The times that I’ve listened to it – I’ve had a number of meanings out of the album…but I always do. Once I’ve written an album – my interpretations of the numbers in that album are totally different afterwards than the time that I wrote them and I find that I learn a lot from my own albums about me.

Interviewer: …What do you plan to do…I’d like to ask you about some stuff you have recorded already….Did you not just do a version of “Amsterdam” – a Jacques Brel song?

Bowie: (surprised) Aaah…yeah

Interviewer: And a new version of “Holy Holy”?

Bowie: (laughing) Wait! Where do you get your information from?

Interviewer: …a kind of a friend … kind of the source of it…and there’s another version of “Round & Round?” Has that been dropped off Ziggy?

Bowie: (laughing) Jesus!!….You know about all of the things that are in the can!

Interviewer: Are there any more?

Bowie: (laughing) Maybe…maybe not!

Interviewer: …I see….was “Round and Round” – is that on Ziggy Stardust or was it dropped?

Bowie: It was dropped quite honestly…Why was it dropped? Its hard to say…..

Interviewer: …because it would possibly spoil the concept of Ziggy?

Bowie: No ….not too much -“Round & Round” would have been the perfect kind of number that Ziggy would have done on stage. I think probably what happened…is that it was a jam. We jammed “Round & Round” for old times sake in the studio and the enthusiasm of the jam probably waned after we heard the track a few times and we replaced it with a thing called “Starman.”

Interviewer: That’s going to be the single isn’t it?

Bowie: Yeah…they are putting that out as a single. I don’t think it’s any great loss really… I think….I certainly haven’t destroyed any of those tracks…I’ve kept them all. I think that maybe that we could put them out as a budget album or something at a later date…the stuff that never really got used. Because there are quite a few…there’s a thing called “Bombers” which is kind of a skit on Neil Young….

Interviewer: Oh really?

Bowie: Its quite funny…

Interviewer: Is it a single…or an album?

Bowie: Oh no just one song. Now what else do we have…Do you want to know some titles…things in the can we have never released? There’s a thing called “She’s A Goldmine” (laughing) “He’s a Goldmine” is lovely.

Interviewer: Is it a Neil Young thing too?

Bowie: No…that’s very David Bowie (laughing)…Its a lovely tune…But probably the lyrics are a little bit too provocative. I think they’ll keep that out for a bit….

Further Reading:

The Reconstructor: David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

5years – The Ziggy Stardust Companion

Posted in David Bowie | Leave a comment

Performance of the Day: And It Stoned Me

Van Morrison performs a reggae-driven version of And It Stoned Me as part of an impressive fifteen song set that showcased his growing maturity as an artist in Montreux 1980.

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The Montreux jazz festival performance featured four of the songs that would appear on Van’s next album, Common One and other songs that were played were chosen from albums over the last twelve years of his career, specifically in this case returning to Moondance for that album’s magnificent opener: And It Stoned Me.

By this time, the Irishman was held in high esteem due to his prolific output of the 1970s. Hence, the music assumes a more sophisticated allure with a larger ensemble backing Van. The lineup includes a full horn section, two drummers, two keyboards players, guitarist John Platania, bassist David Hayes, and Morrison on guitar and vocals.

The track focuses on life’s little pleasures. A trip to the fair and fishing with your friend. A cool drink of water from a clear mountain stream. A ride in the back of a pickup. Van said this about the song:

I suppose I was about twelve years old. We used to go to a place called Ballystockart to fish. We stopped in the village on the way up to this place and I went to this little stone house, and there was an old man there with dark weather-beaten skin, and we asked him if he had any water. He gave us some water which he said he’d got from the stream. We drank some and everything seemed to stop for me. Time stood still. For five minutes everything was really quiet and I was in this ‘other dimension’. That’s what the song is about.

The moody maestro lets loose with a wildly upbeat performance of this timeless classic. It has a strong, funky, reggae feel with the great little band in particular long-time Van band member Hayes on bass having the time of his life, offering a candid glimpse of one of rock’s most enigmatic and distinguished figures.

Posted in Gigs, Performance of the Day, Van Morrison | 1 Comment

Bowie

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Bowie, Los Angeles, 1975.

Posted in David Bowie, Images | Leave a comment

Travels With Pat Metheny

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This is an introduction to the delights of the hugely influential guitarist, composer and bandleader Pat Metheny. Although this 11-track instrumental collection only skims the surface of his lengthy and remarkable career, touching on the late-70s through to the mid-80s, we are essentially showcasing Metheny’s instantly recognisable sound with 11 of his most essential tracks.

Perfect travelling music, be it city to city, country to country, or just a train ride home, great listening on a crisp winter’s morning watching the fog clear, or a lazy summer evening on the terrace watching sundown on the seacoast. This music is the soundtrack for it all. It’s not progressive rock, acid jazz, or airport VIP lounge background music as some of this genre can often be, it is distinctly a hopeful and optimistic sound, largely because Metheny concentrates on pure melody and avoids dissonance on his instrument. There is a rock component in this jazz fusion too, occasionally challenging, often sweet and majestic, undeniably magnificent. From his early beginnings with the Pat Metheny Group and collaboration with pianist Lyle Mays, Metheny would evolve into one of the most prolific musicians in the genre who would continue to explore technology and the scope of his artistry within the context of progressive and contemporary jazz.

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TRACKS

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1. Are You Going With Me? (8:51) – An atmospheric tour de force and trademark Pat Metheny track. This mid-tempo multi-layered rhythm track appeared on his 1982 album Offramp serves as a base for a series of solos by Metheny on synth guitar and his long time keyboard partner Lyle Mays on synth. A regular concert opener and one of his finest solos on record.

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2. Phase Dance (8:25) – A track lifted from the career-high Pat Metheny Group (1978) album. An early Metheny/Mays composition and a signature song for the artist. By the release of this album Metheny was firmly establishing himself as a major jazz crossover, Grammy winning, superstar.

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3. Last Train Home (5:45) – An exquisite melody, approachable and soulful. This track appeared on The Pat Metheny Group’s 1987 album Still Life (Talking). Metheny creates rich layers in his music on this and the notes seem to flow without force or artifice. His Geffen period is far from my favourite however this is one of his finest moments on record.

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4. As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls (20:42) – This album came out in 1981 and was credited to Metheny and Mays, it contains some career best materiel like this 21-minute title track. Cinematic in scope, eastern in vibe, Metheny plays everything here except keys and drums.

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5. (Cross the) Heartland (6:55) – The enormous popularity that greeted American Garage, released in 1980, would allow Metheny to elevate the group from traditional jazz clubs to theatres and performing arts centres. Sonically the record is near flawless, with a crisp and well mixed distribution of the entire band. A personal favourite.

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6. James (6:46) – Another track off the masterful Offramp which climbed to an even wider mainstream appeal reaching #1 on the jazz charts in the early 80s, clearly evident on this superb track, which was written for and dedicated to singer/songwriter James Taylor.

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7. Lakes (4:46) – Watercolours (1977) was Pat’s second solo album, pre-Metheny Group but featuring pretty much the same musicians. This lovely little number is softly focused, Methey’s asymmetrical guitar style is distinctive even at this early stage.

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8. Midwestern Nights Dream (6:00) – Continuing the earlier recordings before a huge finish, Metheny’s first solo album Bright Size Life (1976) features the late Jaco Pastorius on bass and Bob Moses on drums. The original material on this underrated debut, bears the bracing air of his Midwestern upbringing with titles such as Missouri Uncompromised, and this one, the lovely Midwestern Nights Dream.

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9. San Lorenzo (10:16) – One of PMG’s best loved gems, this buoyant Lyle Mays showcase continually blasts off to newer and more stratospheric heights. Both innovative and unique this distinctly original sound incorporates a folk-style melody into an electric context while avoiding the rock guitar cliches that dominated much of the jazz-fusion in the late 1970s.

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10. Chris (3:23) – Pat Metheny has composed soundtracks for several movies, The Falcon and the Snowman is one of them. The soundtrack was composed for John Schlesinger’s excellent 1985 film, a classic for me. The nine songs in the album are performed by Pat Metheny Group, the highlight being the hit single This is Not America, an unlikely collaboration with David Bowie, and this one: Chris.

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11. Travels (5:03) – Delightfully simple and gorgeously executed title track of PMG’s first live double album released in 1983. Recorded less than a year after the magnificent Offramp, Travels is proof that the PMG were on a creative high.

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Posted in Downloads, Mixtapes, Pat Metheny | 6 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

Alice Cooper – DaDa (1983)

Alice Cooper delivered his eighth solo album, and something of a comeback in 1983. It was called DaDa, and while far from his most commercially successful release, it really is quite good and holds up well. We find Coop merging his classic style reminiscent of brilliant albums such as Killer, Love it To Death, Billion Dollar Babies and School’s Out with a more contemporaneous, weird, alternative style. It wasn’t received very well by the critics, and the fans stayed away in droves. 

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Produced by Bob Ezrin, DaDa was Coop’s final album for his long-time label Warner Bros., and after its release he took a three-year hiatus from the music industry to clean up. I think it’s one of his best. Certainly the album cover is intriguing. The album alludes strongly to the Dadaist movement: its cover was based on a painting by Salvador Dalí titled Slave Market with the Disappearing Bust of Voltaire.

The painting depicts a slave market, while a woman at a booth watches on. A variety of people seem to make up the face of the French writer and historian, Voltaire, known for his opposition to slavery, while the face seems to be positioned on an object to form a bust of Voltaire. Dalí describes his work on the painting “to make the abnormal look normal and the normal look abnormal.” Alice fashioned his face onto Voltaire for the DaDa sleeve.

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Speaking of abnormal, ten years earlier Alice Cooper came to New York City at the invitation of Salvador Dalí. The artist wanted to make a piece centred around Alice Cooper of course (a hologram thing, which turned out to be one of the most bizarre things ever) and Alice Cooper (the band) were big fans of Dalí. He was their idol. Upon first meeting each other, Alice recently explains:

“We’re sitting there at a hotel in New York City, in 1973, waiting to meet him when all of a sudden seven nymphs came dancing into the room. Male or female I honestly don’t know. Then his wife Gala comes in, full Fred Astaire tuxedo, top hat, white gloves, cane, spats, the whole thing. And then the Dalí is here. He’s got giraffe pants on, a pair of Aladdin shoes that twirl up at the end, he was just what you want him to be. He sits down and orders everybody a drink called a Scorpion which is every kind of alcohol in a shell with a lilac floating in it. And then he orders himself a glass of hot water, reaches into his pocket pulls out a jar of honey and starts pouring the honey into the glass. Then a takes a pair of scissors out and he cuts the flow of the honey. We’re going ‘he’s got scissors’. Just go along with it.”

Further Listening:

Rockonteurs with Gary Kemp and Guy Pratt – S1E26 Alice Cooper

Posted in Album Covers, Alice Cooper, Images, Podcasts | 7 Comments

Top 10 Remarkable Songs Off 10 Unremarkable Albums

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Here at The Press we are counting down the top 10 remarkable songs off 10 relatively forgettable albums by any given artist, with the intention to uncover some hidden gems along the way we may have otherwise sidestepped. So enjoy this selection of most excellent songs that shine as the killer track on a largely underwhelming record.

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10. Love Field – Elvis Costello and the Attractions

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A fine tune off the much maligned (even here) Goodbye Cruel World (1984). Elvis Costello’s records ceased being an automatic purchase at this point, and when Goodbye Cruel World came out the album was universally panned not only by the critics but even by Elvis himself: the liner notes reading “Congratulations you’ve purchased our worst album yet“. Maybe is was the direction change, or the embracing of the 80s production values, but truth be told the album holds up well today and is a better listening experience than it’s inferior companion piece Punch the Clock (1983). The brilliance of album highlight Love Field stands out on this soulful set, and sits comfortably among the best songs of Elvis Costello’s wide and varied career.

9. Sat Singing – George Harrison

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This album is not George’s finest hour, in fact it’s much worse given the fact that the incredible Sat Singing didn’t even make the cut for Somewhere in England (1981) for reasons that aren’t clear. Recorded at a time when George was increasingly frustrated with the music industry and his record label Warner Bros. who had rejected his initial offering. Several very good tracks were dropped from the original line-up (including Sat Singing, recorded in March 1980) and some less than stellar commercial material was included at Warner’s behest, (including the very good originally-for-Ringo Lennon tribute All Those Years Ago) but the final result was middling at best. The little-known yet truly gorgeous Sat Singing displays everything great about George Harrison and his singular gift with melody and brilliant slide guitar work. A keeper.

8. Seven Days – Sting 

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Ten Summoner’s Tales (1993) is a good album of mature jazz-inflected pop, but if we’re talking forgettable, let’s not pretend this is up there with the likes of Zenyatta Mondatta or Synchronicity by The Police. Relative to Sting’s solo work, it even lacks the gravity, lyricism, and power of his previous solo albums Nothing Like the Sun (1987), and to a lesser extent The Soul Cages (1991) however this reggae-hybrid track is as sharp and melodic as anything he has created: so magnificently written, played and beautifully constructed and executed, it deserves this special call-out. The chemistry of the band is evident here too where drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (Zappa) delivers an in-the-pocket 5/4 groove along with some breathtaking fills.

7. Cleaning Windows – Van Morrison

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The overall feel of 1982’s Beautiful Vision was as if Van Morrison was aiming for radio success, as the overall feel and production of the album is tight, slick, and a little ‘generic 80s’ sterility tends to creep in, perhaps an attempt to reach out (unsuccessfully) to a wider audience at the dawn of the decade. All the chances he took on the few previous albums had been effectively abandoned. There are moments however when the tight arrangements and production are reminiscent of some of his finest works, and that moment is best encapsulated on this all time Van classic, the skipping light-R&B track that became one of his latter-day concert standards, and the album’s most charming moment by a long way: the ultra-funky Cleaning Windows. 

6. Under Control – The Strokes

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Appearing a couple of years after the seminal classic that was Is This It?, the New York quintet’s follow-up Room on Fire (2003), remains something of a career misfire for The Strokes. What was going to measure up to their showstopping debut? Could they scale the same rock heights? In a word, no. It was a hard act to follow, but follow it they did with this enjoyable yet sleepy sophomore effort. The album’s highlight is this soulful album cut, buried at track eight, Under Control, where vocalist Julian Casablancas is all payphone vocal, woozy croon and romantic simplicity, rather than the smirking cool of some his other lyrics. The immediately catchy melody is both exultant and heartbreaking, and as good as anything this great band ever recorded.  

5. Another Tricky Day – The Who

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The first post-Keith Moon album, Face Dances (1981) gets short shrift by fans of The Who, and released at a time the band wasn’t considered “relevant” anymore by most mainstream rock critics. A few months after Moon’s death, the Who announced that Kenney Jones, formerly of the Small Faces and the Faces, would be their new drummer, and he joins them here. The fact that this album is a minor instalment in The Who’s formidable canon has nothing to do with the new drummer. Essentially it’s an average Pete Townshend solo record with Daltrey on vocals delivering Pete’s lyrics without much subtlety, rendering their power impotent. The lead single You Better You Bet is memorable, but the only track that contains all of the old fire is the album closer: Another Tricky Day. Roger’s vocals sounding better here than on the rest of the album, and a very simple but effective Townshend power-chord guitar line drives the song forward.

4. Fading Lights – Genesis

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Essentially the last Genesis album featuring what was left of the classic line-up, the faceless We Can’t Dance (1991) is a highly forgettable affair. Released after Phil Collins had invented adult contemporary, it’s overlong, overblown and includes way too much Tony Banks’ keyboards high in the mix. And it’s Phil’s last gasp. An album full of middling pop-rock, it has a last saving song that almost redeems it. If you make it through the hour-long duration, your tolerance is rewarded with the tremendous 10-minute closing track, Fading Lights, the most vital, all-out prog number they’d done since, say, Los Endos of 1976’s A Trick of the Tail. Not just one of the best Genesis tracks of their streamlined era, but one of the best Genesis songs ever.

3. No Promises – Icehouse

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Released in April 1986, this was Iva Davies’ great mullet years. Despite being one hugely talented rock star with enough classics under his belt by now, he had every right to aim for the US market with this album. There was flowing hair, catchy tunes (Paradise, Baby You’re So Strange, Cross the Border), expensive videos, and have I mentioned an abundance of hair? But all of that’s ok because it was the mid-80s and Davies was concurrently working on a very good ballet soundtrack called Boxes where the Bowie-affiliated No Promises originally appeared. As far as Icehouse albums go, Measure for Measure is in the lower echelon of generic 80s synth rock, but this sumptuous classic was a suitable opener for the hideously packaged US pressing.

2. Bonzo Goes to Bitburg – Ramones

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Attempting to update their sound to line up with the commercial conventions of the day, this, and the grungy Somebody Put Something In My Drink, are the only decent tracks on the Ramones’ ninth best left forgotten studio album Animal Boy (1986). For the Ramones, the song is a departure: an emotionally charged commentary on the Bitburg controversy from earlier that year, when Ronald Reagan (Bonzo) paid a state visit to a German World War II cemetery where numerous Waffen-SS soldiers were buried. The song, one of the band’s most clearly political statements, remains relevant and rocking. In 2003, the film School of Rock featured it with its full title, My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg).

1. The Moon Struck One – The Band

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By Cahoots (1971), The Band’s multi-instrumental prowess and ability to provide controlled and compelling live performances had descended into rock-star bad habits. They were Robbie Robertson and his ‘so-called’ friends. Drug and booze addictions, personal problems, internal strife, and decadence, had all but invaded the group, and the release of this minor effort marked the end of an era. The album’s cover is not their best and the recorded performances are good, but its a step down from Stage Fright (1970); the songwriting sounds laboured and several of the songs come across as either forced or half-baked and lacking in structure. However their last album of original material for four years does hold a musical treasure. One of The Band’s best ever slow-moving mini-ballads featuring the superb narrative songwriting of Robertson and one of the more haunting Richard Manuel vocals: The Moon Struck One.

Posted in Band, The, Elvis Costello, Genesis, George Harrison, Icehouse, Ramones, Sting, Strokes, The, Top 10 Remarkable Songs Off 10 Forgettable Albums, Van Morrison, Who, The | 8 Comments

David Bowie, 1981

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On the face of it, 1981 was the quietest year of Bowie’s career so far. Having spent the last ten years redefining the rock landscape, there was no new album nor was there another world tour in support of the critically and commercially successful Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) album of the previous year. For Bowie 40 years ago, things were seemingly coming to an end, but things were also opening up.

Bowie had, through the latter half of 1980, taken to the stage in the guise of John Merrick the Elephant Man, famously performing to New York’s packed Booth Theatre and three empty front row seats on the night of John Lennon’s murder, before completing the triumphant Broadway run on 3 January 1981 to wide critical acclaim. It’s hard to speculate what impact the tragic loss of a friend had on Bowie and his outlook for the coming year, but clearly time was needed to re-evaluate.

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It was around this time a certain rancour began to permeate his relationship with RCA. It’s true he had becoming increasingly disenchanted with the record label, and his contract was entering its final months, so too was his non-relationship with his management company Mainman, and head honcho Tony Defries, which had soured horribly by the mid-70s. 

Bowie had decided to wait it out. His marriage to Angie had formally ended in divorce, and rather than enduring a creative hangover after the mesmerising 1970s, Bowie was now free to make his next artistic move and explore other avenues of creativity this year; work with Tony Visconti again, record at Hansa in Berlin, divert his attention by acting in a play, record soundtrack work and a noteworthy (yet unlikely) number one hit single collaboration. The interstitial space of 1981 turns out to be one of revaluation before launching into what everyone knows as his most commercially successful popstar phase: 1983’s Let’s Dance and mega-successful Serious Moonlight tour.

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The year started with the release of the first and one of the best David Bowie books related to the analysis of the music; Bowie: An Illustrated Record by Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray. Published in January 1981, the NME writers thoughtfully examine every aspect of Bowie’s provocative and enlightening music over his recording career up until 1980. The writing is engaging and the information is accurate. A critical study of his recorded work, the book includes stunning colour and black and white photos throughout, as well as excellent reproductions of album and single sleeves. It also drills down into collaborative work with the likes of Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Mott the Hoople, Mick Ronson and Dana Gillespie, as well as referencing rare and collectable items like Bowie Now, and a guide to priceless bootlegs such as The Thin White Duke. Bowie even looked over the manuscript back in the day and corrected assorted factual inaccuracies that cropped up along the way. Not to imply his participation was authorised or endorsed in any way, the opinions expressed are all that of the authors. While countless books have since well and truly updated the Bowie discography (best of all is Nicholas Pegg’s The Complete David Bowie), this illustrated record remains an excellent reference point and a personal treasure.

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Bowie starred as himself in a German film about the teenage heroin addicted Bowie fan Christiane F. (Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo), miming to the Stage version of Station to Station and generally looking extremely cool and otherworldly. Due to his Elephant Man performance commitments, the concert scene was filmed in 1980 in a New York club made to look like a Berlin nightclub. The accompanying soundtrack album featured a top-drawer selection of Bowie songs from the mid-late 70s and was released in April 1981 on RCA. 

He had left New York earlier in the year and settled back into Mountain Studios in Montreux Switzerland, when in July he got together with legendary producer Giorgio Moroder to record the theme song for the Paul Schrader-directed horror movie Cat People. The track, co-written with Moroder, was a minor hit in the UK and US and turned out to be one of the finest Bowie moments of the decade. This wonderful career-high performance by our hero begins with a ambient build up and a baritone croon: “See these eyes of green…”, a near Velvet Underground Venus in Furs steal, “I could stare for a thousand years”, before warming into a refrain, “And I’ve been Putting Out Fire…”, then launching into the exhilarating octave-straddling, “WITH GASOLIIIINE!!!” as the track blasts in.

It worked well as the opener for the Moroder-composed original soundtrack album and was resurrected to extraordinary effect for a key scene in Quentin Tarantino’s 2009 WWII epic Inglorious Bastards. As good as this is, the recording would become a casualty of Bowie’s drive to continually push forward as it was almost immediately eclipsed by the fine but lesser re-recorded version featuring a then-unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan for Let’s Dance. This superb Moroder detour did however open the door for his next collaboration, this time with Queen on the iconic Under Pressure. Also recorded in July 1981, and again at Mountain Studios, the track became a worldwide sensation upon release in October, reaching No.1 on the UK charts, and Bowie’s best showing in the US since Golden Years.

As chance would have it, Queen were spending much of their time writing and recording the underrated Hot Space (1982) album, and one night while sitting on the eastern end of Lake Geneva hanging with Bowie, they adjourned back to the small studio together. A welcome distraction for a band who were encountering their very own musical differences at the time, the musicians picked up their instruments and Bowie provided backup vocals to an album track called Cool Cat before jamming out a few Cream covers with the band. “We had fun kicking around a few fragments of songs we all knew,” Brian May remembered. “But then we decided it would be great to create something new on the spur of the moment.

Originally titled ‘People On Streets’, Bowie took the creative lead, eventually suggesting they go into the vocal booth to sing how they feel the melody should proceed. “Bowie also insisted that he and Freddie Mercury shouldn’t hear what the other had sung, swapping verses blind, which helped give the song its cut-and-paste feel”.

The track was essentially recorded as a demo, with Bowie and Mercury taking it back to the Power Station Studios in New York for overdubs and mixing a few weeks later. The Bowie guest vocal on the rather indiscriminate disco number Cool Cat did not end up being used on the album, in fact his parts were officially removed at Bowie’s behest. While Under Pressure would go on to be a staple of Queen’s setlists (it ended up as the closing track on Hot Space), Bowie did not perform it live until the 1992 memorial concert for Mercury (the dreaded Lord’s Prayer gig), as a duet with Annie Lennox and the surviving members of Queen. 

The misconception is Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) was the end of the Tony Visconti era and Lodger was the end of the Berlin trilogy (actually mostly recorded at the aforementioned Montreux), but rarely receiving a mention is what he did next: Bertolt Brecht’s Baal. Having already covered Brecht’s Alabama Song on the 1978 world tour, then recording it as the B-side the reworked Space Oddity single of 1979, Bowie was offered and immediately accepted the lead role playing the anti-hero Baal in an unusual BBC TV play.

Something of a passion project for Bowie, filming commenced in August in London and the accompanying soundtrack, financed by Bowie, consisted of five tracks from the production all recorded at Berlin’s Hansa Ton Studios in September applying the same recording techniques as “Heroes”, and using a proper 15-piece German pit band of old guys. The result is ornate and lush; the lovely standout Remembering Marie A is an exquisite moment on the EP. Baal was a bold project for the artist, however it is well worth a revisit featuring some of the finest singing of Bowie’s career and was the last studio collaboration for many years with producer Tony Visconti. 

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The year finished with the release of the random compilation album ChangesTwoBowie, in November, something of a companion piece to the faultless ChangesOneBowie from 1976. Bowie was reportedly displeased with the release of this off-kilter mixtape assembled by RCA without his involvement, but there’s nothing wrong with the material contained within. In fact it includes some of his best ever 70s moments, and every single song is a classic (except, of course, John I’m Only Dancing (Again)) although the whole project seems a rather cynical exercise in squeezing a bit more cash out of a huge fanbase at a time when the artist’s stocks were high and was on the move to EMI. He did, however, agree to film a video for Station to Station’s masterful closing track Wild is the Wind which was released as a single by RCA in November to promote this sorta-hits compilation. The video is a good one with an impressive 50s jazz style monochrome video directed by David Mallet (Ashes to Ashes and many many more with DB), and the single was a hit in the UK. Mallet also made a similar one for Baal’s The Drowned Girl and both performances feature Bowie and friends, including Tony Visconti apparently on upright bass and his long-time assistant Coco Schwab on acoustic guitar.

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TRACKS

  1. Station to Station (live) – Christiane F. (Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo): Original Soundtrack
  2. Cat People (Putting Out Fire) – Cat People: Original Soundtrack
  3. Cool Cat (Bowie vocal) – Hot Space – Queen
  4. Under Pressure – Hot Space – Queen
  5. Baal’s Hymn (Der Choral vom großen Baal) – Baal EP
  6. Remembering Marie A. (Erinnerung an die Marie A.) – Baal EP
  7. Wild is the Wind – Changestwobowie

Posted in David Bowie, Downloads, European Rock Pilgrimage, Mainman, Mixtapes, On This Day, Queen, Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums | 8 Comments

Claire Birchall – Running in Slow Motion

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The Melbourne-based musician makes inventive use of space and texture on this slinky piece of experimental and addictive high-pop.

One of the most compelling and enduring members of the Melbourne music community, Claire Birchall has been recording and performing since the mid-90s. Best known for bringing her signature mix of skewed, fuzz-coated songcraft to the Phantom Hitchhikers as primary singer and guitarist, she’s also a long-term member of artist/musician Matt Green’s mighty The Happy Lonesome, and more recently toured with Australian rock legend Kim Salmon.

In stark contrast to her previous output, the new album Running in Slow Motion, released on it Records, is something of an electronic sidestep for the artist. In her first fully fledged solo album, she is taking cues from primitive, proto-industrial synthwav, in the process creating a pop opus, demonstrating an effortless ability to draw you close and hold you rapt as she elucidates her songcraft. 

There’s a palpable sense of curiosity and tech fetishism to much of the material contained within this record, from the opening cinematic title track, where gentle synth notes spar with a minimally adorned electro-drum patterns as Birchall intrudes with a glacial croon over a staggering melody, to lead single Dead Air, where she fortifies the rhythm with an inventive oscillating guitar refrain. It was the first song Claire wrote and recorded for the album; in fact, she cites it as the inspiration for the whole project and the new direction she has taken with her sound. 

Hang it Up is a slow-motion swirl of ambient techno, an arch-vamp on human communication (Won’t you call me up / Everything’s down…. Then you pick it up / Just to hang it up) featuring a bone-chilling phone ring as the track disconnects into the mid-tempo minimalist groove of The City & The Sea and its artfully delivered meta-lyrics. She stops short of building the track up into a techno-thumper because she’s having too much fun moving into the next album highlight, Small Town Kid and its European flourishes, its electronic instrumentation, combined with her strong seductive voice and shrugging double-tracked refrain (OK / A’right / I Get It / U-Huh), conjuring the art-rock brilliance of Kim Gordon. 

A major highlight is the stunning Song For The Man in The Moon, its incisive chorus and Matt Green’s extraordinary accompanying video providing the perfect visual effect – moments worth the price of admission alone. Elsewhere, the minimalist robo-funk of Electricity and an electronic take of Randy Newman’s Pretty Boy, off his underrated 1979 album Born Again, are both album standouts. The album yields a pair of sparse mournful reflections to close out the album: the singular charm of Lullaby, and a moving piano lament, Rain. 

Packed full of vocal hooks, this self-produced, self-performed, catchy DIY synth-pop album gives us a sense of who the artist is without shedding any of the mystique or rock cred she has developed over the decades. Running in Slow Motion is an endearing achievement in songwriting and musicality, and crucially a risk that too few rock artists seem willing to take these days. 

Claire BirchallRunning in Slow Motion (2020)

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  1. Running in Slow Motion
  2. Dead Air
  3. Hang it Up
  4. The City & The Sea
  5. Small Town Kid
  6. Song for the Man in the Moon
  7. Electricity
  8. Pretty Boy
  9. Lullaby
  10. Rain

released April 24, 2020

All songs written, recorded and performed by Claire Birchall
Mastered by Myles Mumford
Cover Design Luke Fraser/Ahr+
Photo by Albert D’Urbano

Purchase: Bandcamp / Amazon / iTunes

Stream: Spotify / Soundcloud / more on it Records

Follow: Facebook 

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Posted in Bandcamp, Claire Birchall | Leave a comment

The Rolling Stones – Fully Finished Studio Outtakes

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A wealth of previously uncirculated Rolling Stones outtakes has recently surfaced, perhaps being prepped for some rumoured upcoming box set package (or Tattoo You II), either way its a pristine-sounding, super cool, unexpected discovery, capturing the Stones creatively alive and in great shape. 

Like a kid in a Stones-related candy store, this is a hugely interesting listen with hidden gems all over the place, consisting of an incredible 50 completed licks dating back to the late 60’s, however many of the dates below are questionable as some have clearly been reworked over time, and some have wound up as retitled tracks on albums, and others lost in the sands of time…until now! Simply put it’s one of the best Stones bootlegs going around, and pleasingly the sound quality is excellent.

No one ever did loose, ramshackle, sexy as hell rock ‘n roll quite as well as the Stones. Can you hear Bowie on backing vocals on It’s Only Rock n Roll (But I Like It)? He’s definitely in there.

Ron Wood described it in 1982:
Two guitars – Mick and I – and Mick singing lead vocal and David Bowie and myself on backup vocals. Then I overdubbed the rest of the instruments last and it sounded like a good demo. So the next night, we wanted to put it in a more presentable shape so we got hold of Kenny Jones who plays the drums on the actual record. Ah… I ended up with just my acoustic guitar that I laid originally. Keith replaced – rightly so – the guitars that I’d done electrically.

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The Rolling StonesFully Finished Studio Outtakes mp3 or FLAC

Volume 1 (time 79:20)
1. nobody perfect, 1975
2. trouble’s a coming, 1972
3. dreams to remember, 1983
4. don’t lie to me, 1972
5. fli jim, 1978
6. eliza lipchink, 1983
7. deep love, 1985
8. she’s doing her thing, 1967
9. putty in your hands, 1962
10. dog shit, 1983
11. 20 nil 1991
12. tell her how it is, 1971
13. you better stop that, 1983
14. scarlet, 1975
15. walk with me wendy, 1974
16. never make you cry, 1977
17. part of the night, 1976
18. low down, 1997

Volume 2 (time 74:32)
1. it’s a lie, 1978
2. i can’t see no one else, 1985
3. not the way to go, 1977
4. giving it up, 1989
5. hands off, 1986
6. built that way, 1984
7. keep it cool, 1982
8. can’t find love, 1983
9. you win again, 1977
10. blood red wine, 1968
11. fast talking slow walking, 1972
12. cooking up, 1982
13. every time i break her heart, 1977
14. dream about, 1992
15. flip the switch, 1998

Volume 3 (time 78:17)
1. sanctuary, 1994
2. desperate man, 1973
3. prairie love, 1993
4. living the heart of love, 1974
5. still in love with you, 1982
6. i tried to talk her into it, 1982
7. might as well get juiced, 1998
8. too many cooks, 1973
9. curtis meets monkey, 1966
10. covered in bruises, 1981
11. ny league, 1994
12. too tight, 1998
13. criss cross, 1972
14. strictly memphis, 1995
15. it’s only rock’n’roll, 1973
16. studio jam session
17. studio jam session

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Posted in Albums That Never Were, David Bowie, Downloads, Mixtapes, Never Heard It Before...Until Now!, Rolling Stones, The | 4 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

Roxy Music – Siren (1975)

South Stack, Anglesey, Wales. Supermodel Jerry Hall poses as a mermaid for the cover of their fifth studio album.

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Led Zeppelin – II (1969)

The design was based on a photograph of a Division of the German Air Force during World War I. Dubbed “The Flying Circus” and led by Manfred von Richthfen The Red Baron.”

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The Band – The Band (1969)

John Joy Road in Zena, a small hamlet near Woodstock, NY.

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The Rolling Stones – Between the Buttons (1967)

Primrose Hill, London.

“We piled (the Stones) into Andrew (Oldham)’s Rolls and headed for Primrose Hill in North London. When we reached the top of the hill, there was this well-known London character called Maxie – a sort of prototype hippy – just standing on his own playing the flute. Mick walked up to him and offered him a joint, and his only response was “Ah – breakfast!” During the Between The Buttons photo sessions Brian continuously tried to screw the pictures up: he was hiding behind his collar; he’d bought himself a newspaper and buried himself in it; he was just not cooperating. I wouldn’t say Brian was trying to ruin the session, but he was so often being difficult. The whole point of the Between The Buttons pictures is that we were consciously trying to get an image of a band that had a vagueness to it, where you didn’t have to be presented with everything in detail. And I was experimenting by putting Vaseline on the lens and using strange, distorted colours. “Gered Mankowitz, photographer.

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David Bowie – Lodger (1979)

Photographer Brian Duffy.

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David Bowie – Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980)

Photographer Brian Duffy.

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The Beatles – Rubber Soul (1965)

Photographer Robert Freeman took the iconic shot at John’s house Weybridge, Surrey.

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Robert Freeman wanted a picture from a different angle and with a new colour tonality. He searched for a combination of brown, black and green, to get a monochrome effect. To that end, the four guys, wearing suede jackets, were placed in front of a rhododendron bush. Several shots were taken.

Later, the Beatles came together in the apartment of a friend, to chose the right picture. Robert Freeman projected a couple of slides on a album-sized piece of white cardboard. Suddenly the carton started to slide away and the distorted projection showed elongated faces. They liked the result and asked Robert if it was possible to print the photo in that way. Which he could.

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David Bowie – “Heroes” (1977)

Photographer Masayoshi Sukita. The album cover photo (and Iggy Pop’s The Idiot) was inspired by German artist Erich Heckel’s 1917 painting Roquairol. Bowie also stated: “Heckel’s Roquairol and also his print from 1910 or thereabouts called Young Man was a major influence on me as a painter.”

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Kiss – Alive! (1975)

Photographed at an empty Michigan Palace by Fin Costello.

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The Clash – Combat Rock (1982)

Read the fascinating article about tracking down this location – captured by photographer Pennie Smith in Bangkok, Thailand.

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Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run (1975)

Photographer Eric Meola.

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Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)

Photographed by Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell, design Storm Thorgerson (Hipgnosis).

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Pink Floyd – Ummagumma (1969)

Photographed by Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell, design Storm Thorgerson (Hipgnosis).

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Roxy Music – Roxy Music (1972)

Kari-Ann Muller, a former Bond girl (she appeared in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).

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Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)

Photographer Jim Hendin shot a series of photos of Marvin on an early Spring day in the singer’s Detroit backyard, including two up-close of Gaye gazing into the distance with snowflakes gracing the top of his hair.

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The Doors – Waiting for the Sun (1968)

The album cover shot was taken in 1968 by photographer Paul Ferrara, taken on a cliff off of Laurel Canyon Blvd, Los Angeles, California.

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Wings – Band on the Run (1973)

The album cover photograph was taken at Osterley Park, West London, on 28 October 1973 by photographer Clive Arrowsmith. It shows Paul and Linda, band-mate Denny Laine, and six other well-known individuals. All are dressed as convicts caught in the spotlight of what is supposedly a prison searchlight. The six non-Wings people in the photo are Kenny Lynch, Michael Parkinson, Clement Freud, James Coburn, John Conteh and Christopher Lee.

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Neil Young – After the Gold Rush (1971)

The cover of Neil Young’s third solo album After The Gold Rush was shot by photographer Joel Bernstein as he and Graham Nash were walking down the northwest corner of Sullivan Street and West 3rd Street, Greenwich Village, New York.

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Peter Gabriel – III (1980)

Photographed by Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell, design Storm Thorgerson (Hipgnosis).

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“We did the sleeve with Storm again at Hipgnosis and he introduced me to these things called Krimsographs. There was a photographer called Les Krims who discovered that if you take a Polaroid and you squash it you can get the colours to run. There’s a whole book, quite a little subsection of photography, devoted to the art of squashing Polaroids. And on this session we did many, many pictures with the Polaroid and everyone was squashing them; we probably had about three hundred different squashed Polaroids and we used to go after them with different objects – burnt matches, coins, fingers and all sorts of things. It was a lot of fun because you had to get the timing right, but you got some wonderful effects out of the distortions. We have a poster with all the different failures or the ones that we didn’t use which was a good piece of work.” – Peter Gabriel.

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“I’d had a dream of a melting face, some kind of wax effigy caught possibly in a museum fire. To achieve the painterly dripping effect we used ordinary Polaroids (after Les Krims) and if one pushes around the developing picture sandwiched between two bits of plastic with a blunt instrument like the end of a pencil the image is then smeared as it develops. Since this procedure is dead easy we did it loads of times along with Pete Gabriel in disfiguring himself by manipulating Polaroids as they ‘developed’. Peter impressed us greatly with his ability to appear in an unflattering way, preferring the theatrical or artistic to the cosmetic. Because we couldn’t decide on a favourite, for they were all great fun, we used lots.”- Storm Thorgerson.

Pink Floyd – A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987)

Photographed by Aubrey ‘Po’ Powell, design Storm Thorgerson (Hipgnosis).

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“What you get is what you see: 700 wrought iron beds all individually made up and each weighing several tons, or so it seemed by the end of the day. The photograph…is a 35mm color transparency taken when the tide was on the turn and came rushing back, flooding all the beds in the blink of an eye. Wet dream, or what.” – Storm Thorgerson.

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The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Album cover concept was created by Jann Haworth and Peter Blake, who in 1967 won the Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts for their work on it. Blake has said that the intention was to show a new band surrounded by fans after a performance.

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Widely recognised and referred to album cover that depicts several dozen celebrities and other images. The image was made by posing the Beatles in front of life-sized, black-and-white photographs pasted onto hardboard and hand tinted.

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John Lennon (1968)

John Lennon. 30th October 1968. Alternate photographs of John, by John Kelly, that went unused in the White Album.

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Bob Dylan – Desire (1976)

Album Cover Photo Location – Plymouth Memorial Park, Plymouth, Massachusetts – October 31, 1975. Photo by Ken Regan, official photographer of the Rolling Thunder Revue tour.

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New York Dolls – New York Dolls (1973)

The album cover (shot by Toshi Matsuo) of the New York Dolls sitting together on a couch in Matsuo’s loft in platforms and makeup.

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Toshi took many more photos of the band as individuals on the white satin couch, as well as in front of the famous Gem Spa corner store (home of the egg cream!), pictured on the back of the album.

Jeff Buckley – Grace (1994)

Photographer Merri Cyr was widely recognised as the official Jeff Buckley photographer, having shot the iconic Grace cover photo, sans banana, and countless other images of the artist.

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Cyr witnessed Buckley’s ephemeral career. Then an aspiring young artist, Cyr met Buckley during his days of playing covers in New York’s East Village coffee shops. When Buckley asked her to shoot the cover of Grace, their work developed into an ongoing partnership. A regular fixture in Buckley’s inner circle, Cyr documented it all, from early gigs to studio sessions to his intensive touring.

Posted in Album Covers, Band, The, Beatles, The, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Doors, The, John Lennon, Johnny Thunders, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, The, Roxy Music | 3 Comments

Neu! – E-Musik

Neu_albumcoverA visionary band in the process of maturation or an old band that has become new to us? Neu was a German krautrock band formed in Düsseldorf in 1971 by ex-Kraftwerk members Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother. While little known and relatively unheralded during its brief existence, Neu is retrospectively considered one of the founders of the German electronic motorik sound (or Krautrock) and cast a large shadow over the UK punk scene and generations of musicians as diverse as David Bowie, Brian Eno, Josefin Ohrn + the Liberation, Pere Ubu, Julian Cope, The Fall and Wooden Shjips.

The duo formed in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 1971 and their self-titled debut album was recorded in the space of four days with Can producer Conny Plank. Released in 1972 it quickly established their affection for minimalist melodies and lock-groove rhythm. While virtually ignored throughout the rest of the world, the album sold extremely well in West Germany, resulting in a tour with support from Guru Guru’s Uli Trepte and Eberhard Krahnemann.

‘Hallogallo’, the entirely instrumental song that opens the album is a mesmerizing pulse that is one of Krautrock’s trademarks. Intelligent dance music. The guitar-driven classic soars, sighs, throbs, tics and wahs for over 10 meditative minutes, and constantly teeters on the edge of punkish revolt. Mono-chordal but never monochromatic, it announced the extraordinary dexterity, variety and intensity that could be explored by an exposition of one chord over a metronomic drumbeat.

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Neu returned to the studio in 1973 for their sophomore effort: Neu 2. The eleven-minute lead in track Fur Immer (Forever) is a serpentine krautpunk classic, channeling fierce repetition into something anthemic, but a shortfall of cash allowed the duo to complete a minimal amount of materiel which they subsequently remixed at varying and disorienting speeds to flesh out a full-length album. After the record’s release, Rother joined Dieter Moebius and Joachim Roedelius of Cluster to form Harmonia, but Neu officially reunited in 1975 to record Neu! ’75, the group’s final statement. The record’s lush ambiance masks a primal tension at heart. It has the rhythmic pounding of their debut distilled through the radical proto-punk of their second album, punctuated by spells of dreamy ambiance as heard on the extraordinary E-Music. After its release, they again disbanded; Rother continued on as a solo performer, while Dinger and drummer Hans Lampe formed La Dusseldorf.

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In the mid-’80s, Rother and Dinger re-formed yet again, although the recording sessions did not officially surface until 1996.

While Neu never received the recognition it deserved during its all-too brief existence, dropping this German band’s name nowadays ensures you’re awfully cool and down with alt and indie rock’s revered ones. Their music has seeped into the musical consciousness of several generations, and the influence is everywhere. Rest assured there is substance behind the legend as heard on this compilation entitled Neu! E-Musik.

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All selections are lifted from their first three seminal releases.

  1. Hallogallo
  2. Neuschnee
  3. Fur Immer (Forever)
  4. Negativland
  5. Super
  6. Lila Engel
  7. E-Musik
  8. Isi
  9. Seeland

Further Listening:

  1. Harmonia – Deluxe (1975)
  2. La Düsseldorf – La Düsseldorf (1976)
  3. David Bowie – Lodger (1979)

Posted in Downloads, Mixtapes, Neu! | 5 Comments

David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name

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Released 50 years ago today on Atlantic Records, David Crosby’s debut solo album If I Could Only Remember My Name was recorded at a traumatic time for the musician, following the death of his girlfriend Christine Hinton in a car accident, and features key collaborations from a who’s who of Laurel Canyon and West Coast A-listers like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, and multiple members of the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane; something of a musical love-in, but it’s Croz’s sublime vocals and languorous approach that give the album its blissful, ethereal, freak-folk charm with a dark heart. David Crosby would not issue another solo album until 18 years later.

The album has found a new audience in recent times, but the story starts with Crosby, Stills and Nash. Almost as soon as they had released their first hugely successful self titled album, the Californian three-part-harmony sound of 1969 with every man and their dog into it, then with the inclusion of Neil Young on the timeless but much darker follow up Déjà Vu (1970), the individual members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were already working on solo projects.

Possibly piqued into action by their incredibly talented colleague’s release of the stunning Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969), and After the Goldrush (1970), Stephen Stills, buzzing with ideas, was the first of the original trio to release his first proper solo (self-titled) album in late-1970. These are all straight ahead, rock singer-songwritery, albums. Crosby’s self-produced If I Could Only Remember My Name is a wonderful counterpoint, and so different. It’s jazzy, meandering; a unique and experimental collection of dreamy Californian ambience, featuring angelic chorale-vocal experiments, cosmic storytelling, and effortless rock guitar noodling over transcendental melodies.

Let’s get this out of the way: Very few albums have as good an acoustic guitar sound as this album, and Crosby’s voice, while scratchy and at times strained, is note-perfect; wild, sleepy and soothing. Recorded concurrently with the Grateful Dead’s American Beauty in 1970 at San Francisco’s Wally Heider Studios, the album features a key contribution from exceptional Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia with his gorgeous pedal steel and electric guitars all over Crosby’s album. He also helped arrange and produce the material for his buddy, adding a resonating warmth and musical joy throughout.

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Garcia, Crosby, Young

The album opens with the mantra song ‘Music is Love’, summarising the collective vibe of the album: a bunch of friends in the studio, there for each other, making the music they love. It’s a beautiful sentiment, basically a jam, originally recorded as a warm up number. It ushers in the sound of the album and features accompanying vocals by Nash and Neil. The shaggy eight-minute ‘Cowboy Movie’ is a groovy folk-rock allegory about Rita Coolidge, but doesn’t really fit the feel of the album, a white-boy blues that drags, unlike the warm embrace of the next track ‘Tamalpais High (At About 3)’, which finds our hero multi-vox folk-scatting over a jazzy arrangement and Garcia’s mesmerising electric guitar outro. The album really starts here. Then side one closes with the Byrds-ian ‘Laughing’ the centerpiece of the album, and If I Could Only Remember My Name‘s most complete track, it features the luminous Joni Mitchell on vocals, some slide from Jerry, and a singularly incredible multi-layered guitar sound.

The brooding ‘What Are Their Names’ opens side two with a slow build finally hitting something of a vocal pinnacle at the end, although it sounds longer than it’s four minutes and for what it really is; a nice mood-setter. The delicate beauty of ‘Traction in the Rain’ is a stunner. It’s not just the autoharp, but Crosby, while no Neil Young on guitar, loves his crazy guitar tunings and he’s essentially made up his own here; try not to get lost in this song. The next track ‘Song with No Words (Tree with No Leaves)’ is very pretty, but could sit on a CSN album, has no lyrics (spoiler alert), but has exquisite harmonising between Crosby and Nash.

The album closes with two sublime moments. The first is the traditional moment ‘Orleans’, sung in French acapella-style and multi-layered, a lovely arrangement, essentially listing Parisian cathedrals. Crosby’s voice providing a sweeping and swooning effect like an ocean, then halfway through some beautiful guitar joins in. The last song on the album, the moving ‘I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here’, is short but the genesis of the whole album. Crosby is all about vocal stacking, and clearly an incredibly instinctive harmony singer, he improvises a wordless ‘spirit-in-the-room’ musical wake for his dead girlfriend; a ghostly and chillingly powerful album closer.

TRACKS:

  1. Music is Love
  2. Cowboy Movie
  3. Tamalpais High (At About 3)
  4. Laughing
  5. What Are Their Names
  6. Traction in the Rain
  7. Song With No Words (Tree With No Leaves)
  8. Orleans
  9. I’d Swear There Was Somebody Here

Further Listening:

  1. Neil Young – Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969)
  2. Neil Young – After the Goldrush (1970)
  3. Graham Nash – Songs for Beginners (1971)
  4. Stephen Stills – Manassas (1972)
Posted in David Crosby, Neil Young, On This Day | 8 Comments

The Fall – I Wake Up In The City

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A gob-smacking, ball-tearing, stick of rock ‘n roll gelignite best played exceedingly loud for the full exhilarating experience. This raucous b-side to the group’s bloody awful Flitwick Records 7″ single Rude (All The Time), is something of a companion piece to the good but thin-sounding ‘My Ex-Classmates’ Kids’ – different lyrics, but they share the same primitive three-chord riff – off the undervalued Are You Are Missing Winner (2001).

The song is called ‘I Wake Up in the City’ and is simply one of The Fall’s finest and most rocking moments ever put to tape. Based around a continual ferocious guitar riff, think ‘Sister Ray’ on steroids, it is an absolutely blistering piece of scuzzy garage rock that has to be heard to be believed. From the opening exhortation of “turn the music up“, to the monstrously up-front snare drum, then into an overloaded and distorted guitar riff, it’s an unholy Stooges-esque racket. Enter Mark E Smith’s distorted biting snarl at its uncompromising and steamrolling best, one of his most visceral renditions of bemusement and disgust as he navigates urban life: When I wake up in the city / I look around to see who’s with me, he even works in a menacing cough as a vocal hook that’s simultaneously sneering and hilarious, a highlight.

Poetically-illuminated scraping punk about the city’s thoughts that pollute me, all of these things crowding in on him and causing him to wonder, How many of you are stable? / No one, he declares by song’s end. If you wake up in the city, you’re part of this living nightmare. ‘I Wake Up in the City’ is a great example of how a strong MES vocal over churning guitars can produce something very special. In great Fall fashion, listen out for a bizarre spoken-word section commencing at 2:58, seemingly taped at random off the radio and pasted in for no apparent reason apart from filling the gap.

Despite its similarities to ‘My Ex-Classmates’ Kids‘, both songs were on the setlist whenever the group played ‘I Wake Up In The City’ in late 2001; at its final outings in 2002, was played as part of a medley with ‘Kids’.

Line up:

Mark E Smith: vocals
Spencer Birtwistle: drums
Jim Watts: bass
Ed Blaney: guitar

References & Further Reading:

  1. You Must Get Them All
  2. Fall Tracks A-Z

Posted in Fall, The, Performance of the Day, Wig Outs | Leave a comment

McCartney – Paperback Classics: Vol IV

Two of the all-time most inexplicably unreleased Paul McCartney paperback classics ever, and two songs that just happen to be among the artist’s most timeless recordings either for sheer quality, highly interesting unrealised hit-potential or buried in time. They are songs only McCartney nerds (like myself) know about via bootlegs and a world of compilations. Here at The Press we have unearthed these historically interesting and amazing tracks and present them in double A-side format for your listening pleasure.

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So Like Candy – Beautiful Paul McCartney/Elvis Costello demo from 1988 of a song that was in the mix for Flowers in the Dirt but left off that album, and eventually appearing on Elvis Costello’s Mighty Like a Rose (1991). 

Same Love – An extraordinarily heartfelt track recorded around 1987 and turned up as a long deleted b-side of Beautiful Night in 1997 to support Flaming Pie album. 

Posted in Albums That Never Were, Paul McCartney | 2 Comments

The Big Midweek | Life Inside The Fall

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Written by former bassist of seminal post-punk group The Fall, Steve Hanley (& his partner Olivia Piekarski) and published in 2014 to widespread critical acclaim for its intelligent, engaging, conversational style, revealing insights, and dry, stoical humour, The Big Midweek is not only the best and most entertaining books ever written about The Fall, but one of the best music books I’ve ever read. An absorbing, disturbing, eye-popping, at times hilarious story of living inside The Mighty Fall.

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The Fall in 1985 with Steve Hanley far left

Something of a tell-all memoir of life inside a group he was with for 18 years – from 1979 (Dragnet) until the infamous onstage fight in New York with Mark E Smith in 1997 (Levitate) – it is an understatement to say that Hanley helped define the singular sound The Fall are known for, and quite ironic that the most silent, stoic and the dependable beating heart of the group was the first member to open up about being in one of the most influential and best bands ever to come out of England.

The book’s a story really, a story about a band – an idiosyncratic band,” said Hanley. “I’m telling the story of a lad growing up in the music business, living the dream and becoming disillusioned with it”.

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Further Reading:

Top 50 Songs by The Fall

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Duderama – New Views (2021)

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Duderama’s latest creative endeavour has just been released: New Viewscheck it out here.

This 11-track collaboration is an elixir for these dark and strange times and a lesson in the joyousness of lo-fi rock made with a passion.

released January 22, 2021

Written, performed and produced by DUDERAMA

Recorded at Surface to Air Studios: Sydney & Melbourne
Mastered by L Stack
Art design by P Brown

© 2021 Surface to Air Records Inc

Digital Album available for Streaming + Download
Includes high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.

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Posted in Bandcamp, Downloads, Duderama | 18 Comments

Geoff MacCormack – Band Member & Childhood Friend Talks about David Bowie – Radio Broadcast 04/01/21

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Bowie childhood friend, touring buddy, backing singer Geoff MacCormack (Warren Peace) talks to BBC Radio 6 Music DJ Marc Riley about meeting Bowie in School, USA influences, joining the band, 1973 Aladdin Sane tour, Japan Tour, Travelling, Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me, Photography, Hammersmith Concert, David Live and Diamond Dogs-era and more.

Listen to a recently surfaced recording of this Diamond Dogs classic, co-written with Geoff MacCormack: ‘Rock and Roll with Me’. Recorded at Olympic Studios in January 1974, this fascinating tape features Bowie pausing frequently to direct the musicians, including pianist Mike Garson, and finds Bowie shifting lyrics around, trying out phrasings and tempos, hitting bum notes, cracking up. Fly on the Wall: Twenty minutes of Bowie running Garson, Herbie Flowers and Tony Newman through a wonderful song that he’d not quite finished.

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Bowie Miscellany

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Adam Buxton’s top notch Bowie-related animations for your viewing pleasure:

ASHES TO ASHES CLOWN SUIT STORY

CONTAINS VERY STRONG LANGUAGE. Based on an anecdote from Michael Dignum. Animated by The Brothers McLeod. Direction and audio by Adam Buxton.

DAVID BOWIE, BRIAN ENO AND TONY VISCONTI RECORD WARSZAWA

Animated by The Brothers McLeod. Direction and audio by Adam Buxton. Warszawa by David Bowie appears on the Bowie album Low (1977). Listen out for it in the marvellous short film Jazzin’ for Blue Jean.

Posted in Brian Eno, David Bowie | Leave a comment

David Bowie: The Thin White Duke in New York, 1976

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This is secretly the greatest live album Bowie never released*, this legendary bootleg captures Bowie in transition, moving from his plastic soul phase to the European electronic music he would create with his immanent relocation to Berlin.

David BowieThe Thin White Duke in New York, 1976 mp3

This concert was recorded live at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NY, USA on March 23, 1976 and is one of his most famous and finest live performances ever.

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The set list for this tour stayed more or less the same for all the dates throughout the White Light or Isolar tour, combining atmosphere and intensity. Listen out for the moment when Bowie saunters onto the stage, four-and-a-half minutes into the opening track Station to Station, as the crowd erupts. There are numerous stand out tracks including, ‘Word On A Wing’, ‘Fame’, ‘Changes’, ‘Jean Genie’, a blistering ‘Panic In Detroit’ and a brilliant extended version of ‘Stay’.

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The playing is excellent by one of the best groups of musicians Bowie ever assembled including the formidable rhythm section of Dennis Davis, George Murray and Carlos Alomar, and of course vocals by the Thin White Duke himself.

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TRACKS

  1. Station To Station
  2. Suffragette City
  3. Fame
  4. Word On A Wing
  5. Stay
  6. Panic In Detroit
  7. Changes
  8. TVC15
  9. Diamond Dogs
  10. Rebel Rebel
  11. Jean Genie

Running time: 1 hour 7 minutes

David Bowie – Vocals
Carlos Alomar – Guitar
Stacey Heydon – Guitar
Tony Kaye – Keyboards
George Murray – Bass
Dennis Davis – Drums

*This bootleg recording would eventually see an official release as part of his timeless Station to Station 2010 reissue box set. The presentation of this concert is the most controversial aspect of the box set; the sound is loud and apparently heavily compressed, to the ire of many audiophiles. Still, if the mastering choice is questionable, the electricity of the reinvented Bowie’s performance makes it a welcome addition to the box set.

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Posted in David Bowie, Downloads, Gigs, Images, Performance of the Day | 9 Comments

David Bowie: Another Stage in Gothenburg, 1978

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Welcome to Part 2 of a 3 Part Bowie Bootleg extravaganza, a good time of the year to enjoy some magnificent Bowie shows from his golden years. This one is live in Gothenburg, Sweden on 4 June 1978. The sound quality is excellent on this bootleg and even better than on any earlier issues on vinyl or CD.

David BowieAnother Stage in Gothenburg, 1978 mp3

Bowie bootlegs flooded the underground market in the 1970’s and this is one of the best from this tour. It’s a stereo soundboard recording and the concert was recorded in one of Sweden’s largest cities during the European leg of the superb 1978 Isolar II tour, a Bowie career pinnacle, and our man was in the middle of what has been called his groundbreaking Berlin-trilogy ie: the Eno records.

As with the official album Stage released later in ’78, Bowie offers a lot of songs from his previous two albums Low and “Heroes”, including ‘Be My Wife’, ‘Blackout’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Breaking Glass’ (Bowie doing his best Dylan and Bolan impersonations), ‘Speed of Life’ and “Heroes”. Elsewhere the particularly funky US No.1 hit Fame is the only representative from the Young Americans album, and the Ziggy album is famously well represented including, ‘Hang on to Yourself’, ‘Suffragette City’, ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Five Years’ and a superb ‘Soul Love’. Another highlight of this bootleg is the Station to Station material, something of an encore and still quite fresh to the listening public, with a colossal version of the title track, a pleasure to hear Adrian Belew’s interpretation of one of Bowie’s best ever songs, also ‘TVC15’ and the timeless ‘Stay’ to essentially close the 2-hour long show.

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TRACKS

  1. Warszawa
  2. “Heroes”
  3. What in the World
  4. Be My Wife
  5. The Jean Genie
  6. Blackout
  7. Sense of Doubt
  8. Speed of Life
  9. Breaking Glass
  10. Fame
  11. Beauty and the Beast
  12. Five Years
  13. Soul Love
  14. Star
  15. Hang Onto Yourself
  16. Ziggy Stardust
  17. Suffragette City
  18. Art Decade
  19. Alabama Song
  20. Station to Station
  21. Stay
  22. TVC15
  23. Rebel Rebal

Tour band 1978 – The Low and “Heroes” World Tour :
David Bowie – vocals, chamberlain
Adrian Belew – lead guitar, backing vocals
Carlos Alomar – rhythm guitar, backing vocals
George Murray – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dennis Davis – drums, percussion
Roger Powell – keyboards, synthesizer 
Sean Mayes – piano
Simon House – electric violin

Posted in David Bowie, Downloads, Gigs, Performance of the Day | 4 Comments

David Bowie: “Heroes” in Berlin, 1987

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Berlin has become inextricably linked with the Bowie legacy. He’d lived there in the late 1970s creating some of the greatest music of all time, sharing an apartment in the Schöneberg neighbourhood with Iggy Pop, escaping from the drugs and over-the-top glam of his early career and immersing himself into the city’s rich expressionism and art culture.

Exactly a decade later, the gargantuan Glass Spider tour arrived in the city in support of 1987’s Never Let Me Down album which would find Bowie performing as part of a three-day rock festival on the Platz der Republik, in front of one of Germany’s most poignant landmarks, the Reichstag, the once-proud governmental structure that had become a ruined relic of unified Germany.

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The structure sat close to the neoclassical Brandenburg Gate, and the Berlin Wall, and the concert was clearly audible to those in East Berlin. By 1987 the city’s Soviet-dominated East had become safer, but it had not become more free. Rock music was treated as a destabilising threat and Bowie-loving East Berliners were not allowed to attend the concert, but they could hear the enigmatic singer’s dynamic performance thanks to the efforts of Bowie’s roadies infamously pointing the speakers their way.

“We kind of heard that a few of the East Berliners might actually get the chance to hear the thing, but we didn’t realise in what numbers they would. And there were thousands on the other side that had come close to the wall.”

By the time Bowie took the stage on the evening of June 6th, 15,000 East Berliners gathered as close as possible to the Wall. “We kind of heard that a few of the East Berliners might actually get the chance to hear the thing, but we didn’t realise in what numbers they would. And there were thousands on the other side that had come close to the Wall. So it was like a double concert where the wall was the division. And we would hear them cheering and singing along from the other side.”

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The set list on this excellent soundboard recording includes tracks from his most recent album of the time, as well as deep cuts from throughout his career including, ‘Big Brother’, ‘All the Madmen’, ‘Time’, ‘Sons of the Silent Age’ and ‘Dancing With the Big Boys’.

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Never one to miss the occasion to highlight the unifying power of art, Bowie called out to the East Berlin contingent after playing “Heroes”. In German, he offered words of support to the victims of oppression so tantalisingly near but beyond aid. “We send our wishes to all our friends who are on the other side of the Wall.”

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Bowie wrote the 1977 epic while living in West Berlin, and midway through the set, Bowie performed the song and saw it take on a whole new life. On this summer night with thousands of people pressed up against the wall on the other side singing along, the song sounded “almost like a prayer,” he recalled. “That’s the town where it was written, and that’s the particular situation that it was written about. It was just extraordinary.” The lyrics, penned exactly a decade earlier, seemed almost clairvoyant.

Ich
Ich glaub’ das zu träumen
Die Mauer
Im Rücken war kalt
Schüsse reissen die luft
Doch wir küssen
Als ob nichts geschieht

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The performance is simply mesmeric, you can really hear the emotion in his voice, and Bowie always talked about it as one of the greatest performances of “Heroes” he ever gave: “I’ll never forget that. It was one of the most emotional performances I’ve ever done. I was in tears. God, even now I get choked up. It was breaking my heart. I’d never done anything like that in my life, and I guess I never will again. It was so touching.”

The Berlin concert of 1987 is often cited as one of the events that helped bring down the Berlin wall, although to jump to a conclusion and suggest that Bowie was a major force in the dissolution of the wall in 1989 would be a mistake. But just two years prior, this landmark performance by the divisive wall shook the occupants of both sides to their emotional core and this performance in the divided city made him a hero to generations of Berliners.

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TRACKS

  1. Purple Haze Intro
  2. Carlos Guitar Intro
  3. Up the Hill Backwards
  4. Glass Spider
  5. Up the Hill Backwards (reprise)
  6. Day In Day Out
  7. Bang Bang
  8. Absolute Beginners
  9. Loving the Alien
  10. China Girl
  11. Fashion
  12. Scary Monsters
  13. All the Madmen
  14. Never Let Me Down
  15. Big Brother
  16. ’87 and Cry
  17. “Heroes”
  18. Time Will Crawl
  19. Band Introductions
  20. Beat of Your Drum
  21. Sons of the Silent Age
  22. New York’s in Love
  23. Dancing With the Big Boys
  24. Zeroes
  25. Let’s Dance
  26. Fame
  27. Time
  28. Blue Jean
  29. Modern Love
  30. bonus Soundcheck

running time: 132 minutes

Further reading:

1. David Bowie – Album to Album. Multimedia arachnid mayhem! It’s 1987’s Never Let Me Down with The Complete David Bowie author Nicholas Pegg returning to stoutly defend his choice of album in this highly entertaining podcast.

2. David Bowie – Never Let Me Down (2018)

3. David Bowie – Heroes (1977)

Posted in David Bowie, Downloads, European Rock Pilgrimage, Gigs, Performance of the Day | 6 Comments

Never Heard It Before…Until Now!

I’ve never heard this album before…..until now. Why? Don’t know, but now is as good a time as any to sit down and listen to something I’ve never heard, right? I’ve actually had them lying around and never bothered, or someone’s given me a copy, or I’ve bought it on a whim. Not Polish jazz. Ok here we go…

Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band – Trout Mask Replica (1969)

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Captain Beefheart has a voice that can break microphones. With his four-and-a-half-octave range, he can hit notes that can literally destroy rugged, costly recording equipment, as he proved during the recording sessions for his debut album Safe As Milk (1967). Singing the track ‘Electricity’ he shattered the internal structure of a state-of-the-art Telefunken microphone. It was found that the vocal extremes recorded by Captain Beefheart (aka Don Van Vliet) were beyond the capabilities of the recording device. Despite his great talent as a lyricist, composer, arranger and musician, and fans brace yourselves, I have always found Beefheart to be a tremendously frustrating artist, always somewhat irritated by his indescribably strange and deliberately difficult and eccentric style (notwithstanding my fandom of other comparable artists such as Tom Waits, Pere Ubu, Frank Zappa, The Birthday Party, John Frusciante, and even the mighty Jon Spencer Blues Explosion); an early listening run-in with the less than stellar Strictly Personal (1968) LP; knowingly random album titles such as Lick My Decals Off, Baby, and giving silly names to his band members such as Victor “The Mascara Snake” Hayden or Mark “Rockette Morton” Boston, did not help. So too his general oddball style and bewildering delivery, idiosyncratic rhythms, absurdist lyrics, and an unholy alliance to free jazz. At times I wished he would just drop the avant garde racket routine and just sing the blues, straight up, like Howlin’ Wolf, as he does regularly on the fantastic Safe As Milk album.

For better or for worse this has long steered me clear of what many call his magnum opus, the seminal Zappa “produced”, 28-song double album, Trout Mask Replica, released in June 1969 on the newly formed Straight Records label. Lester Bangs, writing in Rolling Stone, said of the album: …it shattered my skull, made me nervous, made me laugh…it was a whole new universe, a completely realised and previously unimaginable landscape of guitars…it hit like a bomb.” Knowing Lester, I’m worried. So in the spirit of the Never Heard It Before…Until Now! series, it’s time this album gets the good hard first proper listen it truly deserves. 

Upon first listen Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band are delivering a mind boggling assemblage of stylistic and thematic strands, sometimes all within the same two-minute song. On many of the tracks it seems the drummer (John ‘Drumbo’ French) is playing non stop clattering fills while both guitars (Antennae Jimmy Semens and Zoot Horn Rollo) solo independently of each other in a discordant way as Beefheart sings over the top of this unholy, anti-music racket. His voice sounds mostly great, and his vocal melodies rule. There’s shards of blues, splinters of rock, all atonal and dissonant instrumentation. I was a little apprehensive about approaching the album, and when listening to it I know why. Mercifully most songs are all over in about a minute or two, although some numbers like instrumental ‘Hair Pie Bake 1’ clocks in at five minutes, and is a bleating, tuneless, free-jazz sax wig-out. Then there’s things like ‘The Dust Blows Forward ‘n the Dust Blows Back’, or ‘Well’, they do not even have any music, just stream-of-conscience spoken word, and abstract, rather moving and stammeringly poetic lyrics delivered in a chaotic manner.

Beefheart’s squawnking sax regularly joins in on the bedlam, some tracks even have a verse/chorus/verse and are always at least interesting. His bluesy scat and seemingly random lyrics over, um…unconventional drumming and wiry guitars, one could say the whole album is a sloppy cacophony, but on closer inspection it is powerful particularly something like Pachuco Cadavar which opens with: “A squid eating dough in a polyethylene bag / Is fast and bulbous, got me?” then tangled guitars grind away, frenzied yet strangely addictive.

The whole album sounds thrillingly wrong, like the rules have been turned on its head. I eventuality realise and accept the fact that Beefheart and his Magic Band are not even trying, but wilfully rejecting convention. Some tracks are impenetrable and not an easy listen on first or any subsequent listens, like ‘Old Fart at Play’ which is not so much a song rather an abstract spoken word rant. Others can bare repeated listens like opening track ‘Frownland’ or the scattershot cool of ‘Big Joan Sets Up’

Think Tom Waits without commercial responsibilities, some of the stuff here reminds me of some of his more eccentric moments on Frank’s Wild Years or The Black Rider, but proper songs do work their way into some of these Beefheart tracks. The crazed, swaying blues of ‘She’s Too Much for My Mirror’ is even catchy. Sometimes they’re crazy awesome guitar riffs (‘Veteran’s Day Poppy’), sometimes they seem deliberately unlistenable and perplexing mid-song skits (eg: ‘The Blimp’ or ‘Pena’), with mistakes and all, and Beefheart growling his oblique yet oddly poetic lyrics. I won’t lie, it’s an acquired taste, but I can see myself enduring it again.

All things considered Trout Mask Replica is overall an unholy racket, at times awful, sometimes incredible, and certainly a challenging listening experience but nowhere near as unpleasant as first expected. The general importance and reverence of this colossal artist, and the understandable impact of this ‘before it’s time’ landmark has had on punk, new wave, and post-rock, can no longer be ignored.  9/10

Posted in Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Never Heard It Before...Until Now! | 8 Comments

Nick Lowe – Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family

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A roundly enjoyable seasonal selection from Nick Lowe, Christmas-themed for your convenience, Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection For All The Family (2013) is a twinkling blend of forgotten gems, torch songs and three Lowe originals. From the opening rockabilly-charged Children Go Where I Send Thee and the comfy hush of Christmas Can’t Be Far Away, the collection is well suited for evenings snuggled up by the fireplace.

The record includes the Ron Sexsmith-penned Hooves on the Roof, Roger Miller’s wistful classic Old Toy Trains, a ska-flavoured take on I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day, a track co-written with Ry Cooder and even a few traditional Christmas-themed chestnuts, all performed in Nick’s singular style.

Nick LoweQuality Street: A Seasonal Selection for All the Family mp3

TRACKS

  1. Children Go Where I Send Thee
  2. Christmas Can’t Be Far Away
  3. Christmas at the Airport
  4. Old Toy Trains
  5. The North Pole Express
  6. Hooves on the Roof
  7. I Was Born in Bethlehem
  8. Just to Be with You (This Christmas)
  9. Rise Up Shepherd
  10. Silent Night
  11. A Dollar Short of Happy
  12. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day

Merry Christmas!

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Posted in Downloads, Nick Lowe, On This Day | 1 Comment

David Bowie – Hunky Dory

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David Bowie’s first ready-made classic finds the supreme shape-shifter eagerly anticipating the raunchy camp swagger of the impending Ziggy Stardust phenomenon. Released on this day in 1971, the transitional Hunky Dory was recorded at Soho’s Trident Studios in London with a newly assembled backing band consisting of Mick Ronson (guitar), Trevor Bolder (bass) and Mick Woodmansey (drums), as the yet unnamed Spiders From Mars, and embellished by future Yes keyboard wizard “Richard” Wakeman. To celebrate the occasion, The Press is ranking the songs from one of Bowie’s greatest and most enduring albums.

The grand concept of the orange-haired leper messiah who played guitar left-handed on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972), would be the logical follow-up to the grinding proto-metal melodrama of The Man Who Sold the World (1971), instead Bowie delivered the eclectic, piano-based balladry of this, his first album for RCA, and the first to attract significant critical plaudits; although it didn’t chart until September 1972 when re-released post-Ziggymania; all said and done it’s perhaps Bowie’s definitive album.

Written and rehearsed at Bowie’s Beckenham pad, the crumbling Victorian residence Haddon Hall, produced by Ken Scott (Ziggy, Aladdin, Pin Ups) and assisted by “the actor”, it’s here on this diverse collection where Bowie’s explosive charisma and lithe vocals unite, leaping wildly from songs for old friends, love, and a love of mysticism and rock ‘n roll: from convincing Nietzschean fixations, the chameleon pop anthem, doffing a bippity-boppity hat on an ode to the VU (White Light returned with thanks), name-checking his New York heroes Warhol and Dylan, a song for his newborn son Zowie based on Neil Young’s Till the Morning Comes, to the epic, if opaque, ghostly ballad The Bewley Brothers, a sumptuous masterpiece (inspired by Frankie) and five tracks adorned with Mick Ronson’s elegant string arrangements.

Wake up you sleepy head
Put on some clothes, shake up your bed
Put another log on the fire for me
I’ve made some breakfast and coffee
I look out my window what do I see
A crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me

Hunky Dory

11. Eight Line Poem

Resolving nicely from Oh! You Pretty Things, Bowie credits himself on “the less complicated piano parts (inability)” on this slight, impressionistic country-blues interlude featuring some tasteful guitar soloing from Mick Ronson. A beautiful live version appears on the Bowie at the Beeb four-LP collection released in 2006. Tactful cactus / By the window“.

10. Fill Your Heart

A jaunty Biff Rose cover not far removed from the original, featuring Rick Wakeman’s flighty and flippant piano prowess. Bowie tips his hat to the prolific American R&B session guitarist and arranger Art Wright on the rear album-sleeve notes, “Mick and I agree that the ‘Fill Your Heart’ arrangement owes one hell of a lot to Arthur G. Wright and his prototype“.

9. Kooks

Cheery music hall pastiche number written to herald the birth of his son Zowie (for small z), Kooks is a touching and at times amusing little song about parenthood, “Don’t pick fights with the bullies or the cads / ‘Cause I’m not much cop at punching other people’s dads.” Features a lovely Trevor Bolder trumpet cameo, and of course Wakeman’s piano.

8. Song For Bob Dylan

Now hear this Robert Zimmerman / I wrote a song for you / ‘Bout a strange young man called Dylan / With a voice like sand and glue“, directly referencing Dylan’s own ‘Song for Woody’ from his 1961 debut, “Hey, hey Woody Guthrie / I wrote you a song /
Bout a funny ol’ world that’s a-comin’ along“. One of the many cheeky tributes on the album, Ronson’s the star here and his perfect guitar tone.

7. Andy Warhol

An ironic tribute to New York’s finest artist when most of Britain had never heard of him, Bowie played it for Andy and unsurprisingly he wasn’t impressed, “He’ll think about paint, and he’ll think about glue / What a jolly boring thing to do.” This is a driving strum-along with David and Mick at their best on thunderous acoustics; it sits on side two, the ‘American tribute’ side of Hunky Dory

6. The Bewley Brothers

Bowie, aware insanity ran in his family, worried that he too was going mad. Have a look at Stardust – it’s not that bad, at least I enjoyed it. He revisits this theme raised on ‘All the Madmen’ from his previous album, and there is method to the quite literal madness in the scary-spikey imagery he’s throwing around on this powerful album closer.

5. Quicksand

I’m closer to the golden dawn / Immersed in Crowley’s uniform of imagery”. What an introduction to this open account of a man struggling to make sense of his own life and art, searching for a meaningful philosophy, adrift in the esoteric end of pop culture in 1971. “I’m sinking in the Quicksand of my thoughts / And I ain’t got the power anymore“. Whatever it’s about, it has an exquisite melody, and a stunning multi-tracked Ronson acoustic guitar.

4. Queenbitch

More than a Velvet Underground pastiche, it’s a great little rocker, unrepresentative of the album, but points the way ahead to the glam trailblazer Ziggy Stardust. The guitars are slashing like chainsaws over Lou Reed-inspired wordplay. The Spiders really rock and this track squawks like a bitch monkey bird. 

3. Oh! You Pretty Things

The magical glam stomp of Oh! You Pretty Things is a supremely self-confident lesson in songcraft and flamboyant arrangement, not to mention some of the cleanest singing and piano playing in Bowie’s career. Originally written, and a hit, for Peter Noone in July 1971 before it was re-recorded for Hunky Dory. Highlights include the Ziggy Stardust the Motion Picture medley with Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud and All the Young Dudes, and also Bowie at the piano on the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1972.

2. Changes

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes, track one, side one, is one of Bowie’s most enduring and signature tunes, and something of a macro-manifesto of his pending superstardom: “Look out you rock ‘n rollers“. Bowie kept one step in front of the competition at all times, and on Changes he is effortlessly displaying his ability as a master tunesmith and sophisticated arranger, streets ahead of his rivals. Recorded a mere six months after The Man Who Sold the Word wrapped, the track features some cool Bowie sax and piano, and one of the greatest, catchiest, double-tracked vocal choruses of all time. “Time may change me / But I can’t trace time.

1. Life On Mars?

Sitting among Bowie finest work, the story goes he wrote this out of revenge or frustration for being passed over for writing My Way, but it’s much better than My Way. A specific tale of a sensitive young, mousy, girl finding escape in the cinema, it was reportedly written on the steps of Free Festival bandstand in Beckenham. Eventually released as a single in June 1973 at the height of Ziggy-mania, it was accompanied by an eye-popping video, and reached number 3 in the UK. Bowie later performed this on the Carson Show in 1980, another breathtaking performance well worth watching. 

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Bowie’s “selfie” in 1971, obviously proud of his second ever hit.

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Jamming with Mick Ronson (on bass) and Mick Woodmansy.

Posted in Bob Dylan, David Bowie, European Rock Pilgrimage, Lou Reed, Mick Ronson, On This Day, Rank the Songs, Velvet Underground, The | 8 Comments

Pavement – Top 50 Songs

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Pavement first appeared on the music scene in 1989, formed in Stockton, California when founding members and school friends Stephen Malkmus (SM) and Scott Kannberg (Spiral Stairs) met and started creating primitive indie-rock. Their music stood out amid the angst-fuelled grunge of the day, borrowing from the classic rock of The Clean, and even more heavily (and their let-me-throw-some-shit-together album art) from The Fall, they were armed with a combination of cynicism and spirit that caught everyone by surprise in the early-90s and, in an age of cod-metal bands with big hair, Pavement gave smart-aleck ‘readers’ a new way of being cool. 

They formed Pavement with the decade-older, yet vital, Gary Young on drums and cultivated a mystique by releasing three brash singles that sounded like you were listening to the surface of the sun, before a debut ‘cassette’ called Slanted and Enchanted in 1992 caused a buzz it so deserved. The alt-rock press, and even the likes of Rolling Stone immediately took to the band, posting rave reviews, branding them “slacker rock”, however despite the lo-fi angular quality, Pavement’s music was always warm and sunny – West Coast style – and unabashedly tuneful and anthemic.

With the eventual addition of a bass player (Mark Ibold) and two drummers (Bob Nastanovich more a percussionist/backup singer/keyboardist and general good guy, and Steve West replacing Gary Young), this five-piece band’s material went from searing combustible energy, sudden shifts in tone and tempo, soaring solos, shrieking vocals and fuzzy meltdowns, to resplendent and strikingly accessible classic rock with intriguing country leanings and breathtaking melodies and loping rhythms – and at their best live on stage. Their music was consistently fresh-sounding, and Pavement’s sonic roughness has preserved it from time: production values are never going to date on records that have minimal production values in the first place.

This scrappy band of brothers seared through the cynical haze of the decade, their guitars climbing higher than their feedback and voices reaching way beyond their own irony. A certain tossed-off cool touched everything they did as they developed and evolved throughout the 90’s making a marvel of mistakes, first-takes, deliberate self-sabotage, and mastering a beautiful looseness that seemed part of their craft before imploding at Coachella in ’99. And then, of course, they triumphantly reunited in 2010 to play a number of sold out shows worldwide throughout the year. Their perfect discography had a rare and refreshing breadth of songcraft and depth of musicianship, and were all lopsided, languid, carefree, crooning beasts, but at the same time well-constructed, well-paced, with an increasing diversity, all subtly different from each other.

I’ll never forgive Pitchfork for omitting David Bowie’s “Heroes” from their Top 100 Albums of the 1970’s, but please go easy as I send advance apologies to live favourites such as Brinx Job and Best Friend’s Arm, the majority of Terror Twilight, Fillmore Jive, No Life Singed Her, Type Slowly, Grave Architecture, and unfortunately many many more.

Join us at The Press as we count down the Top 50 songs from one of the most original, sincere and distinctive American rock bands of the Slow Century.

50. Westie Can Drum

Fact: Some of Pavement’s best songs do not appear on their albums. This is one of them. The B-side to Brighten the Corners’ (1997) single Stereo, this chromatically awesome ‘joke-song’ describes their drummer Steve West: “Lincoln’s beard / Why’s he got a horses body?” before finishing with: “Westie he cannot drum.” They then proceed to go completely fucking mental at the outro – one of Pavement’s finest and most rocking-est moments caught on tape.

49. Black Out

An effortlessly tuneful number found early on the track list on triple-sided masterpiece Wowee Zowee (1995). Matador Records re-released this in 2006 as part of their expansive Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition, and a lovely little promo 7″ with fellow album track Extradition, were both previously unheard versions and both very top notch. It also included a poster based on a painting that artist Steve Keene originally designed for the album cover. “…like rattlesnakes walkin’.

48. We Are Underused

Something of a band singalong, or maybe a band theme song, its a very tongue in cheek and as weirdly ambiguous as the band’s principal songwriter Malkmus’ gets on this dinner-party-gone-wrong epic: “Let’s thank the host / You’ve been such a great host / The roast / Was just so perfectly prepared.” The loping interplay is signature Pavement on this Brighten the Corners standout.

47. Forklift

Malkmus rambles over a Spiral Stairs live favourite featuring fuzzy guitar (like a lot of their early material), an overdubbed electronic Kraftwerk-like sound with an infectious ba-ba-badada hook. Recorded essentially as a duo pre-Gary Young, pre-Slanted and Enchanted (features Jason Turner on drums), Forklift was a fine opener to their six-track Drag City 7″ single Demolition Plot J-7, released in 1990.  

46. Greenlander

It’s incredible a song such as this was relegated to B-side status (if that, I recall it was just a song from a magazine CD at one stage), considering the beautiful lilting tune and outstanding SM lyricism. Check the vivid imagery in these couplets, “On an icy island in north, in the woods beside the church / We can bury crimson lockets filled with dirt“, simply dazzling on this criminally little-known, bittersweet classic. 

45. Elevate Me Later

The first track here featured from the stunning Crooked Rain Crooked Rain (1994) breakthrough album and one of the greatest rock albums ever made. As great as their debut Slanted and Enchanted was, this album put Pavement on the map, and they started travelling in a different direction including clean production and, particularly on this track, insidiously catchy melodies.

44. Motion Suggests

The poignant and delicate Motion Suggests is one of the many golden moments on the 18-track, initially oblique Wowee Zowee, Pavement’s third album. Recorded in Memphis, its a less well-rounded album than its predecessors but ultimately more rewarding. 

43. False Skorpion

A case of a B-side not making the Malkmus-sequenced Wowee Zowee kitchen-sink track list. Pavement had struck upon a particularly rich vein of form and put nigh on everything they recorded on the album, but not this one. This experimental and “random” punky nugget is instead inserted into the Rattled By La Rush EP, and is loaded with attitude and squally aggression. Fucked-up faux-hardcore, it’s probably a first take. Best line: “Whenever you misdirect me mama / You’re misdirecting a person / You wouldn’t want to misdirect!” This EP also includes a fine song called Brink of the Clouds which can also be heard live in Australia in all it’s free-form, improv glory (Johnathon Peel!) with Candylad on the Wowee Zowee: Sordid Sentinels Edition. Well worth a listen, unlucky to miss the cut.

42. Unseen Power of the Pickett Fence

This Crooked Rain-era track was worked up in those sessions and included on No Alternative, a rock compilation album released in 1993 to benefit AIDS relief. The album featured original tracks and cover versions from bands who went on to define the alternative rock scene of the 1990s such as Matthew Sweet, The Breeders, the Beastie Boys, Smashing Pumpkins, and of course our heroes, Pavement. The song is about the band REM, their albums, band members, their impact on the rock scene of the 80’s, and songs: “Time After Time / Was my least favorite song!” Malkmus sums up this great band with the final line: “And we’re marching through Georgia! / And there stands R.E.M.”

41. Rattled by the Rush

“Caught my dad cryin’.” Something of a curve ball for listeners after Crooked Rain, this single off Wowee includes some whacked-out poetry: “Getting off on the candelabra / We call her Barbara / Breeding like larva / She rabble-rousing, dental surf combat / Get out those hardhats and sing us some scat“. It includes one of the best guitar solos of all time, and the tune will lurk around your head for days if not careful.

40. Maybe Maybe

This noisy oddball can be found on Pavement’s very first 7″ single Slay Tracks (1933-1969) recorded over a four hour session and released in 1989. An accomplished and confident, semi-atonal, punky lo-fi romp with some sloppy noisy guitar beauty underneath Malkmus screams and the repeated line “MaybeMaybeMaybeMaybeMaybe” while the percussion tries to keep up. Catchy as hell.  

39. Loretta’s Scars

How can I / How can I / How can I / Make my body shed for you?” Perfect Slanted and Enchanted (1992) album track and live staple with Malkmus’ speak-style melody and lyrics, somewhere between sardonic and oblique absurdisms, mixed deep over half-a-dozen buried guitar hooks: “From now on I can see the sun….

38. Old to Begin

One of Pavement’s finest and most cohesive moments on record. They were very comfortable as a band when they recorded Brighten the Corners, and as great they were when chaotic, there’s something magical about the gentle flow to this track and the sublime guitar interplay. This song was originally entitled Chevy and pops up on the Brighten the Corners: Nicene Creedence Edition (2008). Interestingly they kept the Malkmus screaming at the end of the original take.

37. Easily Fooled

The lines are blurry between Pavement’s EPs and singles, and this track appeared on the Rattled By La Rush EP and you can see why they called them slacker posterboys. This has Olympic-sized slackness values and is on the verge of toppling over at any given moment until it erupts into an extremely tuneful falsetto-soul chorus. 

36. Conduit for Sale!

The goofy charm of Slanted’s Conduit for Sale is the rock-out moment when a live Pavement would explode into a high-volume extravaganza, as Bob Nastonich takes the mic and screams: “I’m Tryin’ / I’m Tryin’ / I’m Tryin’ / I’m Tryin’ / I’m Tryin’ / I’m Try.” As simple and anthemic as that is, it still makes a good case for securing the most elaborate lyric on the album: “Imagine if you were Herr Barockter / Alias and nobleman / Son of son of sky, and of scion / Part of his rich inheritance parcelled and generous divorce, sentence forthwith being.” 

35. We Dance

Certainly a strange song to open an album with (Wowee Zowee), Malkmus sings in a faux-Brit accent a la Hunky Dory-era Bowie over lush acoustic guitars and running water. Even stranger are the lyrics: “There is no castration fear” and “Chim chim chim sing a song of praise“,  SM must have spent a lot of time listening to a particular John Coltrane record during the recording of Wowee Zowee, and for lyrical inspiration. 

34. Price Yeah!

Cryptic angst, non-existent production values, and verbal acrobatics abound on this feedback-splattered and infectious closer off Slay Tracks. Gary Young stars here with a driving beat.

33. Wanna Mess You Around

The noisy, one-and-a-half-minute punk libido of Wanna Mess You Around appeared on the five-track Shady Lane EP in 1997. The jet-fuelled riffing and light-hearted energy of this track is the only thing missing off Brighten the Corners.

32. Stereo

With its ruminations about the peculiar oration of Rush’s bassist/singer Geddy Lee, and referencing the Lone Ranger’s catchphrase “Hi Ho Silver Ride!“, Brighten’s opener is a knowing dig at their level of popularity at the time and full of sonic and lyrical detail that really cuts loose in the huge chorus. 

31. Zürich Is Stained

A first-take primitive recording with guitars that are barely in tune (actually they’re not in tune at all), but the exquisite country-vibe melody more than make up for it on this short-but-sweet ‘shrug’ of a classic from debut album Slanted and Enchanted

30. I Love Perth

A short song about Western Australia’s capital city, I Love Perth name checks Noise Addict, a decent little band from back in the day (Ben Lee was it?). This glorious song can be found on an EP called Pacific Trim (1996) featuring only Steve Malkmus and Steve West, making good use of studio time originally scheduled for a Silver Jews session, which the late great David Berman couldn’t make. The full band and extraordinary BBC in-studio version is seventy-one-seconds of pop perfection and must be heard to be believed. 

29. Newark Wilder

A different kind of song for Pavement at the time, this one is on Crooked Rain and the band would go on to explore these tuneful sounds, weird guitar tunings, and darker lyrical themes more thoroughly on their follow-up albums. Rarely played live, the stunning ‘lounge-jazz’ of Newark Wilder is an underrated treasure.

28. Carrot Rope

A happy pill of a tune and just a great pop song with just a hint of melancholy. The closing number on Terror Twilight, so essentially Pavement’s last ever song and what a  way to go out. Malkmus could write these in his sleep, and Pavement could effortlessly pull it off, he just chose not to very often. This has a terrific film clip of the boys fooling around in raincoats singing their three-part harmonies. Carrot Rope should’ve been a big hit. Written when on tour in Brisbane, Australia, reference to the cricket wicket keeper, as their hotel was on Vulture Street and they were listening to a lot of test match commentary at the time. Howzat?

27. No Tan Lines

Faux-bossa nova beat and bitchy lyrics, its the great Brighten the Corners non-album track. Infectious does not pay it the props it so deserves: “Princess with a cold killer instinct / Winked at me from across the ice rink / Leather uppers soft for the spins / But she gives it away without a rest.” It’s genius. A fruitful era, and you could make the argument that the leftovers compiled on the expanded edition are some of the band’s best ever material. 

26. Shady Lane

A top 40 hit in the UK, this Brighten the Corners track is wistful with a summer-y vibe, yet quite disarming in its beauty and jauntiness. A lovely video by Spike Jonez accompanied the track, featuring a headless Malk, and stands tall among the other clips the band made during its ten year career.   

25. Box Elder

This is the base of everything Pavement. Essentially the first thing SM and Spiral recorded with Gary Young, its off Slay Tracks. Soon after its release John Peel was playing it, and then was covered by the Wedding Present. People were excited about it. Fanzines were writing about them, and that’s how Box Elder broke Pavement. 

24. Texas Never Whispers

Opening track to the essential Watery, Domestic EP released in 1992 between Slanted and Crooked Rain. A transitional release moving towards a cleaner sound, although Gary Young was still on drums and the song opens with a huge blast of molten guitar distortion. While only containing four songs, Watery, Domestic is one of the best overall things Pavement ever recorded.

23. And Then

Rally around the parking lot.” Recorded during the Brighten the Corners sessions and ended up as The Hexx, another beast entirely, for their final album, the Nigel Godrich-produced Terror Twilight. This is a more immediate and careering performance. Wound up the B-side to the Carrot Rope 7″.  

22. Father to a Sister of Thought

Some wondrous pedal steel guitar from Wowee Zowee engineer Doug Easley (Cat Power, Jeff Buckley, Wilco) on this country-rock-thru-lo-fi leanings number. The majority of the album was recorded at his Easley Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, and just when you thought the song couldn’t get any better, a bluesy riff comes out of nowhere at the end. As for the video, its all check-shirts and cowboys-on-rollerblades.

21. Two States

The band’s indebtedness to The Fall was never more apparent than on guitarist Scott  Kannberg’s mesmerising Two States, a major highlight off Slanted and Enchanted and a strong contribution to the album. Despite the obvious debt to their heroes, it’s a lot of fun, and one the best shout-along songs in their catalogue: “40! Million! Daggers!“, includes a scything Malkmus guitar line.

20. Frontwards

“I am the only one searching for you / And if I get caught then the search is through.” The Watery, Domestic EP was Pavement’s last work featuring original drummer Gary Young and their first with bassist Mark Ibold and percussionist/keyboardist Bob Nastanovich. It finds Pavement focusing on songcraft over riffs, tunes over noise, and as displayed on the lumbering melody of this live staple, even in their transitional phase they were still untouchable. 

19. Spit on a Stranger

The finely-crafted opening track and lead single off the band’s final album Terror Twilight has a glassy-clean guitar pattern and some soaring Spiral Stairs lead guitar  floating below Malkmus’ melody, who’s voice still has the detached slacker quality, but this time there’s some vulnerability to it as he reaches up into his falsetto on each verse: “Whatever you feel / Whatever it takes.” 

18. Kennel District

Why didn’t I ask? / “Why didn’t I ask? / “Why didn’t I ask? / Why didn’t I?” This fuzzed-up anti-anthem is a mini-masterpiece and is one of two Spiral’s exemplary contributions to Wowee Zowee (the other being the underrated closer Western Homes). As catchy as anything the band recorded, it dissolves into a haze of distorted guitars. A clear highlight, and as good as anything Malkmus delivered on the brilliant sprawling album.

17. Harness Your Hopes 

This obscure and forgotten B-side, recorded during the sessions for 1997’s Brighten The Corners has become Pavement’s top song on Spotify. One of the best songs the band recorded, it  sounds “normal” or similar to other songs until you listen to the lyrics–which are some of SM’s best. The song has rocketed up the charts to become number one on Pavement’s Spotify page, ending up with over 30 million plays to date, seven million more than…….  

16. Cut Your Hair

……the enduring 90’s slacker anthem and Pavement’s best-selling single. As effortlessly cryptic as it is catchy, Cut Your Hair snidely attacks the importance of image in the music industry and had a tenuous dalliance with the mainstream in 1994. They knew that they could easily be the next big thing, but was it really what they wanted? With an atypical, unbalanced chord structure, playful thematic lyrics, and a who give a fuck video, it sums up the aesthetic of not just the band, but Gen X as a whole.

15. Range Life

This is the song where Malkmus languorously bitches on the Smashing Pumpkins and Stone Temple Pilots: “Out on tour the Smashing Pumpkins / Nature kids / I, they don’t have a function / I don’t understand what they mean / And I could really give a fuck / Stone Temple Pilots, they’re elegant bachelors / They’re foxy to me, are they foxy to you?
I will agree they deserve absolutely nothin’ / Nothin’ more than me.” It’s actually a beautifully emotional song with a plaintively aching melody and vocal, especially when Malkmus half-hums that final “Dreamin’ dream dream dream.” 

14. Half a Canyon

Can-esque Wowee standout where the band switches abruptly from a slow lurching jam to smeared warped electronics and into a demonic motorik freak-out halfway through. It’s all about the huge sparkling guitars, Malkmus never played better than he does here without soloing. 

13. Here

Malkmus ruminates on fame, “I was dressed for success / But success it never comes“, on this slow woozy ballad from Slanted which features SM and Spiral recording as a duo. The effectiveness of the track lies in the resigned guitar note picked throughout under a beautiful vocal melody and intricate lyrics. “And I’m the only one who laughs / At your jokes when they are so bad / And the jokes are always bad.”

12. Silence Kid

Classic rock opener off Crooked Rain ushering in a breathtaking leap forward, production-wise, from what came before. This set the scene for the band’s breakthrough, and after a false start the track settles into that buoyant and endlessly joyous riff (with cowbell!). If you listen carefully you can hear the lead vocal is double-tracked, and awesome bass from Ibold. As is their want, “Silence Kit” careens off track mid-song and slows down where you get Malkmus’ admission that he’s “screwing myself with my hand.”

11. Grounded 

He foaled a swollen daughter in the sauna / Playing contract bridge / They’re soaking up the fun or doing blotters / I don’t know which, which, which!” Regular live opener for the band, this sinister Wowee Zowee centrepiece revolves around a slow-moving three note de-tuned guitar figure, a loping beat, and Malkmus’ seemingly endless flair for catchy epigrams and wondrous capacity for tightly knotted wordsmithary. On the marvellous Slow Century DVD package, it includes a live performance from Manchester 1999 where guitar-God Malk plays the guitar Hendrix-style over his head

10. Gold Soundz 

Pavement followed up Watery, Domestic with Crooked Rain: their masterwork and the absolute zenith of ’90s American indie rock. A major highlight on the album being this shimmering pop single. The charming video features the band in Santa Claus suits pursuing a stuffed chicken of course, and it fittingly opens things on Quarantine the Past: The Best of Pavement (2010).

9. Summer Babe (Winter Version)

The bumpy dream-pop of Summer Babe is the definitive Pavement song. The last time I saw Malkmus and the Jicks perform, this was the one and only Pavement track they played, and when they unexpectedly rolled out Summer Babe as the encore, all hell broke loose. This instant classic has vivid lyrics and is appealing in its melodic simplicity. Also popped up as a ‘single mix’ on Westing (By Musket and Sextant) which compiles all tracks on their first three singles.

8. Fight This Generation

The scattered Wowee Zowee found Pavement at their loosest, funniest and most willing to do whatever pops into their heads – unfocused but filled with mystery. None more so than on this meandering late-album cut that has an almighty genre-defying changeup mid-song, the band not bothering with such troupes as a chorus, bridge, or meaning. 

7. Stop Breathin’

The glacial track (perhaps) aligns tennis as a metaphor for a terrible breakup, and deliberate double-entendres abound: “Got struck by the first volley / Of the war in the courts / Never held my serve.” Pavement’s signature guitar tunings sounding off-kilter but still uniquely melodic. The slowly intensifying mid-song jam on this track is perhaps Pavement’s finest moment on record. 

6. Shoot the Singer (1 Sick Verse)

Opening with the abstract line: “Someone took in these pants“, this Watery, Domestic closer is full of raw energy and texture and has a subtle Velvet’s feel, finishing with a loping, jangly electric guitar riff and infectious ba ba bada ba-ba-ba hook. I remember hearing this live in Sydney in 1994 and making it my life’s mission to hunt it down. Malkmus sings the final lyric over and over: “Don’t expect” like a mantra.

5. AT&T 

On Pavement’s White Album (the erratic masterpiece Wowee Zowee), they turned their back on potential pop stardom, exemplified on the scattershot AT&T. It is Pavo at their most peculiarly poppy, idiosyncratic and sublime. It starts relatively sensibly with the strumming, “Maybe someone’s going to save me / My heart is made of gravy / And the laps I swim from lunatics don’t count“, but goes off the rails very quickly at the chorus, “Whenever, whenever, whenever, whenever, whenever / Whenever I feel fine“, where SM doesn’t even bother singing properly, the song slows down, speeds up; its all over the map, finally finishes up by collapsing in on itself, a seething mess, as Malkmus screams maniacally. A wild glorious ride.

4. Transport is Arranged

Pavement made a quasi-straightforward, potentially marketable follow-up to Wowee Zowee in Brighten the Corners, and this mid-tempo track with its sausage-link-strings of non-sequiturs is that remarkable album’s toppermost pinnacle. Structurally exquisite, the mood of the track is mellow and conventional, seemingly addressing the dynamic between relationships and life on the road, “A voice coach taught me to sing / He couldn’t teach me to love“, until two minutes in, the system breaks down entirely as destabilised rock yields to blistering magisterial prog riffage. 

3. Give it a Day

A casual yet killer pop song written and recorded at short notice in a day while making good use of scheduled Silver Jews studio time, it shows up on the essential Pacific Trim EP. Preceded by two years of touring around the globe, this recording only consists of Malkmus and Steve West and marks the end of their irreverent stage as they would go on to record the measured Brighten the Corners the following year, but the enjoyable and winding Give it a Day remains one of Malkmus’ best tunes.

2. Trigger Cut / Wounded Kite at :17

Lies and betrayals / Fruit-covered nails / Electricity and lust“, it was the first Pavement song I ever heard, that’s probably why it is so elevated on this list, but it shone like a glistening beacon out of the indie underground at the time. The standout track on Slanted and Enchanted possesses everything that’s good about Pavement: distinct delivery, undeniably wonderful songwriting, bizarre lyrics, stripped-back production and an irrepressibly catchy hook. I saw them, front and centre, at the ANU refectory in 1992 with about twelve other people, my mate picking them up from Canberra airport. It was great to chat to Mark and Gary post-gig but I still don’t know what chord shapes SM was playing on this track.

1. Debris Slide

The only track to appear here from their 10″ EP Perfect Sound Forever (1991) is number one on our Top 50 Pavement songs: the seething, primitive beast that is Debris Slide. It may be obscure, it may pay a debt to the great Mark E Smith, but Pavement fans would be more than familiar with this live favourite’s rapid fire drumming, the “ba ba ba da da Debris Slide!” chorus, the spiky ramshackle chaos, and sludge-wrapped one-minute-and-fifty-six-seconds of rocking perfection: “Eyes in the socket / Eyes are in the socket / So I’m gonna sock it.

Posted in Pavement, Stephen Malkmus, Top 50 Songs | 8 Comments

John Lennon 1980

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Posted in Images, John Lennon, On This Day | Leave a comment

#13: The Clash – Sandinista! (1980)

Here at The Press we take a look at expansive double albums (in this case triple) and trim it back to a single, filler-free listening experience, negating the need to reach for the skip button or needle repositioning. In some cases these albums can potentially benefit from a little tightening up. It is certainly the case for UnDoubled #13: The Clash’s rasta-punk Triple LP, rule book ripper, Sandinista! from 1980, the next album in our Double Albums: UnDoubled series.

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The Clash – Sandinista! UnTripled mp3

With each album over their short-lived career The Clash expanded their horizons and developed musically and lyrically, however the four-piece pulled off something exceptional in 1979 with an extraordinary career-best double album landmark that broke their punk shackles: London Calling. A certified masterpiece, it proved to be a difficult album to follow. Critics and fans adore it to this day, and for good reason, and it was on this album where the band’s love of reggae, ska and R&B showed through. Chart success accompanied the album on both sides of the Atlantic, and on 12 December 1980 they issued the ‘anything goes’ follow-up, Sandinista!, once again striving to expand their repertoire. The 36-track triple album certainly did that – and then some. Was it arrogance? Was it an over-abundance of creativity? Was it a misunderstanding of their record contract? Famously, it sold for not much more than a single disc, and in the end unfortunately did not reduce their obligations to Columbia by three albums.

The sheer volume and variety of styles spread across this daring and sprawling, genre-defying, patience-testing mess of an album is mind-boggling, and in retrospect, thoroughly confusing. From children’s choirs, straight ahead rock, reggae, dub reggae, world music, jazz, dance beats, gospel, rockabilly rave-ups, calypso, rap, hip-hop, it even touches on some ill-advised country & western elements – in a word: exhausting.

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Case in point: Side five includes a sound collage played backwards and dubbed, and side six is where it really goes off the rails. It includes five dub versions of songs we’ve already sat through, and another, a reworked track from their debut LP (kids singing Career Opportunities). Unsurprisingly a real producer was not present on the sessions (Sandinista! is produced by The Clash), and the album was received with mixed reviews upon release.

Standard Line: There is a good single-album length LP lurking in the murk and indulgence of Sandinista! A cliché, sure, but in this case, a truism – it may also be edited down to an awful double album. Seriously though, the album, nevertheless, does contain classic gems and some very interesting material.

Keepers include the funky opener (The Magnificent Seven), and its ultra-funky doppelganger Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice), the blistering Eddy Grant (via The Equals) cover Police on My Back, a couple of traditional Clash songs penned by secret-weapon Mick Jones (Somebody Got Murdered, Up in Heaven) proving the band still had one foot in its punk roots. There’s also some all time great moments on a more politically oriented Side Two from the super catchy Charlie Don’t Surf to show-stopper Something About England, notably several stoney Joe Strummer grooves such as The Equaliser, The Leader, Broadway and the jubilant politically charged anthem Washington Bullets.

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Significant omissions include the uninspired non-hit lead single The Call Up, the dreary Motown-inspired pop singalong with Jones’ missus Ellen Foley, Hitsville UK, and unsurprisingly the bizarre Topper Headon-sung Ivan Meets GI Joe. Gone too are multiple heavy dub, echoey, Jamaican-style remixes of songs found elsewhere on the album (eg: Version Pardner and Shepherd’s Delight, a lulling, slowed-down take on Police & Thieves) that are not up to scratch.

With the greatest respect of what this all-time great band was trying to do, there are too many poorly engineered and produced songs where the effects do not resonate. Nobody seemed to care if the overdubs made sense, or if the mixes were coherent; and it certainly sounds like no one was insisting that a song be fully completed even before the tape was rolling. The band wanted to do it all, and damn it if they didn’t try, but Sandinista! is not one of those albums where it is glorious in part because it’s a sprawling mess, warts and all.

Sandinista! UnTripled compiles two sides of six tracks each (the original album has six songs on each side), the extravaganza now makes sense, and importantly, is a little more digestible. Try it, take it in the spirit of the UnDoubled series. Sandinista! has now reduced it to a tight, thematically cohesive 49-minute LP. Who knows, it may have even been their second-best album.

Side One:

  1. The Magnificent Seven
  2. Police On My Back
  3. Somebody Got Murdered
  4. Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)
  5. Junco Partner
  6. Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)

Side Two:

  1. The Leader
  2. Broadway
  3. Washington Bullets
  4. Something About England
  5. Charlie Don’t Surf
  6. The Equaliser

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Further Reading:

SANDANISTA! – THE CLASH (1980) – Pop Spots: ALBUM COVER LOCATION – Camley Street (under the railroad tracks from St. Pancras Station), London. Photo by Pennie Smith.

Posted in Clash, The, Double Albums: Un-Doubled, Downloads, European Rock Pilgrimage, On This Day | Tagged | 18 Comments

The Beatles – The Final Images

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This is the last ever photo of The Beatles. The Beatles broke up 50 years ago, and their music remains embedded in the fabric of pop culture. By the time Paul McCartney sued his fellow Beatles, and their parent company Apple Corps, in London’s High Court of Justice in December 1970 to dissolve the band, their relationship had taken on the emotional pallor of a family bond that had gone very south.

Enjoy these images of The Beatles from their last photo shoot which took place on Friday, August 22, 1969 at John and Yoko’s home in Tittenhurst Park two days after their last recording session together. The photographers were Ethan Russell and Monte Fresco, with additional pictures taken by The Beatles’ assistant Mal Evans.

Paul McCartney’s wife Linda was also there, also taking footage on Paul’s 16mm camera, as well as Yoko. The final photos consisted of various images of the band in different places in and around the property, with Linda and Yoko also appearing in some of the behind-the-scenes shots (and Paul’s dog Martha, and a couple of donkeys). Also one of these shot was taken for the album cover of the good little compilation Hey Jude released in February 1970.

George doesn’t look too happy on the day. There’s also a good one taken by Linda of John and Paul at the mic recording Abbey Road.

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Posted in Album Covers, Beatles, The, George Harrison, Images, John Lennon, On This Day, Paul McCartney | 2 Comments

Bob Dylan and The Band – The Best of the Basement Tapes

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Haven’t trawled through the entire Bootleg Series Volume 11, six CD box set of Bob Dylan and The Band Complete Basement Tapes as yet? Here at The Press we’ve done the hard yards for you and compiled the best 17 tracks.

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It was the birth of lo-fi. Dylan and the Band holed up in Big Pink, West Saugerties, New York from June to October 1967 to record a number of original songs, traditional numbers, and covers. The results were rough. Over time, the murk created its own mystique. The results were ready, and most importantly the results were brilliant.

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After floating around in bootleg form for years, a selection of those recordings were eventually released by The Band (and Dylan) in 1975 as The Basement Tapes which inexplicably included some new (very good) tracks recorded by The Band, but nothing to do with these sessions. Then in 2014 the official Bootleg Series Vol. 11: The Basement Tapes Complete collection was released, containing over 100 songs and alternate takes, snippets, goofs, and simply majestic moments from these famous home recording sessions.

Here is an alternative take on The Basement Tapes – a carefully selected and sequenced 17 track “Best Of”, containing the creme of the crop – the brilliant music these guys created, which has only recently seen the light of day in officially released format. Get Your Rocks Off to this.

  1. She’s On My Mind Again
  2. I’m Your Teenage Prayer
  3. The Auld Triangle
  4. Young But Daily Growing
  5. Tupelo
  6. Still in Town
  7. Big River (Take 2)
  8. Goin’ Down the Road Feeling Bad
  9. 900 Miles From My Home
  10. King of France
  11. My Woman She’s A-Leavin’
  12. Get Your Rocks Off
  13. All American Boy
  14. One Man’s Loss
  15. Dress it Up, Better Have it All
  16. Mary Lou, I Love You Too
  17. Silent Weekend

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Recorded in The Band’s shared house back in the late-60s, the famed Big Pink. The basement was accessible by way of a garage door out the front. On one of the reel-to-reel tapes keyboardist Garth Hudson wrote “Bob Cellar.” But “The Cellar Tapes” doesn’t sound as good, does it?

Posted in Albums That Never Were, Band, The, Bob Dylan, Downloads, Mixtapes | 11 Comments

Rediscover Live Music: Top 20 Live Albums

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Live music has been in short supply, so now is a good time to take a double-gatefold look at 20 of the greatest live LP’s of yesteryear to atone for all the cancelled gigs we were supposed to see in 2020. 

What once was a pleasurable and common occurrence, now seems like a distant memory.  This might be a minor inconvenience in the big scheme of things, but these hard times have shut off an essential part of our real lives. So forget the shaky footage recorded on your iPhone, immerse yourself in these 20 classic live albums.

20. The Birthday Party – It’s Still Living (1985)

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Recorded in 1982 at the Astor Theatre in Melbourne, The Birthday Party’s ferocious It’s Still Living encapsulates everything this frightening band was about: on-stage violence, shock, volume and wild rock and roll. The Birthday Party wrestle with continual technical difficulties, disfiguring the performance suitably; but they were never about perfection and polish. Nick Cave sounds unquestionably demented, as do the whole band, incorporating moments of dark humour between tracks: when introducing ‘Release the Bats’, Cave says “This is the song you love the most, and we hate the most”. The band, including guitarists Mick Harvey and Rowland Howard, provide a blistering sonic assault throughout this fitting live document of one of the most challenging and important post-punk bands of the early 1980s.

19. Miles Davis – Live Evil (1971)

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Released after Miles’ exciting and forward thinking seminal masterpiece Bitches Brew (1969), Live-Evil (Live spelt backwards) is an accessible and important part of his groundbreaking electric period (1968-1975). On this (mostly) live outing, Miles has gone full-on funky with a vengeance. Both unsettling and steamy, Live-Evil delivers two hours of pounding bass, spastic grooves and charged voodoo-funk; also notable for being the first album where Miles played his trumpet through a wah pedal – an obvious Hendrix influence. Monstrous opener ‘Sivad’ (Davis spelt backwards), the rhythmic freak-out of ‘Funky Tonk’, and the chic ‘Selim’ (Miles spelt backwards), are enough to make this album essential listening for anyone mildly interested in blistering jazz/rock fusion of the early 1970’s.

18. Jane’s Addiction – Jane’s Addiction (1987)

A sensation on the mid-80s LA club scene, Jane’s Addiction’s live debut album was this self-titled affair (a rare thing in the history of rock, a live debut) and recorded over a single night at the Roxy; punk’s original headquarters in LA, for virtually nothing. Several of the tracks appearing here (the rollicking ‘Pigs in Zen’ and their masterpiece ‘Jane Says’) would end up on their first studio album Nothing’s Shocking (1988). Elsewhere live materiel includes scorching Velvet’s (‘Rock and Roll’) and Stones (‘Sympathy for the Devil’) covers. It’s hard to believe this album came out in 1987, and love them or hate them, Jane’s Addiction offered an important contribution to ’90s alternative rock scene after the mostly hideous pomp and gaudiness of hair metal in 1980’s.

17. Talking Heads – The Name of This Band is Talking Heads (1982)

Talking Heads first live album, The Name of This Band is Talking Heads features materiel collated from their four excellent studio albums thus far, beginning with their debut ‘77, capturing the band when they were still something of an underground attraction. Heavy on the Afro-meets-electronica rhythms of the Eno-produced career-high masterpiece Remain in Light (1980), their show included a large ensemble: percussionists, backup singers and a scintillating Adrian Belew on guitar. This double album displays the band’s musical and creative growth more so than the much-heralded Stop Making Sense (1984) outing which is missing the scope and variety found here.

16. Thin Lizzy – Live and Dangerous (1978)

Bursting at the seams with raw energy and power, Thin Lizzy’s commanding live album was released in the mix of their hot streak of mid-70s albums (Fighting, Jailbreak and Bad Reputation spring to mind) and recorded over a number of dates between 1976 and 1977 on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite producer Tony Visconti’s ‘post-production’ studio fine-tuning, Live and Dangerous resembles a monstrous live classic in every sense of the word, and is the essential document from these under-appreciated Irish hard rock legends.

15. The Band – Rock of Ages (1972)

Rock of Ages was originally a 2-LP set compiled from recordings made during The Band’s series of shows in late 1971 at the Academy of Music in New York City where they were augmented by a five-man horn section, with arrangements by New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint and engineer Phil Ramone. The material consists of tracks lifted from their previous four albums, and sounds like a lovely, warm-hearted party, closing the chapter on the first half of their dazzling career.

14. Wilco – Kicking Television (2005)

This album contains material taken from four Wilco shows at Chicago’s Vic Theatre in 2005 and captures a stellar band in full flight, summarising their decade-long career as well as showcasing their latest album (2004’s tremendous A Ghost is Born). Featuring their strongest ever line-up (including new avant guitar-wiz Nels Cline), Kicking Television parades Wilco’s live strengths by delivering some of their best tracks via legitimate noise experiments (‘Spiders Kidsmoke’), and gorgeously well-written ballads (‘Jesus, etc.’). A uniformly strong testament from one of rock’s most engaging live acts.

13. Bill Evans – Sunday at the Village Vanguard (1961)

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Simply one of the best piano-bass-drums jazz recordings of all time, and a companion piece to the masterful Waltz for Debbie (also 1961), the hushed dynamics of Sunday at the Village Vanguard was recorded over five sessions and was to be the final recording featuring his trio, sadly bass player Scott LaFaro was tragically killed in a car accident shortly after the album’s release. Pure and thoughtful musicality permeates this quietly brilliant recording from one of the great jazz pianists.

12. David Bowie – Stage (1978)

David Bowie’s groundbreaking Low and “Heroes” world tour with arguably his greatest ever ensemble is captured over several dates in the US on this live outing: Stage. His long time rhythm section ‘Raw Moon’ (Carlos Alomar, Dennis Davis, George Murray) and guitarist Adrian Belew among others, join Bowie as he immerses himself in Euro-expressionist, synth-based music. Originally released with the songs in chronological order, since reissued with correct order in tact from the concert-opening majesty of the six-minute instrumental Warszawa, to the surprising electronic reworking’s of a handful of Ziggy classics, Stage finds Bowie at his bravest, artistically. He was in career-best form as a vocalist too.

11. Mott the Hoople – Live (1974)

Released at the peak of the band’s popularity, Mott’s Live was the only official live document of the band, a world-class live act, although the 30th Anniversary reissue has rectified many of the original issues that marred this collection such as song selection (mostly B-sides and album filler), and limited materiel (eight tracks and one lengthy medley) from two classic shows: New York City (Gershwin Theatre) and London (Hammersmith Odeon supported by Queen). Despite these shortfalls, the album captures one the great British 70s rock and roll bands ever to don thigh-high yellow plastic boots, H-shaped guitars, and permanent shades.

10. Lou Reed – Take No Prisoners (1978)

Lou Reed’s contribution to the double live album extravaganza of the 70s was this controversial Bottom Line club date, touring his masterpiece Street Hassle (1978) and there’s not an overdub in sight.  Take No Prisoners is a crisp sounding comedy/spoken-word affair (Lenny Bruce an obvious influence), capturing for better or for worse Lou at his chattiest, wittiest, and ass-holiest, delivering 15-minute monologues over some of his best known materiel, accompanied by his white-hot big ensemble of the day. 

9. The Doors – Alive She Cried (1983)

Released during the bands renaissance period of hyper-popularity in the 1980s, Alive She Cried consists of materiel recorded between 1968 and 1970. It includes two tremendous covers (an R rated version of Them’s ‘Gloria’, and a loose rendition of Willie Dixon’s ‘Little Red Rooster’) and five originals, including a colossal 10-minute version of Light My Fire, a rollicking You Make Me Real, and the blues-experiment The Wasp from their final album LA Woman, spanning their all-too-brief career. The album is succinct and brief and like 1968’s Absolutely Live, now utterly redundant due to many reissues and re-released live packages throughout the decades.

8. The Velvet Underground – 1969: Live (1974)

Among all of their live releases (and there are so many), this album represents the finest live recording from the late-60s era Velvet Underground lineup: Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, Moe Tucker and Doug Yule. Essentially recorded by a fan and released long after the band had dissolved, 1969: Live shows the band still had plenty of vivacity, sounding tight and alive on every track (Reed’s funk-vamp guitar playing was never better). This amateur yet definitive recorded document captures this highly influential band at arguably their live peak.

7. Kiss – Alive! (1975)

Kiss relied on their loud bombastic live show to win over the record buying public and in 1975 with the release of this impeccable double live set win them over they did. Alive! launched the band from cult support-band attraction to global superstars, and remains their most essential album in any format. The material consists of well-selected tracks lifted from their three muddy, low-budget, low-selling early albums of 1974/5 (Kiss, Hotter Than Hell, Dressed to Kill), but there’s not a dud track over the 2-LPs, and even the Peter Criss drum solo has its charms. The subsequent mega-publicity and constant touring saw Kiss headlining sold out arenas around the States within a year.

6. The Who – Live at Leeds (1970)

Coming hot on the heels of the band’s success at Woodstock and rock opera Tommy (1969), Live at Leeds’ distinctive brown cover, designed to look like a bootleg, is a tour-de-force of dexterity and power from one of the greatest live bands of all time. The album (originally a six track LP) manages to harness The Who’s kinetic energy and volcanic on-stage performance, capturing the band at a pivotal moment in their history, and delivering in spades

5. Iggy & the Stooges – Metallic KO (1976)

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Something of a semi-official bootleg for years, the definitive 12-track version of Iggy and the Stooges’ Metallic KO is the only rock album where you can actually hear beer bottles smashing against guitars as the audience-baiting Iggy Pop (“you can suck my ass you biker faggot sissies”) delivers the band’s final performance to a hostile Michigan Palace audience in Detroit. At the time Lester Bangs called it “a documentation of the Iggy holocaust at its most nihilistically out of control” and he wasn’t far off. It’s an awesome horror movie of a rock show, and as good as live rock and roll gets.

4. Led Zeppelin – How the West Was Won (2003)

Recorded from a couple of 1972 Californian shows, these tapes circulated for years as bootlegs before being compiled by Jimmy Page and receiving official release in 2003. Far superior to Zep’s official live document The Song Remains the Same (1976), How the West Was Won perfectly captures the ferocity, grace and improvisation of their live shows to tape. It has everything a live Led Zeppelin album should contain: massive guitars, gigantic drums and an ethereal energy glazing timeless classics.

3. The Allman Brothers – Live at the Fillmore East (1971)

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Recorded over three nights at the Fillmore East in New York City in early 1971, this live double LP with its seven lengthy songs spread over four vinyl sides epitomises the Allmans extended Southern rock jams at their most elastic (‘Whipping Post’), bluesy (‘Statesboro Blues’) and jazzy (‘In Memory of Elizabeth Reed’), and remains one of the best live albums in rock history.

2. The Rolling Stones – Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! (1970)

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Mostly put together from two Madison Square Garden concerts in late 1969, this outstanding live document is nothing short of the definitive Stones live recording. Their first tour with new guitarist Mick Taylor, and the first album where he appeared fully and prominently, the band at the time had pretty much everything to prove, and deliver they do. The nine-minute blues-grind workout of Midnight Rambler being worth the price of admission alone. The album title was taken from the Blind Boy Fuller song, and the cover design inspired by Dylan’s song Visions of Johanna.

1. Bob Dylan – The Bootleg Series, Vol 6: Live 1964 (2004)

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Officially released in 2004 as part of the ever expanding Bootleg Series, but available as a bootleg for decades, this performance at the Philharmonic Hall in New York City touring his Another Side.. album is quite simply Dylan’s greatest ever recorded acoustic performance. Introducing for the first time remarkable tracks from the forthcoming album Bringing it All Back Home (Mr Tambourine Man, Gates of Eden and It’s Alright Ma), this recording captures a young Dylan at arguably his artistic pinnacle, masterfully performing folk, blues and rock with the effortless confidence, gravity and humour of a seasoned performer.

Posted in Allman Brothers, The, Band, The, Bill Evans, Birthday Party, The, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Doors, The, Gigs, Ian Hunter, Iggy Pop, Jane's Addiction, Kiss, Led Zeppelin, Lou Reed, Miles Davis, Neil Young, Rolling Stones, The, Stooges, The, Talking Heads, Thin Lizzy, Top 20 Live Albums, Velvet Underground, The, Who, The, Wilco | 5 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

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Andy Warhol’s diary entry for Tuesday, April 12, 1977. “Mick wants me to do the cover on his next album. I’m trying to think of ideas, how to do “Rolling Stones.” The original Warhol design was without words, Andy believed that Jagger’s image alone would be enough for it to be recognised as a Rolling Stones album. It didn’t turn out that way.

The Rolling Stones’ Love You Love double album is perhaps remembered more for the cover art created by Andy Warhol than for any of the songs it includes, and the story about the title is not how it came to be so much as how it came to be written on the cover.

The Stones have a long history of album covers that leave the band’s name and album title off the cover, from their first two albums (1964 and 1965), Hot Rocks (1971), It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (1974), and A Bigger Bang (2005) to name a handful. Love You Live was to have done the same thing in 1977.

The double live album was recorded in Los Angeles, London, Paris and Toronto during the tour for 1976’s Black and Blue album, and in retrospect it’s an album that captures the transition of the Stones from a lean rock band to accomplished showmen. Showmen may not be as compelling as rockers, but they do know their art as Jagger and Warhol had collaborated previously on one of the most iconic album artworks of rock music history: Sticky Fingers (1971).

For the photo session Jagger rented a house in the East Hamptons of New York State during the summer of 1977 and Warhol took some of the polaroids of the Stones there and some at the Factory address at 860 Broadway in New York. Mick’s daughter Jade was there, as it is her hand Mick is “biting” on the cover.

A contact sheet of 11 photographs includes some but not all of the photographs used for the album and two made it on to the album cover: Jagger biting Jade’s hand and the Stones biting each other.

Warhol then highlighted features of Jagger’s face and Jade’s hand by outlining them a black felt tip pen. The hand-drawn thick block letter titles across the front in a script-like font were added by Mick Jagger, to Warhol’s dismay and anger:

I told Jerry [Hall] I thought Mick had ruined the Love You Live cover I did for them by writing all over it – it’s his handwriting and he wrote so big. The Kids who buy the album would have a good piece of art if he hadn’t spoiled it.”

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It did not prevent Warhol from attending the release party thrown by the band at the New York club Trax on September 27, 1977.

A hand-painted billboard of the original cover design, sans Jagger’s lettering, as Warhol preferred, was installed on Sunset Blvd along with the inner gatefold collage.

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Posted in Album Covers, Images, Rolling Stones, The | 11 Comments

MainMan Podcast

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MainMan are compiling a fascinating series exploring the history of the record label, which was a rights management organisation formed by entrepreneur and impresario Tony Defries that helped to develop the careers of many artistes including Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Mick Ronson, Mott the Hoople, Ian Hunter and David Bowie.

With behind the scenes stories from those who lived and breathed the heady excesses of the period the podcast delves in to the MainMan archive to present an evocative walk on the wild side.

Half a century ago an incredible journey began when Tony Defries met David Robert Jones aka Bowie. David was at a very low point in his career and was seeking a saviour to help him escape the theatrical mime, vaudeville niche he was trapped in and achieve the rock superstardom he craved. Together they ‘sophisticated the Barnum and Bailey routines by adding the gloss of intellectual pretence and the modish exaggeration of theatre’. Melody Maker 1974

Catch up on the episodes or visit the excellent MainMan website.

Episode Twenty One

Michael Oberman recalls David Bowie’s first visit to America in 1971.

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Episode Twenty

In this episode Dana Gillespie continues reading excerpts from her memoirs Weren’t Born a Man that recalls her MainMan years, tracing Bowie’s career up through Diamond Dogs, The Thin White Duke and his Berlin years.

Episode Nineteen

Dana Gillespie continues reading from her memoirs. These have actually been some of the best episodes in the MainMan series thus far. I like her style, recounting moments such as her single Andy Warhol, polaroids, that night at the Café Royale in Regent Street, and of course Bowie, all in good humour and her self-deprecating style.

Episode Eighteen

Dana Gillespie reads from her memoirs Weren’t Born a Man and recalls her MainMan years, when she wrote and recorded with Bowie, and had a damn fine time!

Episode Seventeen

In this episode Tony Defries continues to tell the story behind the release of Bowie’s third album The Man Who Sold the World, which was released in America 50 years ago in November 1970 on Mercury Records.

Episode Sixteen

The Man Who Sold The World – 50th Anniversary. Recently reissued as Metrobolist, the originally-intended title with an extraordinary new mix. Strongly recommend given it a good listen. It’s a new album!

The original running order that Bowie submitted to Mercury USA. This didn’t please him of course and David was very upset that the gothic nursery rhyme ‘After All’ hadn’t been maintained as the last song on the album. New cover, new mix…why not go with his original running order? I still like the mighty ‘Width of a Circle’ as the album opener.

Side One

The Supermen
Saviour Machine
Running Gun Blues
She Shook Me Cold
The Man Who Sold the World

Side Two

Black Country Rock
Width of a Circle
All the Madmen
After All

Episode Fifteen

Mime legend Lindsay Kemp recalls his work with David Bowie, including the famous gig at the Rainbow Theatre in August 1972.

Episode Fourteen

More Bowie, Bolan, Iggy and the birth of Glam.

Episode Thirteen

Bowie, Bolan and the birth of Glam.

Episode Twelve

Photographer Mick Rock talks about collaborating with David Bowie and taking that now infamous photo of Bowie and Ronno at the Oxford Town Hall in 1972.

Episode Eleven

Tony Visconti and Angie Bowie recall the early days of The Hype and the groundbreaking gig at Chalk Farm’s The Roundhouse.

Episode Ten

Some of the early visitors to Haddon Hall in South London’s Beckenham, recall their artistic adventures.

Episode Nine

Defries explains the influences for David’s early songs.

Episode Eight

Ronno: Defries explains Mick Ronson’s enormous impact on Bowie’s music, not to mention his ability to improvise, also displayed on his work with Dylan on stage during the Rolling Thunder Revue.

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Episode Seven

Defries leads an escape strategy to freedom, fame and fortune.

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Episode Six

Defries explains how Ziggy became a star…..

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Episode Five

Tony Defries explains how he deconstructed David, giving him the freedom to become ‘Bowie’.

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Episode Four

Dana Gillespie describes her adventures when the MainMan team moved to New York City.

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Episode Three

Dana Gillespie explains how she met and then collaborated with David Bowie.

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Episode Two

Tony Zanetta ‘Z’ tells how he introduced David Bowie to Andy Warhol in New York in September 1971.

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Episode One

Tony Zanetta ‘Z’ tells how he first met David Bowie.

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Posted in David Bowie, Downloads, European Rock Pilgrimage, Ian Hunter, Iggy Pop, Images, Lou Reed, Mainman, Mick Ronson, Podcasts | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Bowie’s Pin Ups

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Two Hours Of ‘Original’ Songs David Bowie Covered In His Early Career.

In this very special episode of Beat Orgy, RRR’s Steve Cross takes us through the original versions of the songs that David Bowie covered through his golden period from early ’70s and early ’80s. He also played the entirety of the 1973 covers album Pin Ups as the original songs, along with plenty of other material Bowie later covered.

You can listen to the entire show: simply click here on RRR’s website.

TRACKS

Amsterdam

The Belgian artist Jacques Brel recorded this dramatic live version at the L’Olympia,  Paris in 1964. This song appears on Scott Walker’s first solo album Scott (1967) and is possibly where Bowie heard it and recorded it for the BBC in February 1970 hosted by John Peel. Also the B-side to 1973’s single Sorrow.

Almost Grown

The B-side to Chuck Berry’s Little Queenie single from 1959, Bowie recorded it at a BBC Peel session in 1971.

Fill Your Heart

Obscure singer-songwriter and comedy sketch writer Biff Rose released this single in 1968. Bowie’s version is faithful to the original, covering it on the Hunky Dory (1971) album. More listenable than Tiny Tim’s version, the B-side to his Tiptoe Through the Tulips.

It Ain’t Easy

Bowie may or may not have covered the Ron Davies 1970 original on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972), as it had also been covered by Three Dog Night who had a hit with it in 1970, but more likely Long John Baldry’s 1971 version from his album of the same name.

I’m Waiting for My Man

Bowie recorded this 1967 Velvet’s classic at the BBC in January 1972 and played it regularly during the Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane period. He even recorded it in 1967 as part of the Riot Squad – known to be the first ever cover of a Velvet Underground song.

White Light/White Heat

Bowie covered The Velvet Underground’s title track to their 1968 album at a BBC Peel session in May 1972, and never appeared on a Bowie studio album however it was a live regular, appearing on Ziggy Stardust the Motion Picture (1983) recorded live at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1973.

My Death

A 1959 Jacques Brel track (La Mort) that Bowie regularly performed live in the early ’70s, appearing on Ziggy Stardust the Motion Picture and Live at Santa Monica. Probably based on Scott Walker’s immensely dramatic version, again off his Scott album.

Round and Round

Originally slated for the Ziggy Stardust album, this Chuck Berry original from 1958 (B-side to Johnny Be Good) was covered by Bowie in 1971, eventually surfacing as a B-side to Aladdin Sane’s Drive-In Saturday in 1973. It was the final song of the final Ziggy Stardust show at the Hammersmith on 3 July 1973, although it was cut from the subsequent concert film (allegedly at the orders of Jeff Beck).

Let’s Spend the Night Together 

Bowie recorded this 1967 Stones classic and placed it on Aladdin Sane in 1973 as well as issuing it as a single in the US. Ironically the Stones would later cover Bowie’s glammed-up spoof.

The next 12 tracks are the original versions of tracks all from Bowie’s covers album Pin Ups, recorded and released at his commercial peak in 1973, paying tribute to all of the bands among his favourites from the ’64–67′ period of the London club scene.

Rosalyn

Recorded in France with an expanded and reworked Spiders lineup, this storming album opener is a faithful re-creation of the riotous original by The Pretty Things, their debut single from 1964.

Here Comes the Night

Written by Bert Berns and performed by Them with Van Morrison on vocals in 1965. Lulu recorded the first version of this track.

I Wish You Would 

A song originally recorded by Chicago blues musician Billy Boy Arnold in 1955 and covered by The Yardbirds as their debut single in 1964 with Eric Clapton on lead guitar.

See Emily Play

Pink Floyd’s mighty 1967 second hit single, Syd Barret was a massive influence on Bowie in the early 70s as Hunky Dory would attest.

Everything’s Alright

Bowie’s version on Pin Ups is faithful to the original written and performed by little-known The Mojos back in 1964.

I Can’t Explain

This classic written by Pete Townshend from The Who was released in 1965, it was their debut single. Bowie’s rendition is a standout on Pin Ups. A great song either way.

Friday on My Mind

A rollicking 1966 song by seminal Australian rock group The Easybeats.

Sorrow 

A song first recorded by the McCoys in 1965, later a hit for the Merseys, that version is more up-tempo than the folk-rock original. Bowie had a worldwide hit with this as the lead single off Pin Ups.

Don’t Bring Me Down 

A song written by Johnny Dee (road manager for British band the Fairies) and first performed by the rock band the Pretty Things in 1964. This band clearly had a big impact on Bowie’s progression, taste and psyche.

Shapes of Things

A second song by The Yardbirds, this 1966 track features Jeff Beck’s musical use of feedback. In 1968, Beck reworked it for the lead track on his great debut album Truth.

Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere

The second hit single released by the UK rockers The Who in 1965. Big in Bowie’s mind back then.

Where Have All the Good Times Gone

Effortless pop brilliance written by Ray Davies and performed by the Kinks, it was released as the B-side to Till the End of the Day in 1965.

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Growin’ Up

A Bruce Springsteen original appearing on his 1973 debut album Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ, Bowie covered this during the Diamond Dogs sessions in ’73/’74 and was eventually released as a bonus track on a reissue of Pin Ups and, later, on the 30th anniversary reissue of Diamond Dogs.

Knock On Wood

A 1966 hit song written by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper and originally performed by Stax Records soul artist Floyd. Bowie recorded it at the Tower Theatre, Philadelphia and it appeared on David Live (1974), also released as a single in September ’74. Something of an inspiration for an even bigger hit for disco queen Amii Stewart in 1979.