John Lennon | September 1962

It’s all in the eyes. This rarely seen photograph of John Lennon on the precipice of superstardom was taken around the back of Paul McCartney’s childhood home in Liverpool 60 years ago to the day.

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We’ve seen a few shots like this before but this photo is of notable interest for being taken 60 years ago today of John around the back of Paul’s home at 20 Forthlin Road, Allerton. Paul’s brother Mike McCartney was the photographer and George and Paul were there too, enjoying a nice cup of tea.

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20 Forthlin Road rear view.

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Further listening:

♥    Something About the Beatles – 243: Double Fantasy Revisited part one

♥    Something About the Beatles – 244: Double Fantasy Revisited part two

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

David Bowie | Thank you for the cigs!!

This charming two-page note written by a 30-year old David Bowie to his friend and confidant Tony McGrogan in September ’77 with his shopping list of records, shows he was keeping his finger on the pulse of rock.

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Bowie made it his business to be fully informed about the current music scene, and in this handwritten note on graph paper to Artistic Relations and RCA employee Tony McGrogan on 22 September 1977, he displays some playful penmanship as he lists some interesting and hot new releases he wanted picked up for him:

Dear Tony,

I would be grateful if you could get one of your R.C.A “Go-fors” to get me these following records from, I guess, a PINK Penk Ponk – Pan … (oh, yes! PUNK) record shop. (Before I leave for swizzleland tonight).

Instantly humanising the guy, the letter was written from Tony’s house in Coulsdon, Surrey where Bowie had stayed for three days to attend the funeral of Marc Bolan, who had tragically been killed in a car accident on 16 September 1977. Bolan’s funeral took place on 20 September. It was a crazy time for our hero. To get an idea of where Bowie was at:


July – August: recorded “Heroes” album at Hansa in Berlin and commenced mixing at Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland (to be released in October 1977).

7 September: appeared on Marc Bolan’s TV Show Marc, which was to be Bolan’s last public appearance before his death nine days later. Broadcast on 28 September.

9 September: Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life released on RCA records, co-produced by Bowie.

11 September: recorded Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas television appearance singing Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy with the American crooner.

20 September: Bowie flew from Switzerland to attend Bolan’s funeral service at Golders Green in London.

23 September: “Heroes” 7″ single released on RCA.


After the service Bowie had Tony Mascia and Tony McGrogan drive him past his childhood home at 40 Stansfield Road, Brixton, then on to Haddon Hall in Southend Road, Beckenham, before adjourning further south to Surry to avoid any media intrusion. The following day he was due to fly back to swizzleland (?) but as outlined in this letter, he needed a wake up call, and this 30 year old man does not know what time banks close:

If this is not poss: then get me up at 12: and we’ll get them ourselves. also what time do banks close as I want to cash some trav: cheques.

love B

It’s an interesting list of LPs and singles, as well requesting The Entire [Stiff] Catalogue (singles & albums) inc Elvis Costello. A lot of these albums were released in 1977 and are mostly punk/new wave records, a genre Bowie would fully explore over his next two albums. He also specifies two Not Punk (V. Important) albums, and spells “definitely” incorrectly, before signing off.

Among others, Bowie’s into the now canonised The Stranglers LP No More Heroes, The Clash’s ‘Complete Control’ single, The Damned’s Damned Damned Damned debut, an early Talking Heads single off their 77 album, and John Foxx-era Ultravox, who had only one album out at the time, and let’s not forget The Snivelling Shits ‘Terminal Stupid’ single!

Elsewhere we have Jean Michel Jarre’s seminal Oxygene, Mink DeVille, Van Der Graaf Generator and Bob Marley. Bowie also asks about Tony Wilson’s predominantly punk focused ITV programme “So It Goes” which had just interviewed Iggy Pop the week before Bowie wrote this note.

P.S. thank you for the cigs!!

P.P.S. Definately get me up at 11:30. I have lost my passport. (oh! christ!)

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NB: The man had exquisite taste. I wonder which ones he found. And the fact that he had written this note on the eve his greatest ever song hitting the shops (“Heroes” was released on 23 September) is rather impressive, however the 7″ would reach only #24 in the UK singles charts for reasons that aren’t clear.

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Posted in Album Covers, Clash, The, David Bowie, On This Day, T.Rex, Talking Heads | 13 Comments

Lou Reed | I’m So Free – The 1971 RCA Demos

Fifty years on from his self-titled solo debut album, and nine years since his untimely death, Lou Reed is still nabbing headlines with a collection of rare demos released over the holidays and just as quickly withdrawn in an apparent copyright dump.

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The 17-track album of Lou Reed demos was uploaded by RCA/Sony Music to iTunes in Europe on 23 December 2021, titled I’m So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos. The collection was swiftly removed just a couple of days later and the reason for the album’s very brief release appears to be an apparent copyright dump done in order to extend RCA/Sony Music’s ownership of Reed’s recordings.

Captured on the eve of becoming a 70s rock star, Lou can be heard flexing his considerable songwriting muscle and reinventing his musical career after leaving the Velvet Underground, one of the greatest and most influential bands in rock history.

In 1970, Lou found himself a penniless, strung-out wreck nursing a career on the wane. He famously took a break from the music biz to work in his father’s tax accounting firm as a typist in Long Island. A year later, RCA signed him to a solo contract and sent him to London to record his debut solo LP, accompanied by top-flight session musicians including guitarist Steve Howe, and Rick Wakeman who were both about to join Yes.

I’m So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos contains low-key demo versions of songs that appeared on that album (released in 1972 as Lou Reed) and his breakthrough follow-up – the Bowie-produced Transformer (1972). Two of the tracks, ‘Kill Your Sons’ and ‘She’s My Best Friend’ eventually appeared on Sally Can’t Dance (1974) and Coney Island Baby (1976) respectively, and the collection includes songs that may have appeared in demo form doing the rounds for several years, but most now seeing the light of day for the first time.

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TRACKS

1. Perfect Day (Demo – Takes 1 & 2). An audibly nervous Lou commences with, “Ok“, then starts a quietly ascending acoustic guitar line “Just a summer’s day/drink sangria in the park” before a bum note brings things to an abrupt halt: “Fuck. Sorry about that. I’ll leave out the tricky guitar bits I think. Ok?“. It’s a beautiful version of a song that fully flourished on Transformer with only some minor lyric changes.

2. I’m So Free (Demo). Another track that ended up on Transformer and a favourite. This solo acoustic version is spot on to the recorded version we know and love, minus the Bowie backing vocals and driving Ronson electric guitar.

3. Wild Child (Demo). A lyrical mix of the prosaic and the poetic with a constantly shifting cast of street characters, the kind who would become increasingly familiar over the course of Reed’s subsequent releases. This great song off the solo debut was rightly included on his first compilation album in 1977, the impeccable Walk on the Wild Side: The Best of Lou Reed.

4. I’m Sticking with You (Demo – Take 2). A song the Velvet Underground performed and recorded, and sung by drummer Maureen Tucker.

5. Lisa Says (Demo). Lou has settled into this recording session beautifully. In good voice and still playing an acoustic guitar for the whole session thus far. Another late-era Velvets ballad that Lou revisited for his solo debut.

6. Going Down (Demo – Take 2). A great underrated classic off Lou Reed, performed beautifully here with Lou in great form on the vocal.

7. I Love You (Demo). This Loaded-era song sounds like it is still in early-draft form: “Smiling faces they can’t be forgotten“, as it sounds clunky lyrically and misses the groove of the lovely full band version (off Lou Reed) which rightly wound up on Walk on the Wild Side: The Best of Lou Reed. At the end Lou cues a fade-out “Ok Richard.

8. New York Telephone Conversation (Demo). A Transformer joke song, but a clever and amusing one. Does not differ wildly from the Bowie-produced version.

9. She’s My Best Friend (Demo). A song that was originally recorded by the Velvet Underground in 1969, it ended up on Lou’s Coney Island Baby in 1975. It’s one of the standouts on that album. Lou in great voice again here, sounding very comfortable with the piece.

10. Kill Your Sons (Demo). A brutal anti-war song in its early stages: “Kill your sons before they reclaim the land“. This early awkward version was rewritten about his childhood electro-shock therapy and re-recorded from a position of dark drug-addled rock stardom in the early 70s, appearing on the hit album Sally Can’t Dance in 1974.

11. Berlin (Demo). A faithful acoustic version but doesn’t come close to what he achieved on his solo debut. This would appear on a later Reed album too, providing the title track to his 1973 cult-classic song suite.

12. Ocean (Demo – Takes 1 & 2). Another song that was performed by the Velvets, and later crucially by Michael Plater, and was the big closing number on Lou’s solo debut. You can hear Lou feeling around for the essence of this great song.

13. Ride Into the Sun (Demo – Take 2). Recorded by the Velvets in 1969 when Lou gave Doug Yule singing duties, extinguishing the dark beauty of one of his most underrated songs. This low key demo is superior.

14. Hangin’ Around (Demo – Take 2). A slight ditty compared to the ultra-cool, rocking version from Transformer.

15. Love Makes You Feel (Demo – Take 2). A decent song off Lou Reed. Performed beautifully here with Lou again in great form on the vocals.

16. I Can’t Stand It (Demo). Another Loaded outtake, I Can’t Stand It was the opening song and a single off Lou Reed, and given the acoustic treatment here.

17. Walk It And Talk It (Demo). Similar to the Velvets’ 1970 demo, this single wound up edgy and rocking on Lou’s debut. For whatever reason, the record failed to connect. It staggered its way to the 189 spot on the Billboard album chart in 1972, and neither of the singles (“I Can’t Stand It,” “Walk and Talk It”) earned a foothold on either side of the Atlantic. With Transformer later in the year that Lou became a star with his “fluke” hit single Walk on the Wild Side

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Further Reading:

♥     Lou Reed – Top 50 Solo Songs

♥     #14: Lou Reed – Rock n Roll Animal (1974) / Live (1975)

♥    Average Guy – Lou in the 80s

♥    #15: Lou Reed – The Bells (1979)

♥    Lou Reed – Street Hassle

Posted in Albums That Never Were, David Bowie, Downloads, Images, Lou Reed, Mick Ronson, Robert Quine | 35 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

The retro-yet-modern album cover for Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ Get Happy!! LP was designed based on a photo of Elvis lying on a street grill.

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The packaging for Elvis Costello’s Get Happy!! (1980) sleeve was designed by brilliant graphic artist Barney Bubbles, who had worked with Costello at Stiff and Radar previously, designing the iconic covers for My Aim is True and This Years Model. Barney did not receive a credit in line with his insistence on anonymity. The photo was taken on the group’s first US tour by Keith Morris, one of Britain’s great rock photographers, in 1979.

The cover of this galloping classic was designed to look like an old-school record from the classic soul period, complete with vinyl ring wear marks and mod imagery suggesting a 50s/60s vintage, knowingly filtered through a New Wave lens complete with decorative oblong shapes and fluorescent colours.

Declan MacManus was given the sobriquet Elvis Costello by Stiff Records’ supremo Jake Riviera in 1976 but Bubbles’ visual contribution to the early part of Costello’s career helped to calcify his spiky persona. So too is Bubbles’ visual stamp all over the early Costello catalogue, from the scuff marks pre-printed on Get Happy!!, the graphic tour de force that is Armed Forces, to referencing the visual stylings of Blue Note designer Reid Miles for Almost Blue.

Photos:

Elvis Costello and The Attractions . PHOTO: ESTATE OF KEITH MORRIS/REDFERNS

Further Reading:

♥  Didn’t Know It Was A Cover – Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding 

♥  High Fidelity – Costello in the 80s

Posted in Album Covers, Elvis Costello, Images | 6 Comments

Cliff Richard and Steve Jones – Don’t Talk to Him

Steve Jones accompanied the ageless Sir Cliff Richard on one of his best songs, Don’t Talk to Him.

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This interview and acoustic jam session was from a long-lost broadcast of Jonesy’s Jukebox on indie 103.1 in 2007 when Sir Cliff Richard was interviewed by our hero Steve Jones after meeting in a coffee shop.

The unlikely pair have a friendly chat about Cliff’s career and life, before performing the magnificent melody of Don’t Talk to Him, with Jonesy on guitar and providing background vocals. It was one of the few hits Cliff had a hand in writing back in 1963, and the US radio performance includes guitar by esteemed actor Naveen Andrews. The musicians also perform the British artist’s terrific first single Move It at 29.31, and later, have a stab at The Young Ones.

Jonesy has called this one of his favorite Jukebox shows ever, and I can see why!

Don’t Talk to Him commences at 14:52.

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Posted in Cliff Richard, Performance of the Day, Podcasts, Sex Pistols, Steve Jones | 8 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

These slightly strange unused portraits of David Bowie were taken by photographer Nick Knight in December 1992, originally intended for the cover of his comeback solo album Black Tie White Noise.

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The album cover concept for Bowie’s 1993 dance-rock oddity Black Tie White Noise focused on a simple portrait of the star’s face mirrored down the middle. The front cover is the two right hand sides and the back the two left sides of Bowie’s face. The result are slightly disturbing images that leaves the viewer feeling that something is in a most peculiar way. One, the right hard older brother, the other a space alien from Mars.

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The concept was inspired by Bowie’s distinct eyes, which had different sized pupils the result of a teenage punch to the eye. The above image is the shot used for the mirror effect.

In the end, a different image by Knight, which features the close crop of the singer’s face, slightly tilted, was selected. It was the era when CD’s were all the rage, and due to the size of a compact disc case, it was eventually decided that the consumer needed as much eye contact as possible, comparable to a magazine cover, resulting in one of Bowie’s most pedestrian album sleeves.

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Further viewing:

♥   Nick Knight – Bowie Shoot Footage

Posted in Album Covers, David Bowie | 4 Comments

David Bowie, 1981

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, 41 years ago, things were seemingly coming to an end, but things were also opening up.

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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 | 14 Comments

Top 5 Songs – The Sales Brothers

Born into show business, hired guns Tony and his brother Hunt Sales were the rhythm section and driving force behind some key moments in rock history. ht2

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, bassist Tony and drummer Hunt’s father was well known comedian Soupy Sales who had a long running American comedy show in the 50s and 60s. Soupy, a jazz aficionado with show biz connections, gave the brothers access to many jazz greats. Tony studied the bass from a young age with Carole Kaye, who was the bass player on River Deep Mountain High, and Hunt took his inspiration on the drums from Shelly Manne and Buddy Rich, going on to develop a style all of his own. Even at this young age Hunt attacked the drums and excelled as a singer. Tony and Hunt might have had a career singing if they never took up the bass and drums as they were notable for their distinctive background-vocal abilities, and by their teens had started a band called Tony & the Tigers.

The brothers appeared on the popular rock music series Hullabaloo, and after one of their appearances they met Jimi Hendrix who invited them to watch him record rock history at Electric Ladyland Studios in New York City. After a minor radio hit in the Detroit area and a couple of TV appearances, the brothers switched gear, eventually teaming up with Todd Rundgren, adding their loping, languid beats to some of the his best early-70s work, including his debut album Runt (1970), and follow-up masterpiece The Ballad of Todd Rundgren (1971). The brothers had an almost psychic ability to anticipate the groove, like they were of one mind, working simultaneously and pushing the music forward. 

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After a long stint with Rundgren, the Sales brothers joined forces with Iggy Pop providing the crucial rhythm section to the immaculate Bowie-produced Berlin-era record Lust for Life (1977). The brothers then joined Pop on his subsequent supporting tour, recording the Bowie-enhanced live album of the period, TV Eye (1978). Crucially, the Sales brothers formed a key collaboration in 1989, as half of Tin Machine, adding an edge and spontaneity that had been missing from Bowie’s music for quite some time.

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The Sales brothers were hell-raisers and loose cannons with a nihilistic attitude and lifestyle to match. They provided their raw musical instinct and bombastic rock ‘n roll to a plethora of musical greats over the decades including Dr John, Etta James, Harry Dean Stanton, and Tony with Steve Jones and Michael Des Barres in the band Chequered Past.

They even recorded an R&B album together called Hired Guns in 1979 as The Sales Brothers that should have made them both big name stars if Tony hadn’t hit a tree with his car in delaying its release until 2008. Sadly, the Sales brothers’ soul-revue ambitions were derailed, leaving the album a minor footnote in rock history.

These Top 5 Songs serve as a tip-of-the-iceberg introduction to these dedicated and hard working American musicians who continue to strive for excellence.

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5. Iggy Pop & James Williamson – Lucky Monkeys

Before Lust for Life, the Sales brothers played on a couple of tracks on Iggy’s and ex-Stooge James Williamson’s underrated Kill City, recorded in the aftermath of the Stooges Raw Power sessions, and eventually released in 1977 on Bomp! This is one pulsating ‘Stonesy’ classic.

4. Todd Rundgren – Parole

In 1970, the brothers joined Todd Rundgren’s band, proceeding to tour and record with Rundgren over the next several years, including on the hit single We Gotta Get You a Woman. Both Hunt and Tony play on the cracking rocker Parole, off The Ballad of Todd Rundgren, the album where Todd sends up the singer-songwriting genre while effortlessly affirming his ability as a balladeer of the first water. 

3. Iggy Pop – The Passenger

Lust for Life’s most endearing track was written alternately in the first and third person, as it watches a man riding on a train, seeing a city slip past his window. He is not of the city, just in it, gliding through the city’s “ripped backsides”, staying “under glass”, and seeing “the bright and hollow sky”. Written by guitarist Ricky Gardiner, the track consists of four guitar chords, briskly strummed and punctuated by rests, but never moving from a single progression. Hunt’s drums and Tony’s serpentine bass line holds it all together. There’s no chorus, save for a wordless repeat of the verse melody, as the Sales brothers chime in on backing vocals.

2. Tin Machine – Under the God

Thunderous machine-gun drums and savage riffing sums up Tin Machine’s badass first single, Under the God, perhaps the heaviest and best number this short-lived project ever recorded. Hunt’s drumming is so aggressive it would have been impossible to play it any other way, and he provides a background tenor vocal accompanying Bowie’s own voice and blending very well together. Recorded pre-grunge, Tin Machine was way ahead of its time musically and conceptually. Yet, the audiences wanted Bowie’s hits, and were not prepared for the sonic onslaught and creative bombardment that was Tin Machine’s trademark.

1. Iggy Pop – Lust for Life

This instantly recognisable rock classic that gets better with each listen embraces a high level of sleaze and menace, but also has a celebratory and happy feel overall. Musically the track is confident R&B and is the sound of Iggy Pop’s artistic reinvention, with Hunt Sales on iconic drums and backing vocals…who knew?

Further Listening:

♥   Todd Rundgren – Broke Down and Busted (1970)

♥   Todd Rundgren – Slut (1972)

♥   Tin Machine – Pretty Thing (1989)

♥   Tin Machine – Baby Universal (1991)

♥   The Sales Brothers – Shiftin’ Soul (2008)

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Posted in David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Jimi Hendrix, Sex Pistols, Steve Jones, Stooges, The, Todd Rundgren, Top 5 Songs | 15 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

The photograph on the cover of The Kinks’ country-rock masterpiece Muswell Hillbillies was shot at the Archway Tavern in London, a couple of miles away from Muswell Hill in North London where band leader Ray Davies and guitarist Dave Davies grew up.

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Lyrically, Muswell Hillbillies is an album steeped in London imagery set to ironically upbeat American country and blues, however is anything but a tender tribute to the north London suburb that Ray and Dave Davies called home. A traditionalist who distrusts big government, Ray’s sophisticated prose is filled with references to people and places he knew growing up, circling themes of poverty and working-class life, and telling the tale of how the beautiful red-brick Edwardian avenues were becoming more and more gentrified with the destruction and subdivision of old neighbourhoods. 

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They have come to stand for some of the most enduring and heart-clutching pop of all time, and the band’s ninth studio album is no different. The Kinks smile their way through the despair and allow influences from pre-war American popular music to infiltrate their famously English sound. As they lived their lives in Muswell Hill, these Londoners’ dreams kept drifting to America. The music is warm, inviting, and happy and jaunty throughout, and is coloured with an old-time Dixieland horn section (not many bands were doing that in 1971), rockabilly, blues and tin pan alley evoking the trad jazz era. 

“Got no privacy, got no liberty, ‘Cause the twentieth century people took it all away from me”

The song cycle is about a community of people in a particular place, all trying to keep a grip on their lives in the shadow of the era’s enormous faceless institutions. Tracks such as galloping opener 20th Century Man is about a man in the last house in the street to be demolished who tapes explosives to his body, so that if they come to knock the house down, he’ll blow the place up, including himself. He is a disillusioned anti-hero, alienated by every current trend and unhappy about the erosion of his civil liberties. So too the mad, semi-psychotic imagery of Here Come The People In Grey is all about social upheaval, while Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues sums up what someone feels like when they’re not in control of their own life anymore. Elsewhere, the ominous undercurrents of Uncle Son is about people who never had a voice, never had a politician willing to speak for them, who are finding themselves slipping through the cracks of society.

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The front cover picture of Ray, Dave and the band in all their bell-bottom wearing, long hair and bearded 1970s glory, standing at the bar of an old-fashioned English pub, having a pint, surrounded by ‘regulars’ old and young, was taken in The Archway Tavern, about 2 miles away from Muswell Hill. There’s some besuited businessmen in the background, an old man in the foreground, and a casually dressed man staring disdainfully to his right sporting a moustache and an red pullover. When compared to how it looks today, to say the interior has been gentrified beyond recognition is an understatement. 

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The back inset picture, showing the band below a signpost giving direction to Muswell Hill, was taken on the small traffic island at the intersection of Castle Yard and Southwood Lane in Highgate, which remains largely unchanged. 

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The inner gatefold of the album showed the band in Muswell Hill by an iron fence surrounding a leftover wartime bomb site. Sadly, these are long-vanished Victorian streets, and this is what now stands at the corner of Lulot Street (now Lulot Gardens) and Retcar Street in Highgate. These streets were demolished to make way for modern flats in the 1970s.

“They’re putting us in identical little boxes. No character, just uniformity…” 

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References:

♥   Nick Littlewood Facebook

♥   Nigel Ward Facebook

♥   The Kinks – Top 50 Songs

Posted in Album Covers, European Rock Pilgrimage, Images, Kinks, The | 8 Comments

T.Rex | The Slider

Released on this day 50 years ago, the timeless photograph of Marc Bolan on the cover of The Slider was credited to have been taken by Ringo Starr. But was it?

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The iconic photograph of Marc Bolan with his “corkscrew hair” on the cover of T.Rex’s strutting classic The Slider (1972), was credited to Ringo Starr in the album’s liner notes. Ringo was directing the Bolan/T.Rex rockumentary Born to Boogie at the time but record producer Tony Visconti (David Bowie among many others) has stated that it was he, not Ringo, who took the cover image of a top-hatted Bolan on John Lennon’s estate in Ascot one misty day. Tony says:

 “I certainly did! We’d had long breaks while shooting Born To Boogie while Ringo set up different scenes, so Marc gave me his Nikon F camera and we walked out into the woods and I shot three rolls of film. So back in London I’m at Marc’s flat and I see the contact sheets and say: “Oh, those are all the ones I took.” He had a funny look on his face, and goes: “Oh, right. Well, initial the sheets and if I ever use them, I’ll give you a credit.

“Of course, three months later he conveniently forgot and credited the shot to Ringo. I mean, this is my recollection of how things went down. If Ringo wants to challenge me on it, he’s welcome.”

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“Marc was always an opportunist and would name-drop whenever he could. I don’t want to denigrate him as the great rock star that he was, but this is one one of the times that he tried to rewrite history. He used to be really bitchy about me getting credited too much. I think the top hat was an allusion he always made to being a magician. Marc told me that he lived in Paris for six months when he was a male model with a French wizard.”

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Earlier in their career as a folk-rock duo Tyrannosaurus Rex, Visconti supposedly got fed up with writing the name out in full on studio charts and tapes and began to abbreviate it to T.Rex; when Bolan first noticed it, he was angry, but later claimed the idea was his!

Recorded in March and released in July of 1972, the near-perfect The Slider is 50 years old today and still sounds as fresh and crunchy as ever. With lip-smacking aplomb, the album was the zenith of the band’s brief career, containing some of the band’s best and most well known songs via Bolan’s Gibson Les Paul, such as Metal Guru and Telegram Sam both UK chart-toppers, and the heavy guitar rock of Buick Mackane.

The Slider hit number 4 on the UK charts and number 17 in the US, but marked the end of Marc Bolan’s reign as a pop superstar. The band would never achieve these artist and commercial heights again.

It should be noted that one of Bolan’s best ever songs, Thunderwing, was left off the album. It was the B-side to Metal Guru and T.Rex were renowned for their B-sides. This Slider-era classic is one of their finest moments ever put tape.

Posted in Album Covers, David Bowie, Images, Mainman, On This Day, T.Rex | 12 Comments

The Human League | Reproduction

The image on the cover of The Human League’s debut album Reproduction, anticipates their definitive line-up.

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Before the mainstream success of ‘Don’t You Want Me’, one of the most enduringly popular songs of the 80s, and before the twin sultry tones of vocalists Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall, British synth-pop group The Human League began life as a male-dominated, experimental electronic four-piece.

Formed in Sheffield, England in 1977 by Ian Craig Marsh (synthesizer) and Martyn Ware (synthesizer) as Dead Daughters, the duo quickly enlisted film technician Adrian Wright and finally Phil Oakey (vocals/synthesizer) to become The Human League.

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With the release of their undoubtedly impressive debut album Reproduction (1979) on Virgin Records, The Human League quickly gained a considerable cult following in England, including the likes of David Bowie, via visually impressive live performances and strong original material.

Early pioneers of the UK electronic scene, Reproduction was considered both avant-garde (Empire State Human), cutting edge (Blind Youth), and a natural progression of the detached, icy, windswept and austere work of Kraftwerk from earlier in the decade (The World Before Last). The dystopian material has threads of melody that weave their way over robotic synth beats, with tunes delivered either via Phil Oakey’s vocals, at times still finding his voice, or through simple synth motifs.

Coincidentally, the Reproduction album cover anticipates the band we now know and love – one guy and two girls, even though they were a blokey four-piece at the time.

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“We said we wanted an image of a glass dance floor in a discotheque which people were dancing on and beneath this, a lit room full of babies. It was meant to look like a still from a film – like some kind of dystopian vision of the future – but it just looks like they’re treading on babies. We were quite upset but at that time, it was too late to change it.” – Martyn Ware

Strangely, the inner sleeve more than echoes General Zod and chums in their flying mirror thingies in Christopher Reeve’s Superman II (1980) for reasons that aren’t clear.

Reproduction was produced by Colin Thurston who had just completed co-engineering work on Bowie’s “Heroes” and Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life (both 1977), as well as production work on Magazine’s excellent second album Secondhand Daylight (1979). Thurston would go on to produce some major 80s albums such as Duran Duran’s debut and their follow up, Rio, in part defining the sound of the 80s.

With drums made entirely with the Roland System-100 synthesizer, Reproduction has a brilliant Side One, and a Side Two that consists of two long medleys, including a weird cover of the Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling which manages to be truly heartfelt and warm through the icy glitter of its instrumentation.

The band quickly delivered the very good follow up Travelogue (1980), however the experimental line-up soon split in half, both moving in a more self-consciously poppy direction – one half Oakey/Wright’s The Human League, the other Ware/Marsh as Heaven 17.

This left Oakey without a band or players, and with Wright promoted to synth, he recruited teenagers Catherall and Sulley (both vocals) in a last ditch attempt to continue the band. With the addition of Ian Burden (synthesizer/bass) and Jo Callis (guitar/synthesizer) the definitive line-up was complete. Their next album, Dare (1981), ushered in global success for the new look Human League, proving to be one of the most successful and best-loved British pop albums of all time.

Although Reproduction was met with limited commercial success upon its original release in 1979, it fared better after the group became commercially successful, and has since been hailed as a milestone in the development of popular electronic music. For those who like the experimental wing of New Wave music, such as Magazine and Kraftwerk, should lend an ear to The Human League’s underrated debut.

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Side One

  1. Almost Medieval – 4:43
  2. Circus of Death – 3:55
  3. The Path of Least Resistance – 3:33
  4. Blind Youth – 3:25
  5. The Word Before Last – 4:04
  6. Empire State Human – 3:17

Side Two

  1. Morale…You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling  – 9:39
  2. Austerity/Girl One (Medley) – 6:44
  3. Zero as a Limit – 4:13

Further Listening:

  Buy The Human League – Reproduction

 Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums

♥  More Album Cover Outtakes

  Producer: Hugh Padgham in the 80s

Posted in Album Covers, Downloads, Human League, The, Images, Producers, Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums | 11 Comments

Mick Jones | I Turned Out a Punk

The guitarist and founding member of one of the most important and influential bands of the rock era recently turned 67. To celebrate, The Press compiles Mick Jones’ best songs with The Clash.

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The late Joe Strummer may have been the heart and soul of The Clash, but lead guitarist, co-singer and co-songwriter Mick Jones always tempered Strummer’s rough edges, in turn softening and broadening the band’s sound and appeal.

A teen-tearaway who used to sneak into Mott the Hoople shows, Jones assembled The Clash in 1976, recruiting bassist Paul Simonon, a passionate reggae fan, and Strummer, the magnetic frontman of local London pub rock band the 101ers, originally playing seedy London punk clubs before eventually adding excellent drummer Topper Headon. When the opening chords of their debut single “White Riot” in March 1977 announced a dangerous new London band was on the scene, the classic line-up was complete.

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The British group, via their first album THE CLASH (1977) ★★★★★, took the anger and frustration of the country’s working class youth of the 1970s and gave it universal meaning, striking a chord that echoed in the minds of young people around the world. The music was angry and message-laden rock, played fast and furiously with a treble-heavy mix that has aged very well, and their appeal is now broader than ever.

With albums like the strong sophomore effort GIVE ‘EM ENOUGH ROPE (1978) ★★★★, and more so with their rightly exalted creative apex LONDON CALLING (1979) ★★★★★, The Clash possessed a rare songwriting tension between Strummer and Jones, and a relentless driving energy in the studio and on stage, not to mention their formidable songwriting partnership, and contrasting vocal styles as highlighted on duets like Rudy Can’t Fail.

Strummer was the lead singer and main lyricist in The Clash, but Jones’ musical and songwriting contributions can’t be denied. With an immaculate ear for melody and strong hooks, and a penchant for blistering rock ‘n roll, the guitarist’s input was exceptional time after time across five albums and countless singles, compilations, and EP’s, and with Joe, created the perfect balance within this legendary group. And he has some great hats.

Throw in punchy guitar bursts, an electrifying stage presence, strong musicianship, lyrics that never took the easy path to getting their point across, and as highlighted on the triple sprawl of SANDINISTA (1980) ★★★½, an insatiable appetite for multiple stylings including reggae, dub-punk, rap or pop (Charlie Don’t Surf) – what you get is a band that deserves to be in the upper echelon of the best of the era.

Before their next album appeared, COMBAT ROCK (1982) ★★★★, Headon abruptly departed the group, replaced by original drummer Terry Chimes, and while the album would become the band’s biggest seller, particularly in the USA, it was on the accompanying headline tour where cracks were beginning to show. 

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They had achieved the status of a world-renowned rock phenomena both critically and commercially, but uneasy feelings, internal tensions and flagging enthusiasm would eventually send Mick Jones packing less than a year later.

Our hero’s departure from The Clash had a corrosive effect on the band’s creativity to say the least, which soon became evident on 1985’s roundly derided CUT THE CRAP ★, before Strummer would disband The Clash for good. 

While their career was short lived, they were always respected by the hardcore scenesters and equally by the dabblers, earning the slogan “The only band that matters”, but they famously railed against classic-rock hero worship, in turn redesigning rock history in their own impeccable image. 

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Mick came up smiling, assembling a new group called Big Audio Dynamite (BAD) with Don Letts, whose debut album went on to become a best-seller in 1986. Arguably the member who stayed the busiest after the breakup, Mick went on to form new bands and become a much sought-after producer who has collaborated with Simonon on the Gorillaz’ 2010 release, Plastic Beach, and more recently with Flaming Lips and The Avalanches. 

The Clash – I Turned Out a Punk: The Best of Mick Jones mp3

Somebody Got Murdered One of the best tracks off Sandinista! Sung and written by Mick although Joe Strummer wrote the words and does the spoken word section: Joe Strummer: “We got a phone call from Jack Nitzsche and he said ‘We need a heavy rock number for this movie with Al Pacino’ so I said OK. I went home and there was this guy in a pool of blood out by the car parking kiosk. That night I wrote the lyric. I gave it to Mick and he wrote the tune. We recorded it and Jack Nitzsche never called back.”

Stay Free – One of Mick’s best, and a live favourite, Stay Free was recorded in 1978 in London’s Basing Street studios (aka Sarm West Studios) for the Give ‘Em Enough Rope album. 

Lost in the Supermarket On this highlight from the timeless London Calling album, Joe wrote the lyrics and it includes personal references to his own life growing up in a suburban middle-class family. Mick wrote the music and sings lead. Rarely played live.

I’m Not Down – An underrated catchy classic buried on side 4 of London Calling, this one was written and sung my Mick.

Atom Tan – A lovely little call and response number filled with apocalyptic humour, this is one of the many stylistic variations on Combat Rock. Co-sung/written by Joe and Mick. 

Should I Stay Or Should I Go – Mick’s timeless classic from Combat Rock, this great rockin’ song was released in 1982 as a double A-side single alongside the magnificent Straight to Hell and re-released in 1991 topping the UK singles chart.

The Card Cheat – Recorded late in the London Calling sessions, Mick double-tracked just about everything, creating a Phil Spector-style ‘wall of sound’, a ‘Be My Baby’ beat, and a blistering horn section. The song was never performed live.  

1-2 Crush On You B-side to 1978 single Tommy Gun, written by Mick and the first song Joe attempted to play with his new musical allies during the very first Clash rehearsals. Of greater interest for displaying what the Clash might have sounded like had they not discovered politics.

Train in Vain – The final song on, and the last to be recorded for, London Calling. Originally not listed on the LC sleeve, it was the third and final single from the album, and the first Clash song to reach the United States Top 30. 

Jail Guitar Doors – B-side to the band’s fourth single Clash City Rockers, and  both songs were included on the US release of their self-titled album in 1979. The song takes cues from the New York Dolls’ as well as David Bowie’s Rebel Rebel.

Up in Heaven (Not Only Here) – Anchored by a soaring Mick Jones guitar hook, this great track is off Sandinista! with angry, despairing lyrics written by Joe Strummer. 

Police on My Back – This cover is an intense burst of energy with superb drum work from Topper Headon. Originally written by Eddy Grant and performed by The Equals in 1967, this powerful rocker opens with Mick’s guitar duplicating the sound of a siren and off the occasionally brilliant Sandinista! 

Gates of the West – This obscurity came off the excellent The Cost of Living EP released in 1979, something of a transition release before the landmark London Calling LP, lyrically about their first encounter with the USA.

I should be jumpin’ shoutin’ that I made it all this way
From Camden Town station to Fortieth and Eighth
Not many make it this far and many say we’re great
But just like them we walk on an’ we can’t escape our fate

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Posted in Clash, The, Downloads, Mick Jones, Mixtapes, On This Day | 16 Comments

Steve Hackett | Genesis Revisited

Innovative guitarist Steve Hackett and his band of supremely accomplished musicians brings to life the majestic music of mid-70s Genesis at Melbourne’s Palais Theatre.

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Genesis only ever made it to Australia once, in 1986 – years after guitarist Steve Hackett and singer Peter Gabriel had left the band. So Steve is making it up to fans by once again bringing a whole lot of Genesis magic to Australian shores with an imperious performance of two genre-defining classics in their entirety: 1977’s double live album Seconds Out – the final Genesis record upon which Hackett appeared – and the impeccable Selling England By the Pound (1973) LP. For many Genesis fans, these albums represent the very best the band had to offer.

Last night’s gig at Melbourne’s iconic Palais Theatre, Hackett and his and top-notch 5-piece band treated the audience to some of Genesis’ most memorable moments. They stayed faithful to the original arrangements while fleshing them out with additional instrumentation. From nuanced sensitivity to dramatic progressive rock, this was all about creative musicianship, while immersing us in English eccentricity and intricate songcraft, Hackett and his band effortlessly delivered delicate prose, wondrous melodies, and of course, the soaring lead guitar of our hero always at the centre of their universe.

Playing a 1957 Gibson Les Paul Goldtop for the majority of the show, Hackett’s consummate playing is awe inspiring and never flashy, full of texture and atmosphere ahead of showiness or extended soloing.

The show was divided into two parts. The first half of the performance was Second’s Out, which was a special choice as it highlights material lifted from several classic albums in the Genesis canon up to 1977 – perhaps that’s why Steve chose it.

A hugely successful double album at the time, it was recorded on their concert tour in support of 1976’s very good Wind & Wuthering album, and featured Hackett on guitar alongside Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Phil Collins, who had taken on the role of lead vocalist following the departure of Peter Gabriel. The tour also marked Steve’s final recordings with the band as he left to pursue an expansive solo career.

Opening with a series of Genesis classics from Squonk, The Carpet Crawlers and an exquisite version of Afterglow, it was on the beloved The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Foxtrot’s 23-minute magnum opus Supper’s Ready where vocalist Nad Sylvan really shined, bringing the material’s subtle tones and deep emotions to life, with a voice full of character, not far removed from Peter Gabriel’s, without trying to draw unnecessary attention or take away from Hackett’s incendiary guitar work.

The second half featured the entire Selling England By the Pound album in order, opening with Dancing with The Moonlit Knight through an extended take on I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe), both of which were superb renditions, the latter featuring Steve stretching out on guitar, as well as a remarkable sax solo from multi-instrumentalist Rob Townsend.

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Simply magnificent versions of landmarks Firth of Fifth and Cinema Show followed, both songs pivotal in Hackett’s significant Genesis contribution, and found Roger King replicating Tony Banks’ keyboard virtuosity, and sound, to brilliant effect. A thunderous Craig Blundell drum solo was included in the Dance on a Volcano encore which segued into one of the greatest musical pieces used to end a concert … Los Endos, before the band lined up to receive extended and rapturous applause. Tonight some of the best ever Genesis material was performed respectfully, but also not slavishly, and it was a wonderful thing to witness this essential music so alive again.

Posted in Genesis, Gigs, Phil Collins, Steve Hackett | 13 Comments

You Must Get Them All | Steve Pringle

Now Reading: Comprehensively immortalised in print by author Steve Pringle, You Must Get Them All is the first book to cover the entire catalogue of Britain’s post-punk colossus The Fall.

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The Fall produced a huge volume of high-quality work between 1978 and 2017 and, whether you can digest it all or not, the band’s enormous influence on the music scene, nor their integrity or refusal to compromise, can not be denied.

You Must Get Them All | The Fall On Record covers it all – from every single LP and track by track analysis in a considered and informative approach, through the legendary Manchester band’s multiple line-up changes, outtakes, setbacks, reinventions, compilations, EPs, singles, live albums, multiple Peel Sessions, almost 20 pages of Who’s Who in The Fall, and of course the one constant: the slashing intensity that was their mercurial frontman, Mark E Smith. Fittingly, ex-drummer Paul Hanley contributed the foreword.

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Originally the content was available via Steve Pringle’s excellent blog You Must Get Them All, however as Steve pointed out recently on the Oh! Brother podcast, the content has been massively updated and now expanded into print.

Perfect for obsessives of The Fall (like myself) and even those who dabble, this 600+ page tome also works as an excellent reference guide, and equally so a quick flick for fans and collectors alike.

The book is available now from Route Publishing who I must say have been extremely responsive in helping me with my panicked enquiries regarding it’s safe arrival on my doorstep in Melbourne, Australia.

Steve Pringle can be found via The Fall In Fives blog, through Twitter and on the excellent thefallinfives radio show.

Further Reading:

♥   The Fall – It’s On Forever

♥   More Album Cover Outtakes – This Nation’s Saving Grace

   The Fall – I Wake Up In The City

♥   The Big Midweek | Life Inside The Fall

♥   The Fall – Top 50 Songs

Posted in Fall, The, Now Reading | 4 Comments

Didn’t Know It Was A Cover | David Gilmour’s There’s No Way Out Of Here

While enjoying some much-needed respite from the claustrophobic Pink Floyd machine, David Gilmour summed up his fraught situation with one of his best solo efforts and the great ‘missing’ Floyd song: ‘There’s No Way Out of Here’ – but it was a cover!

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It’s no secret there were a lot of tensions within Pink Floyd during the making of Animals (1977), and while the band had completed a successful yet gruelling tour of North America, Gilmour and increasingly dominant bassist Roger Waters, were becoming restless within the group restrictions. In fact Gilmour was already turning out a solo album.

The guitarist had a yearning to get together with a bunch of guys in a room, play some tunes, “knock ’em down”, and put out a record. So, he teamed up with former colleagues Rick Wills and Willie Wilson, with whom he played in Joker’s Wild back home in Cambridge before he joined Pink Floyd (later to be part of the “surrogate band” during Floyd’s The Wall dates), and recorded his first solo album at Super Bear Studios in France; the bluesy, rocky outing, David Gilmour (Columbia, 1978).

The album finds our hero in relaxed and enthusiastic form, and is filled with confident, mid-tempo rock songs, highlighting Gilmour’s mesmeric guitar prowess in tone and style, and smouldering vocals. The sessions proved to be an important part in the overall Floyd story. While not included on the album, ‘Comfortably Numb’ was composed during these recording sessions, and sections of the instrumental ‘Raise My Rent’ were later adapted for The Wall centrepiece ‘Hey You’.

“The whole process of compromise is vital for a group, but it was nice not to have everything vetted.”

Stepping out of Pink Floyd’s shadow, Gilmour had championed the British folk-rock band Unicorn, around the time of Wish You Were Here, producing their very good third album Too Many Crooks (1976). One of the tracks on it, ‘No Way Out of Here’ penned by Unicorn bandleader Ken Baker, impressed Gilmour so much that he covered it for inclusion on his solo album, modifying the title to ‘There’s No Way Out of Here’, but preserving the feel, structure and tone of the original. It was even released as a single and Gilmour staged an excellent live performances to help promote it, however without the Pink Floyd ‘handle’, it flopped in the charts.

The track demonstrates just how much of the Floydian sound comes directly from Gilmour. Featuring a simple, yet powerful shifting chord structure, an attractive acoustic slide guitar/harmonica hook, soaring female backing vocals, and guitar fills of crystalline perfection, the cold melancholy of ‘There’s No Way Out of Here’ is easily the finest moment on David Gilmour, and arguably his definitive solo track, cover or not.

 

Further Reading:

♥   A Fleeting Glimpse

♥   Gilmour 1978 album interview

♥   Pink Floyd | Madison Square Garden, 1977

♥  David Gilmour’s Best Songs 

♥  Pink Floyd – Animals (1977)

Progrography – David Gilmour (1978)

Posted in David Gilmour, Didn't Know It Was a Cover, Pink Floyd | 8 Comments

The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue Outtakes & Demos

Defining the sounds of the 70’s by appropriating contemporary rock, funk and disco stylings on Emotional Rescue, these album outtakes and demos capture a band keeping things fresh within a changing musical landscape.

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The logical continuation of their tough and focused Some Girls (1978) album was the Rolling Stones under-appreciated fifteenth studio album Emotional Rescue, released this month in 1980. Peaking at number one on both sides of the Atlantic, the album marked a farewell to a decade the Stones barely made it out of alive.

This is also when ripples of arguments between Keith and Mick would grow into a rumble and the critics were sharpening their knives. However, the disco-infused title track charted high in the US (#3), and was praised by none other than John Lennon just days before he was murdered: “Mick Jagger has put out consistently good work for 20 years, and will they give him a break? Will they ever say, ‘Look at him, he’s 37 and he has a beautiful song, “Emotional Rescue”’? I enjoyed it, a lot of people enjoyed it.” Clearly Prince was a fan too, releasing one of his best albums later in the year with the synth-funk classic, Dirty Mind.

Hey, what am I doing standing here on the corner of West 8th Street and the 6th Avenue and ah, skip it, Keith what are you doing? (whistles)

I think the time has come to get up, get out!

Emotional Rescue is both a pleasure and a scream. The title track, as well as opening the record with the irresistible pimp-swagger of ‘Dance Pt.1′, seemed to generate the misconception that this was the Stones disco album. What it is in actual fact was a Charlie Watts/Bill Wyman rhythmic masterclass, and a Ronnie Wood and Keith Richards’ staccato rock guitar weaving showcase.

The album contains a wide range of styles such as reggae (‘Send it To Me’), ballads (‘All About You’), blues (‘Down in the Hole’), straight ahead rock and roll (‘Let Me Go’), funk (Dance Pt.1), and is more playful than its intense predecessor.

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The Stones recorded a lot of tracks for these sessions and some would find their way onto follow-up albums Tattoo You (1981) and Undercover (1983). With the exception of Where the Boys Go and Summer Romance, which were originally recorded Hollywood 1978, everything else on Emotional Rescue was recorded in Nassau, Bahamas early-’79, then Pathé Marconi in Paris (where Some Girls was recorded) from June to October.

With notable additions of long-time saxophonist Bobby Keys and engineer Chris Kimsey (Sticky Fingers, Some Girls), the sessions essentially included the core Stones band members and keyboardists Nicky Hopkins and the late-great Ian Stewart. The classic Stones line-up. Mick and Keith would spend time mixing and adding overdubs in November and December 1979 at Electric Lady Studios in New York before releasing the album in June 1980.

What we have here is an interesting selection of non-album, previously-circulating, tapes of outtakes and demos from the Emotional Rescue sessions (with 3 super-secret bonus tracks). This is far from a definitive collection, but what’s presented here is exactly what was on those tapes, capturing tracks and performances in-progress from this undervalued Stones era.

The Rolling StonesEmotional Rescue Outtakes & Demos mp3

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Summer Romance – On the acetate made with the final tracks, this rocking demo has an alternative lead vocal and was originally intended to open the album.

Let’s Go Steady – Cover of the Sam Cooke song features a wonderful Keith lead vocal with Kristi Kimsey is on backing vocals. Taken from the early Nassau sessions.

I Think I’m Going Mad – Keith making good use of his MXR Phase 100 pedal, a late-70s signature guitar sound, this is another early recording, along with ‘She’s So Cold’ and ‘All About You’, from the Nassau sessions. Ended up as the B-side to Undercover’s 7″ single She Was Hot.

Indian Girl – Shorter than any previously known version in circulation, the spoken line, “Mr. Gringo, my father he ain’t no Che Guevara”, is missing and the take (thankfully) also features fewer horn overdubs.

Emotional Rescue – A strange mix with a prominent Keith guitar part, eventually stripped off the album version, includes keyboards and backing vocals. Also features an echoey percussion effect at the start.

No Use In Crying – A raw and better version compared to what was used for follow-up album Tattoo You. Inspired lead and backing vocals here from Mick.

Where The Boys Go – Rough and rowdy early take, this has a cockney first-take guide vocal from Mick, with Keith on background vocals. The guitar solo is unedited unlike the tidied-up album version.

We Had It All – Cover of the Troy Seals and Donny Fritts heart-breaker, first released by Waylon Jennings in 1973. Lovely version and great lead vocal from Keith.

Neighbors – This is a monitor mix with early guide vocals and is rollicking and great rocking early version. Wound up on Tattoo You.

Dance – Rough demo. White hot guitar interplay from Ronnie and Keith, it’s basically an instrumental and funky as hell. You can hear Mick in the background whooping up a storm. If this is the Stones doing “disco”, then bring it on.

She’s So Cold – All time great single from Emotional Rescue, this cracking live version was recorded in Naples in 1982 from the Bootleg Collection 1969-1982.

Little T&A – Keith ripping into the instrumental version of a track salvaged for Tattoo You.

It’s Cold Down There – Mick doing his best cod-reggae voice (see ‘Indian Girl’), it’s a mostly-instrumental grinding rhythm that may have inspired Dance Pt.1.

Linda Lu – Cool cover of the rockabilly 1959 Ray Sharpe classic.

Further Reading:

♥   The Rolling Stones – Top 5 Modern-Era Tracks

♥   The Rolling Stones – Fully Finished Studio Outtakes

♥   The Rolling Stones – Still Life

♥   Waiting on a Friend

♥   The Rolling Stones – Drift Away

♥   Stones Alone

♥   More Album Cover Outtakes

♥   #16: Rolling Stones – Dirty Work (1986)

Posted in Downloads, Mixtapes, On This Day, Rolling Stones, The, Ron Wood | 9 Comments

Top 5 Songs – Andy Newmark

Andy Newmark’s prolific treasure trove of session work spans decades with some of the biggest names in the music business. The Press counts down the American drummer’s Top 5 Songs.

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The drummer impacts the music more than anyone else in a band put together, and is often what makes a band or breaks a band. The drummer’s voice is loud, but soft, and people feel it on the dance-floor and on a gut-primal level. But it can sneak past you. If you like some music, or love a band, you’re probably digging the drummer, and in many cases, it’s probably Andy Newmark.

Sitting comfortably alongside the era’s premier rock drummers like Steve Gadd, Jim Keltner, Rick Marotta, Kenney Jones, and Jim Gordon, Newmark’s economic style was influenced by drummers of the calibre of Earl Palmer and Tony Williams, and the undeniable feel of Sam & Dave, The Ventures, Chuck Berry and Otis Redding.

Newmark is one of those drummer who knows how to say a lot with less: a groove-oriented steady beat without unnecessary fireworks, overly gratuitous fills, or showiness. He got his big break with a young Carly Simon, drumming on early albums Anticipation (1971) and No Secrets (1972), before securing a major gig working with Sly and Family Stone on their classic Fresh (1973).

“Play simple, accompany the song”

Sly had inherited the funk torch from James Brown and was in the process of revolutionising the landscape of popular music by fusing jazz, funk, and soul in a combination that had never been heard before, or since. This launched the American-born drummer’s recording career, and he would tour with Sly in support of the album, with the Faces as the support band. It was on the European leg of the tour when Newmark was approached by Faces guitarist Ron Wood with an invitation to work on his first solo album.

Sessions took place outside London and featured Ian McLagan on keys and Keith Richards on guitar among others. Newmark had recently met nimble bassist Willie Weeks and everyone knew and loved him from Donny Hathaway’s seminal Live (1972) album. Weeks subsequently joined the sessions and the album I’ve Got My Own Album to Do (1974) broke things wide open for the Newmark/Weeks rhythm section. They then made a big splash in rock circles from 1973 to 1975 going from one big-name to another including David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Joe Walsh, Richard Thompson, Randy Newman and Rickie Lee Jones. They also recorded and toured with George Harrison in 1974.

However, this was just the beginning of Andy’s prestigious career. Notable sessions would follow throughout the 70’s and 80’s with and without Willie Weeks on bass, including; crunching out assembly-line product for CTI artists like George Benson and Nina Simone; working on the last two John Lennon albums Double Fantasy (1980) and Milk and Honey (1984); securing a formidable partnership with Bryan Ferry for Roxy Music’s Flesh and Blood (1979) and Avalon (1982), and many post-Roxy Ferry albums; stepping in for Nick Mason on Pink Floyd’s The Final Cut (1983), and solo projects with both Roger Waters and David Gilmour.

These Top 5 Songs selections serve as a tip-of-the-iceberg introduction to the great rock drummer.

Andy NewmarkTop 5 Songs

5. Ron Wood – I Can Feel the Fire

The swaggering opener off Ron Wood’s excellent first solo album I’ve Got My Own Album to Do (1974) is the loose, reggae-workout I Can Feel the Fire. Along with the Newmark/Weeks rhythm section, the track features Ronnie on vocals and guitar, McLagan, Keith, Mick Taylor on bass, and Jagger and Bowie on background vocals. What a line-up! While the tracks were being cut for the album, George Harrison had come down to give Ronnie his magnificent co-write Far East Man. George then asked Newmark and Weeks to join him at Friar Park to work on his upcoming record Dark Horse (1974). Later that year while on tour with Harrison, John Lennon came to one of the final shows in New York and was introduced to Newmark. This led to working together on…….

4. (Just Like) Starting Over – John Lennon

“Play like Ringo”. The Lennon connection: Several years later in 1980 the call came through producer Jack Douglas’ office requesting the Newmark/Weeks combo for a new project. It turned out to be Double Fantasy, Lennon’s final album. Recording took place at the Hit Factory in New York from 1 August 1980. Willie Weeks was unavailable so Tony Levin was eventually selected to play bass. John was straight and sober by now: positive, funny, talkative, in a great mood, and more importantly, accessible to the musicians. No more getting stoned on coke and weed or drunk every day, John had been out of the music biz raising a child and being a house husband living in New York City’s Dakota building for years. His biggest rush at this point was Brazilian coffee. This was a new crowd for Lennon too. Along with Andy Newmark, there was guitarists Earl Slick and Hugh McCracken, and keyboardist George Small who recorded enough material for two records, all cut in four weeks – Monday to Friday. Lennon was old-school. He wanted early takes, “Let’s not beat this over the head”. He wanted it stripped down to the bare bones, emphasising the groove, and he got it. The album was recorded live with no click track and these well-crafted pop songs were recorded conservatively with a no-fuss yet timeless precision. Listen out for the mid-song breakdown where two extra snare hits were sampled and flown in.

3. Avalon – Roxy Music

This sumptuous all time classic was written by Bryan Ferry who had built up the track alone in England with drum machines, added piano parts, humming vocals, and other overdubs. The track was recorded top to bottom with Newmark’s drums and Neil Jason’s bass playing together over the top of Ferry’s atmospheric drum loops. The disciplined Newmark plays with a cross-stick and improvises on the two and the four on the verse, and in the chorus he’s on the beat and off the beat, playing to a click, but mixing it up. It really is a lesson in groove-oriented drumming. The album was recorded in a week upstairs at New York’s Power Station studio, engineered and mixed by Bob Clearmountain.

2. Young Americans – David Bowie

Young Americans (1975) was recorded at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia where all the hugely successful Philly soul records were made by the famous American songwriting and production team of Gamble and Huff in the 70’s on Philadelphia International Records. Newmark and Weeks play on much of the Bowie album, except the tracks Fame and Across the Universe (recorded later at Electric Lady in NYC with John Lennon), with Mike Garson (keys), David Sanborn (sax) and Carlos Alomar (guitar). According to Newmark: “A besuited Bowie walked in looking like a fashion model, introduced himself, and got to work. He was all business, friendly, but very focussed and articulate. Bowie could talk to each musician individually and be able to articulate exactly what he needed, speaking our language. Visconti was there but mainly in an engineering role with Bowie calling all the shots, completely in charge, essentially producing the sessions.” When the title track breaks down two-thirds of the way through and time stops, Bowie sings, “Ain’t there one damn song that can make me break down and cry”, there’s a drum fill that brings the record back in that’s bathed in echo because it’s so out of time. Visconti was noted to have said, “Andy that drum fill is so out of time I had to put reverb and slap-back on it to disguise it”. Oh the good old days!

1. In Time – Sly and the Family Stone

The track breaks down like this: one on the bass drum, four-16th notes on the hi-hat, into the two, with no back beat. Got that? The opener off Fresh was recorded in Sly’s home studio in Bel Air, the former residence of John Phillips (The Mamas and the Papas) and has a weird yet addictive syncopation. Original bassist Larry Graham had left the band by now and it’s no secret everyone was out of it. By now Sly and the Family Stone still had a magical reputation having just released one of the great funk-rock albums ever: There’s A Riot Goin’ On (1971).  For In Time, Sly, a non-drummer, sat down at the kit and played it the best he could for Newmark, who then took it away, worked it up and out, and eventually nailed it. Sly encouraged over-indulgence and to get down and dirty. Vamping on one or two chords was the order of the day, Sly was moving away from the straight song-oriented music, more getting off on the pure funkiness. A Rhythm Ace drum machine provides the pre-programmed foundation of the tracks. What sounded to anyone like corny nightclub shtick, Sly heard it as a perfect groove. After Fresh, Newmark never played like this again.

Further Listening:

♥   Carly Simon – The Right Thing to Do (1973)

♥   Sly and the Family Stone – If You Want Me to Stay (1973)

♥   Cat Stevens – (Remember the Days of the) Old Schoolyard (1977)

♥   George Harrison – Blow Away (1979)

♥   Rickie Lee Jones – Chuck E’s in Love (1979)

♥   Pink Floyd – Two Suns in the Sunset (1983)

♥   John Lennon – Nobody Told Me (1984)

♥   Roger Waters – 5:06AM (Every Stranger’s Eyes) (1984)

♥   Bryan Ferry – Sensation (1985)

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From top left: Hugh McCracken, Andy Newmark, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Jack Douglas, Arthur Jenkins, Jr. From bottom left: Tony Levin, Earl Slick, George Small

Posted in Andy Newmark, Bryan Ferry, David Bowie, Joe Walsh, John Lennon, Pink Floyd, Ron Wood, Roxy Music, Sly and the Family Stone, Top 5 Songs | 13 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

Curiously, the cinematic image that would grace the cover of U2’s classic album The Joshua Tree was not taken at California’s namesake national park, but rather some 250 miles north at Zabriskie Point. 

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Many fans assume that the cover was shot in the Joshua Tree National Park, but the band’s fifth album, which catapulted them into superstardom, actually features a shot of the band in the barren desert at the edge of Death Valley.

‘Desert meets civilisation’ was the loose theme when photographer Anton Corbijn, using a panoramic camera, captured the band in November 1986 for an album which had a working title of The Two Americas.

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The band and photographer had embarked on a road trip through the desolate Californian locations of Death Valley, Zabriskie Point and the Mojave Desert to scout imagery that would suit the sleeve for their next project. Having secured some great shots, Corbijn was approached by Bono, who had another idea:

There’s a tree that I really love – it’s called the Joshua Tree. It’ll be brilliant to have it on the front and the band will be on the back.

Legend has it that pioneers named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding travellers westward. Bono knew about Joshua from his Bible studies and thought it would be a great title for the album.

They sped down Route 190, and it was near Darwin, California, just west of Death Valley, where they found what they were looking for. Usually found grouped in large numbers, there was a Joshua Tree standing all on its own.

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U2 spent 20 minutes posing with the lone tree before the winter chill drove them back into the bus. While the iconic Joshua Tree did not make it to the front cover, it does appear to the right of the band on the back cover and also directly between them in the middle of the inside gatefold shot. If you look closely you can see a mirror in the bottom left of the photograph, so everybody could check out how they looked. Bono explained:

It was freezing and we had to take our coats off so it would at least look like a desert. That’s one of the reasons we look so grim.

Ultimately, a shot of the band standing in front of Zabriskie Point was chosen as the cover image, and it became one of the most iconic covers in rock history. Sleeve designer and art director Steve Averill, Corbijn and U2 collectively felt the stark black-and-white widescreen of the band in the foreground with the dramatic lunar landscape behind them better reflected where the music was going, and the Joshua Tree title and image itself was nothing more than a happy accident.

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The Joshua Tree is not the only project connected to the location. The 1970 Michelangelo Antonioni film of the same name (soundtrack and album by Pink Floyd) staged an orgy scene at the site. Scenes from the Star Wars TV series The Mandalorean were also shot there, and philosopher Michel Foucault notably called his 1975 acid trip at Zabriskie Point the greatest experience of his life.

Posted in Album Covers, Images, U2 | 15 Comments

Top 5 Songs – Sex Pistols

It’s been well over 40 years since the Sex Pistols’ furious rock and rollercoaster ride and poke in the eye of the establishment changed the world, and no one has come close to equalling their cultural impact or influence on the rock music landscape. The Press counts down the quintessential punk rocker’s Top 5 Songs (and one secret honourable mention).

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There’s been a lot written about the ground breaking punk rock group, and there’s a lot of reasons to love them, including: rescuing rock; saying ‘fuck’ on telly; sarcastic attacks on pretentious affectations at the very foundation of British society; a spectacular 1978 crash-and-burn USA flameout, and the cherry-on-top declining their induction into the stuffy Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and subsequent middle-finger refusal to attend by announcing: “Next to the Sex Pistols the rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain…we’re not coming.” 

No matter how conceived, marketed, groomed and clothed they were, the importance of the Pistols cannot be overstated. So much more than a New York Dolls spin-off, or a shameless Svengali manager (Malcolm McLaren) hype machine. Amid the filth and the fury, these four young Londoners where thrown together and into the deep end, but like Frankenstein’s monster, the band escaped it’s creator and wreaked havoc across the land, sparking a musical revolution, before being hounded to destruction by the villages with flaming torches.

John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, was a hurricane of obnoxiousness, personifying the punk genre. His lyrics were searingly relevant and had a snotty-nosed arrogance and a sneering venomous vocal delivery. The original group was made up of rock and roll tearaway Steve Jones, who’s guitar kicked in windows, bassist Glen Matlock, later replaced by Sid Vicious, and steady drummer Paul Cook. They recorded a dozen timeless guitar rock songs in Virgin’s glittering Wessex studio, with help from Bill Price and pro Roxy Music’s producer Chris Thomas, in a style veering towards bands they admired including the glam of Bowie and Roxy, and straightforward rock and roll of The Faces and Mott the Hoople.

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The result is still one of the finest and most inspiring rock albums of all time. NEVER MIND THE BOLLOCKS HERE’S THE SEX PISTOLS (1977) ★★★★★, was bottled lightening and a revelation, conveying a surging, relentless energy that was the essence and spirit of punk rock, combined with layers of nerve-frazzling guitar pyrotechnics and incensed, snarling lyrics reflecting the despair and disillusionment of society in the 1970s that gripped a sizeable portion of England’s younger generation. It was also the band’s only proper album.     

The Pistols’ rise to prominence and notoriety was meteoric, but echoes of its brief, sordid, and tragic saga remain in the rock annuls to this present day. Danny Boyle’s (very good) Sex Pistols drama, based on Lonely Boy: Tales From a Sex Pistol the 2017 Steve Jones memoir, supposedly highlights the band’s status as riotous pranksters and antagonists of the British institution, is due to air immanently and is on track to cause quite a storm if the court proceedings and inter-band all-time-low relationship is anything to go by.

The Sex Pistols were a distillation of all the best of what had gone before in teenage rebellion. They were loud, noisy and perfectly articulated the frustration, rage, and dissatisfaction of the British working class with the establishment. They also didn’t care what anyone thought. They came from nowhere to generate a legend and then imploded before they could turn into what they despised. What more could you really ask of any band?

Sex PistolsTop 5 Songs

5. EMI

The last track on Never Mind the Bollocks is a sarcastic commentary on a major record label cashing in on the punk phenomenon. EMI had signed the Pistols to a two year contract in late-1976 but dumped the band due to political pressures and lurid tabloid press only months later. Finally Virgin Records signed them, and released their classic debut album. The Pistols were signed by four labels and dumped by three in their brief existence. Now that’s punk.

4. Holidays in the Sun

The opening track on Bollocks was the band’s fourth and essentially last single (with Rotten on vocals), and was inspired by a ‘holiday’ to Berlin and the Berlin Wall in March 1977, due to being banned in Britain. Despite being a huge hit at the time, peaking at number 8 on the UK charts, it still seems like an underrated gem.

3. Pretty Vacant

If the Monkees had been a punk band, they’d have sounded like this. The Pistols’ third single, released in July 1977 and peaking at number 6, is an anthem of teenage apathy and heralds the timeless Steve Jones brilliant and catchy opening riff. The lyrics are savaging vapid personalities and Rotten phrases the word ‘vacant’ as “va-cunt” sneaking that past the potential censors.

1 and 2. Tie: Anarchy in the UK and God Save the Queen

As well worn as they are, these are a couple of the greatest rock singles ever. Pop music meets political dissent. Regarding the best, I find it hard to choose between the two lightening rods: Anarchy in the UK and God Save The Queen. They are both landmarks in rock history and both fine exponents of counter-culture zeitgeist. Underneath the shock tactics and theatrical negativity were masterful social critiques carefully designed for maximum impact with just great riffing rock. Steve Jones’ guitars are simply enormous. And what an impact they had. ‘Anarchy’ was the band’s first single and was one hell of a shock at the time when it hit the airwaves in late 1976. But ‘Queen’ is pure in your face rock and roll with its vicious delivery of the (still) highly controversial lyrics on adult apathy, governmental disregard and vapidity. The last sentence no future, no future for you is what a lot youngsters felt, and is still relevant today, even if there are no artists singing about it.

Honourable Mention – Silly Thing

I can’t let this article go by without mentioning the rock and roll treasure that is Silly Thing. Obviously lacking the irreverence and bile of Lydon, it’s co-written by Steve Jones and Paul Cook, and while far from obscure, Silly Thing is perhaps more underrated than anything else, but still a post-Rotten Pistols classic. Recorded in March 1978, it was included in the 1979 soundtrack album The Great Rock and Roll Swindle, and this version is sung by Cooky and has a tuneful ‘unpunk’ descending chord progression.

Another version with Steve Jones taking the lead vocal was recorded in early-79 in the same studio as Never Mind the Bollocks, and engineered by one of the same producers, Bill Price. It was released as a single in March 1979, and is even better than the Swindle cut. It has a charming Johnny Thunders-esque simplicity about it, and is one hell of an ear worm and firm all-time rock favourite.

Posted in Sex Pistols, Steve Jones, Top 5 Songs | 34 Comments

Duderama – No I In Dream

Duderama’s latest creative endeavour has just been released in Bandcamp: No I In Dream.

PurchaseBandcamp / Amazon

StreamSpotify Soundcloud  / YouTube

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The singles The Gist, Annihilate Together and Unmasked videos below. Treat yourself!

Written, performed and produced by Duderama
Recorded at Surface to Air Studios, Melbourne
Mastering and art design by Duderama

© 2022 Surface to Air Records Inc.

Posted in Bandcamp, Downloads, Duderama | 4 Comments

Frank Zappa – Läther 

Originally conceived as a contractually obliged four-record set in 1977, the ill-fated Läther was eventually released posthumously as a triple album on Rykodisc and remains among the artist’s finest work.

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Zappa’s career was peppered with conflicts and legal problems with record companies; none more so than the tangled non-release of the sprawling quadruple LP Läther (pronounced “leather”) in 1977. By the mid-70s The Mothers were a thing of the past and Frank was concentrating on his solo career with the release of a wealth of material including the sumptuous live outing Roxy & Elsewhere (1974), the slick One Size Fits All (1975), and the masterpiece of dark, sleazy rock Zoot Allures (1976), among many others. However, the prolific artist was forced to make what amounted to a new career start after his then-record label Warner Bros. prevented the release of his new project before claiming he owed them four more albums.

Warner decided not to pay the amount they contractually owed Zappa, thinking that he’d thrown the package together just to free himself from his recording contract. A lawsuit ensued during which no Zappa material was released for more than a year meanwhile Zappa responded by playing the entire thing on a KROQ-FM radio show in 1977, encouraging fans to: “Don’t buy it, tape it.

Warner Bros, claiming rights over the material, dismembered Läther and staggered the release of four separate yet very good albums over the next two years via DiscReet Records, without Zappa’s approval or any songwriting and production credits, and commissioned cartoonist Gary Panter best known for his work in Raw Comix to create the rather underwhelming artwork.

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The first of these records was the excellent double live album ZAPPA IN NEW YORK (1978) ★★★★★, the only one of the four produced with some Zappa oversight, and the only one with its packaging and liner notes preserved. Serving as a great introduction to his music with a smoking-hot ensemble, including Terry Bozio on drums and percussionist Ruth Underwood, Zappa takes the opportunity to drastically revisit some of his finest work in different arrangements (eg: ‘Sofa’, ‘The Torture Never Stops’), as well as debuting new material such as ‘Honey Don’t You Want a Man Like Me’ which finds Frank at the height of his comic stagecraft, and the outstanding instrumental piece ‘I Promise Not to Come in Your Mouth’, later re-named as the title track to Läther

STUDIO TAN (1978) ★★★½, was released later the same year and consisted of only four tracks featuring the Roxy & Elsewhere band. Side one was taken up by the 20-minute shaggy-dog opera of ‘Greggery Peccary’ which finds Zappa’s juvenile humour and hamfisted parody of rock and roll outshone by some remarkable instrumental passages. The piece was painstakingly assembled in the studio over three years and bridges the comedy of Flo & Eddie with the quirky big-band jazz feel of The Grand Wazoo (1973), while side two’s major highlight is the exhilarating instrumental album closer ‘RDNZL’. 

The next album to receive the Warner Bros treatment was SLEEP DIRT (1979) ★★★★★, consisting of a miscellany of seven tracks recorded between 1974 and 1976. Initially released as an entirely instrumental album (later had vocals added on various CD reissues), it remains perhaps Zappa’s most overlooked gem. The album hosts some major career highlights including the menacing ‘Filthy Habits’ and exquisite ‘Re-Gyptian Strut’, two of Zappa’s best songs, as well as the title track which sparkles around a subdued guitar duo of acoustic virtuosity, before the crowning Zappian instrumental achievement, the 13-minute ‘The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution’. The title wasn’t Frank’s either as he told Record Review in 1979:

I might point out that Sleep Dirt is not the name of the album. That’s just a further violation of the original contract. The original title of that album, as delivered to them, was Hot Rats III. I presume that’s just another snide attempt to undermine the merchandising of it. If you saw an album sitting in the rack with the title Sleep Dirt on it, you probably wouldn’t be too intrigued by it. And based on the job they did with the cover of Studio Tan, they made all of the packaging as unappealing as possible. – FZ 

The final album was ORCHESTRAL FAVORITES (1979) ★★★, another entirely instrumental set consisting of five tracks recorded with a 37-piece orchestra at the UCLA campus theatre in 1975. The album includes familiar Zappa numbers such as a marvellous new arrangement of ‘Duke of Prunes’, originally off 1967’s Absolutely Free, and ‘Strictly Genteel’ the finale of 200 Motels (1971).

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As for Läther, it had a posthumous 3CD release in 1996 and again in 2012 reinstating the originally intended artwork, and according to Gail Zappa’s booklet notes in the CD set; “As originally conceived by Frank, Läther was always a 4-record box set”. It mixes previously available material, alternate mixes and edits, and previously unissued tracks where only the most serious Zappaphiles fans will have a good grip on exactly what has appeared where, when and how.

While the official CD version of Läther is reportedly identical to the test-pressings of the original quadruple album, four bonus tracks were added to the 1996 release, and the title of the song ‘One More Time for the World’ was changed to ‘The Ocean is the Ultimate Solution’, the title under which the same song appears on Sleep Dirt.

References: 

♥   The Official Frank Zappa Messageboards 

♥   Frank Zappa on Allmusic

♥   Frank Zappa: The Central Instrumentalizer Vol I 

♥  Frank Zappa: The Central Instrumentalizer Vol II

♥   Jazz Rock Fusion Guitar

Frank Zappa – Läther (1996) [2012] mp3

2 Back

Disc one

  1. Re-Gyptian Strut – Appears on Sleep Dirt (1979). 4:36
  2. Naval Aviation in Art? – Appears on Orchestral Favorites (1979). 1:32
  3. A Little Green Rosetta – Previously unreleased. 2:48
  4. Duck Duck Goose – Previously unreleased. 3:01
  5. Down in De Dew – Previously unreleased (The Grand Wazoo/Waka Jawaka sessions outtake). 2:57
  6. For the Young Sophisticate – Previously unreleased (Overnite Sensation Outtake). 3:14
  7. Tryin’ to Grow a Chin – Previously unreleased. 3:26
  8. Broken Hearts Are for Assholes – Previously unreleased. 4:40
  9. The Legend of the Illinois Enema Bandit – Appears on Zappa in New York. 12:41
  10. Lemme Take You to the Beach – Appears on Studio Tan. 2:46
  11. Revised Music for Guitar & Low Budget Orchestra – Appears on Studio Tan. 7:36
  12. RDNZL – Appears on Studio Tan. 8:14

Disc two

  1. Honey, Don’t You Want a Man Like Me? – Different edit of the version that appears on Zappa in New York. The ZINY version is a single performance while the Läther version is a combination of two different performances. 4:56
  2. The Black Page Part 1 – A longer take appears on Zappa in New York with a drum solo included. 1:57
  3. Big Leg Emma – Appears on Zappa in New York. 2:11
  4. Punky’s Whips – Appears on Zappa in New York with a different mix and alternate guitar solo. 11:06
  5. Flambé – A longer version appears on Sleep Dirt under the title ‘Flam Bay’. 2:05
  6. The Purple Lagoon – Appears on Zappa in New York. 16:20
  7. Pedro’s Dowry – Appears on Orchestral Favorites. 7:45
  8. Läther – Appears on Zappa in New York under the title ‘I Promise Not to Come in Your Mouth’. 3:50
  9. Spider of Destiny – A longer version appears on Sleep Dirt. 2:40
  10. The Duke of Orchestral Prunes – Appears on Orchestral Favorites. 4:21

Disc three

  1. Filthy Habits – A longer version appears on Sleep Dirt. Outtake from Zoot Allures (1976). 7:12
  2. Titties & Beer – Appears on Zappa in New York (1978). 5:23
  3. The Ocean Is the Ultimate Solution (Originally entitled “One More Time for the World”) – A longer version appears on Sleep Dirt. 8:31
  4. The Adventures of Greggery Peccary – Appears on Studio Tan. 21:00

All tracks written by Frank Zappa.

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Posted in Album Covers, Albums That Never Were, Downloads, Frank Zappa | 7 Comments

Queen – News of the World (1977)

The terrifying cover art for Queen’s sixth album, 1977’s News of the World, is an adaptation of a painting by science fiction illustrator Frank Kelly Freas.

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Originally designed for an October 1953 issue of the comic book “Astounding”, it features the robot holding the dead body of a man, and captioned, “Please… fix it, Daddy?” to illustrate the story The Gulf Between by Tom Godwin. The robot killing the man was likened to a child injuring a bug and looking up at his parents saying “what have I done?”

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A science fiction artist with an awe-inspiring body of work, Frank Kelly Freas was involved in the science fiction field from 1950 until his death in 2005. He painted everything from pieces for NASA, book covers, magazine covers, buxom beauties, nose art on fighter planes, even Mad Magazine’s Alfred E Newman, as well as the covers for the GURPS books for Lensman and Planet Krishna. He won numerous awards, and was often hailed of “The Dean of Science Fiction Artists.”

Drummer Roger Taylor, a huge fan of science fiction, had the comic book and shared the image with his band mates who were similarly inspired. They contacted Freas and he agreed to alter it for their cover of News of the World.

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The figures in the original painting were cleverly replaced with Queen band members. Freddy Mercury and Brian May were put into the robot’s hand, while John Deacon and Taylor were falling to the ground. You can only see Taylor on the back cover.

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The LP inner gatefold image is the same robot reaching into the dome while crowds of panic stricken people run for their lives. The inside cover was also used to promote the band’s North American tour of 1977.

It’s one of rock’s great and most identifiable album covers, and has become something of a pop-art curio, even featured heavily in an episode of Family Guy. News of the World is one of the band’s most satisfying albums, and contains definitive Queen stadium-filling stompers like We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions, as well as the blistering heavy rock of Sheer Heart Attack.

There is also campy crooning (My Melancholy Blues), bluesy shuffles (Sleeping on the Sidewalk), breezy Latin rhythms (Who Needs You), neo-disco (Fight From the Inside), and mechanical funk (Get Down, Make Love) which the band would explore fully on subsequent albums such as Jazz (1978), The Game (1980), and the unfairly maligned Hot Space (1982). Best of all though is the majestic and underrated Queen classic, It’s Late.

Further Reading:

♥  #3 Greatest Worst Albums of All Time: Queen – Hot Space (1982)

♥  Queen – Deep Cuts Pt.1

Posted in Album Covers, Images, Queen | 11 Comments

Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums

Britain in the 1970s, when bloated supergroups and progressive rock bands roamed the Earth, young pioneers obsessed by European experimental music like Kraftwerk, punk’s attitude, and Bowie’s glam-rock and icy Berlin-trilogy, were distilling these influences and dreaming of a future of pop music with guitars replaced by synthesizers.

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Sci-fi movies, the other-worldliness of TV shows such as Dr Who and Blakes 7, and JG Ballard’s Crash, captured the zeitgeist and had a profound effect on a generation of would-be electronic musicians. Wendy Carlos’ orchestrated synth-bass soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was also a big inspiration, sinking deep into the psyche of young British musicians. So too the hypnotic and driving Giorgio Moroder’s concept albums with Donna Summer from the mid-late 1970s. The influence Kraftwerk albums like Autobahn and Trans Europe Express had on the European synth-pop movement was the equivalent of Anarchy in the UK for a generation of punk rockers.

Coming out of the supernova of post-punk, the attitude of the Damned, the Clash and the Sex Pistols inspired a generation of young aspiring musicians with an interest in electronic music to do it themselves. The alienated synthesists with their short hair, trench coats and suits, took the attitude of punk and made music nobody had ever heard before. Unfortunately synthesizers in Britain in the mid-70s were expensive and only associated with technically gifted progressive musicians. However advances in technology by the late-70s heralded the invention of the affordable synths like the Korg Micro-Preset, Selena String Synth, and the Transcendent 2000, inspiring many homemade effects units.

Major record labels would largely ignore synth-based music forcing early electronic pioneers such as Joy Division and OMD towards newly formed independents like the Manchester-based Factory Records. Through the likes of The Normal, a short-lived alias for Dan Miller, owner of Mute Records, Depeche Mode and Vince Clarke’s Erasure and Yazoo would sign to the label, opened thousands of minds to the possibilities of electronic dance music, and later Northern Soul.

It embodied a sense of futurism and importantly sounded interesting and like nothing else that had come before. The future of pop music had arrived and then kicked into the stratosphere with the enormous success of the likes of Gary Numan, Ultravox and Visage, who would launch the synthesizer from a post-punk experimental tool to the instrument of choice in the 1980s. Furthermore artists such as the Pet Shop Boys and New Order, and their inscrutable club cool, would spearhead the future of British electronica and beyond.

It was the antithesis of British rock ‘n roll traditions: four guys, guitar/bass/drums, conventional rock and roll trousers, and despite a Battle Royale taking place between the artists, their fans, and the overwhelmingly vicious rock-based British music press of the day and associated rock traditionalists, their dreams had become a reality.

We present here 10 key albums of British synth-pop from the early formative records of a generation of post-punk musicians who had taken the synthesizer from the fringes of experimentation of the 70s to the centre of the pop stage in the 80s.

1. Tubeway ArmyReplicas (1979)

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A perfect form of synth-pop came along in the form of Gary Numan from London with a massive hit record, gigantic sales and extraordinary success, he was Britain’s first synth pinup pop star bringing electronic music to the masses and making good use of the minimoog. The future had arrived. He loved sci-fi, he was a punk and alien in appearance. Replicas is a flawless record and was no fluke: A Pleasure Principle (1979) and Telekon (1980) would follow to huge commercial success despite being savaged by the music press. Key Tracks: Down in the Park, Are ‘Friends’ Electric.

2. Simple MindsReal to Real Cacophony (1979)

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The great Scottish band Simple Minds began life as Johnny and the Self-Abusers, unsurprisingly changing their name and developing a stark and powerful sound and stage show, and by this their second album was an uncompromising mix of oblique electronic experimentation and ambient atmospherics. It didn’t sell but the band toured extensively and would go on to conquer the world with their versatile European electro-pop sound culminating with their breakthrough classic New Gold Dream 81, 82, 83, 84 (1984). Key Tracks: Real to Real, Calling Your Name.

3. JapanQuiet Life (1979)

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The London outfit began life as part of the punk rock scene with their own distinct brand of glam-metal funk. Their third album Quiet Life is the album where their distinctive sound began to emerge, and transformed Japan from past-tense glam rockers into futuristic synth pop idols. The guitars were toned down in favour of the synthesizer and charismatic singer David Sylvian’s voice shifted from strangulated screaming to a cool baritone. Key Tracks: Quiet Life, All Tomorrow’s Parties.

4. John Foxx – Metamatic (1980)

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Ultravox! leader John Foxx left the band in 1979 after their third album System of a Down (1979), under guidance of renowned German producer Conny Plank, failed to achieve the success they desired. Foxx pursued a solo career and in 1980 released this remarkable solo album further exploring themes of urban isolation delivered in a challenging post-glam electronic pop sound. Key Tracks: Underpass, No-One Driving.

5. Human LeagueTravelogue (1980)

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After a brief tenure as The Future, Sheffield’s Human League, with key members Phil Oakey on lead vocals and Martyn Ware on synthesizers, were one of the more important early British synth pioneers and influences. This intriguing second album from the band found them covering Mick Ronson but also included plenty of strong original material. Artistic differences led Ware quitting to form Heaven 17. The Human League would later realise the success they deserved with a new lineup and the landmark Dare (1981) album, achieving global fame and crystallising a new synth-pop sound. Key Tracks: Only After Dark, Being Boiled.

6. UltravoxVienna (1980)

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With the departure of John Foxx and the addition of new lead vocalist in the form of versatile former Rich Kid Midge Ure, Ultravox went from arch post-punk to effortlessly stylised synth-pop cool. It all came together here with the exquisite title track leading the way. This was the start of their best-known and most commercially successful lineup throughout the 1980s. Key Tracks: Vienna, Sleepwalk.

7. VisageVisage (1980)

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Incorporating elements of the developing but short-lived ‘new romantic’ scene, top level talent in the form of Midge Ure and Billie Currie from Ultravox, and Barry Adamson  and John McGeoch from Magazine, joined Steve Strange to form Visage scoring a top 10 hit with the Eurodisco synth masterpiece Fade to Grey in 1980, only weeks before Vienna became Ultravox’s biggest hit and best remembered track. With evocative French female vocals, distant sirens and pulsing layers of synthesizers, it was heavily influenced by Kraftwerk’s icy electronics via Bowie’s cutting edge Berlin Trilogy. Key Tracks: Fade to Grey, Mind of a Toy.

8. Depeche ModeSpeak & Spell (1981)

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From the unlikely origins in Basildon, Essex, Depeche Mode reinvented synth music as pop with this groundbreaking debut record. Produced by Dan Miller (The Normal) who introduced the band and leader Vince Clarke to the ARP 2600, Moog and Yamaha synthesizers, this band with their UK Top 10 single, would become the biggest pop act of the year. Heavily influenced by early Human League and Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, Clarke unexpectedly quit after this album, however Depeche Mode would go on to enormous commercial worldwide success, particularly in the US, throughout the 80s and 90s. Key Tracks: New Life, I Just Can’t Get Enough.

9. Thomas DolbyThe Golden Age of Wireless (1982)

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Formerly a session keyboard pro working with the likes of Lene Lovich, Foreigner and even Def Leppard, multi-instrumentalist and studio wiz Thomas Dolby released his first solo album in 1982 packed with thoughtful, introspective, and finely-crafted synth-based pop transmissions to modest sales until the release of the remarkable single She Blinded Me With Science which became a firm favourite in the US. Key Tracks: She Blinded Me With Science, Radio Silence.

10. New OrderPower, Corruption & Lies (1983)

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Emerging out of the ashes of Joy Division, few could have predicted Manchester’s New Order would become one of the seminal groups of the 1980s, essentially inventing the the electro club culture with perfect singles such as Blue Monday which became the best selling 12″ of all time. Departing the tentative steps of 1981’s Movement, this is their first true album and an outstanding set of songs fully realising the creative conflict and originality of their human and electronic sides. Key Tracks: Your Silent Face, 5-8-6.

Further Listening:

Throbbing Gristle – 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979)

Cabaret Voltaire – Red Mecca (1981)

Heaven 17 – Penthouse and Pavement (1981)

Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark – Architecture and Morality (1981)

Soft Cell – Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (1981)

Yazoo – Upstairs at Eric’s (1982)

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983)

Listen in Spotify:

Posted in Human League, The, Japan, Simple Minds, Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums | 9 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

Kiss – The solo albums (1978)

The painted images used for the Kiss solo albums, all released on 18 September 1978, were based on the cover of a 1977 Kiss world tour glossy. Only Ace Frehley’s image doesn’t match up. A minor detail has been added, can you spot it?  The final artwork was presented and manager Bill Aucoin said Gene needed some blood, so the artist Eraldo Carugati pulled out a brush and little paint kit and completed it on the spot.

Earlier in the year, the band released their first proper compilation album, Double Platinum. Amazingly, inside the gatefold were these images yet again, although much less effective.

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Kiss – Dressed to Kill (1975)

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While we’re on Kiss, Bob Gruen shot the cover to their third album Dressed To Kill on the southwest corner of 23rd Street and Eighth Avenue, New York City on October 26, 1974. The album was hastily recorded and released although contained their rock ‘n roll anthem Rock and Roll All Nite. Can you spot the missing S?

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Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention – Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970)

Zappa commissioned Neon Park to paint the cover of his new album after seeing an advertisement in a men’s pulp magazine. The title came from a cover story ‘Weasels Ripped My Flesh’ about the adventure of a guy, naked to the waist, in the water swarming with weasels, climbing on him and biting him. So Frank said, “This is it. What can you do that’s worse than this?

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Pink Floyd – Obscured By Clouds (1972)

Rather unfathomably, the album cover for Pink Floyd’s Obscured by Clouds is a blurred image of a man in a tree, a screen shot from the French film La Vallée, by Barbet Schroeder. Designed by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell of Hipgnosis, the photograph has been taken out of focus to the point of complete distortion for reasons that aren’t clear. Interestingly Obscured By Clouds marked the last time Pink Floyd lyrics were written by somebody other than Roger Waters until 15 years later, on A Momentary Lapse Of Reason.

Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night (1975)

Two brilliant Neil Young albums, Greatest Hits (2004), rehearsing backstage at The Spectrum, Philadelphia, June, 1970 shot by Joel Bernstein, and the seminal Tonight’s the Night (1975), Neil in seersucker shot by Dutch photographer Gissbert Hanekroot, and the original photographs used for these iconic sleeves. Note Neil’s matching handwritten style on both albums, with the Greatest Hits packaging tipping it’s hat to the 1975 classic. In Shakey, Young’s autobiography, Neil maintains that along with the inserts for Tonight’s the Night, there was a small package of glitter inside the sleeve that was meant to fall out (“our Bowie statement“), spilling when the listener took the record out. A copy of Tonight’s the Night featuring the glitter package is yet to be found.

The Human League – Dare (1981)

The iconic cover design is attributed to ‘Philip and Adrian’ (ie. Oakey and Wright) with photography by Brian Ars and layout and coordination by Ken Ansell. The photography, font, logo, typography, and close-up face idea, not to mention album’s title, closely resembles the cover of fashion magazine Vogue’s April 1979 edition.

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982)

Bruce’s dark and brooding Nebraska album cover suits the music contained therein so very well. It was shot by photographer David Michael Kennedy, who recalls:

The cover shot was taken from the window of an old pick-up truck in the dead of winter. I was on a road trip, and my girlfriends brother was driving. We were in a super great snow storm and within minutes of this shot the storm hit hard and we were in total white out for hours. I thought that image might be my last! This was in the winter of 1975 and I had just finished a rough couple of months in New York City. I decided to take a road trip and have a bit of Rest and Relaxation. At that time I was doing a lot of fashion and advertising work as well as beginning to shoot covers but I really needed to get back to my roots and just do some images for me. So off on the road I went.”

“When Bruce was working on the Nebraska album he had an idea for a landscape in mind for the cover. He was working with Andy Klein as the art director on the cover. Andy was familiar with my portraits and she also was aware of my landscape work so she asked me to put together some of my landscapes to show to Bruce. He fell in love with the image (that became the cover) and knew it was right for the cover.

New Order – Power, Corruption and Lies (1983)

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New Order’s quite brilliant Power, Corruption and Lies album design is a reproduction of Henri Fantin-Latour’s extraordinarily painting from 1882, A Basket of Roses which is part of the National Gallery’s permanent collection in London. Peter Saville designed the sleeve for the band and included a colour-based code to represent New Order and the title in the top right corner of the album.

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Saville had originally planned to use a Renaissance portrait of a dark prince to tie in with the Machiavellian theme of the title, but could not find a suitable portrait. At the gallery Saville picked up a postcard of Fantin-Latour’s painting and his girlfriend mockingly asked him if he was going to use it for the cover. Saville then realised it was a great idea. Saville suggested that the flowers “suggested the means by which power, corruption and lies infiltrate our lives. They’re seductive.”

Pavement – Crooked Rain Crooked Rain (1994)

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Pavement’s homemade album designs are timeless, none more so than their classic 1994 sophomore album Crooked Rain Crooked Rain. “Luck on every finger” is the inscription written below the centre image and the phrase flanks an image of a woman’s hands adorned in turquoise rings and clutching a betting card for horseracing. 

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Steve Malkmus made up the line and the cover art,” explains the great percussionist Bob Nastanovich, referring to the band’s singer/guitarist. “We all love good luck especially when we’re betting on the horse races or putting out a second album.”

Paul McCartney – Flaming Pie (1997)

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Paul’s very good comeback album Flaming Pie features an artistic photo by Linda of Paul in the studio with producer Jeff Lynne – the album is packaged beautifully and named after a quote by John Lennon about the origin of The Beatles’ name, where he said, “It came in a vision – a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them, ‘From this day on you are Beatles with an A.'” 

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Devo –  Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (1978)

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Named after H.G. Wells’ The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), and the cover illustrated by Joe Heiner, Devo’s debut album sleeve design is based on an image of the famous professional golfer Juan “Chi-Chi” Rodríguez that they had found on this head cover, with his approval of course.

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Posted in Album Covers, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Zappa, Human League, The, Images, Kiss, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Pavement | 16 Comments

Talking Heads | Lifetime Piling Up

The band’s final single before their split was a return to upbeat anxiety and existential paranoia while effortlessly fusing avant-garde with Afro-pop.  

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Sharing a similar title to two of their greatest ever recorded moments (Life During Wartime and Once in a Lifetime), Lifetime Piling Up is something of a curious discrepancy in the quartet’s catalogue.

Originally recorded in Paris during the sessions for what would become the band’s final album, the Steve Lillywhite-produced Naked (1988), the track clearly would never have belonged on that eclectic brass-heavy extravaganza. Instead it was exhumed in demo form, reworked, and released as a 7″ single tying-in with the double best-of’s Sand in the Vaseline and Once in a Lifetime in 1992, reaching a modest #50 in the UK singles chart while accompanying the official announcement of the band’s acrimonious breakup.

I have tried marijuana
I get nervous every time
There will come a knockin’ at the door
Why is everybody makin’ eyes at me?

Free of funkademic excursions and textural wallpaper of the Brian Eno era, Lifetime Piling Up returns to the classic Talking Heads edgy pop-art of albums such as More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978) and the rarely discussed Little Creatures (1985), locking into a tense groove with bassist Tina Weymouth and husband drummer Chris Franz laying down a thick art-funk bedrock before bursting into a super-addictive chorus ahead of time.

As an ensemble, they are beyond tight. Like all great Talking Heads tracks, Lifetime Piling Up captures tension via collaboration. Recorded in Paris and mixed at Electric Lady Studios with additional production and mixing by Nick Launay, it  was cowritten by all four members and is based around secret weapon Jerry Harrison’s organ vamps, some proto-House bouncy weirdness, and David Byrne’s controlled vocals and churning guitars.

Like an automobile
With no one at the wheel
Spinning out of control
We’re all over the road

However Lifetime Piling Up also carries an air of finality about it. It’s written as if they knew the band was probably going to break up soon. Byrne connecting threads between seemingly disjointed elements, while indulging in a set of lyrics peppered with nostalgia and blunt declarations of fragility, suggesting an escape from the piling-up of daily woes.

Reaching from my bedroom to the stars
I can see the house where I was born
When I was growin’ up

It would be the last song the band ever released, going out on a higher note than they’re often given credit for, and sounding more relevant now than ever.

Further Reading:

   Talking Heads – Remain in Light

  Adrian Belew Meets David Bowie

   Eno: Masterworks 1974 – 1977

   This Must Be Talking Heads Podcast

Posted in Talking Heads | 5 Comments

Eno: Masterworks 1974 – 1977

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There’s a little more to oblique strategist Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno’s career than just that ambient guy or big time producer of bands such as U2 and Talking Heads, or for inventing the startup chime for Windows 95. Few may know that he was once an outrageous art-rock star and electronic pioneer behind early British glam-rock icons Roxy Music playing synthesizer and creating wild sonic treatments.

Eno was flamboyant, weird and outrageous creating some interesting and influential music with the band not to mention receiving the majority of the attention from press and fans alike. It wouldn’t last. Self-described non-musician Eno departed Roxy Music by the time their second album For Your Pleasure was released in 1973 due to personal conflicts with singer and master of suave front-man Bryan Ferry.

That year Eno flexed his experimental muscle with the conceptual (No Pussyfooting) LP, a groundbreaking album of drone ambience and tape delay manipulation. Teaming up with guitar wizard and ex-King Crimson band leader Robert Fripp, the technique central to that album was the use of reel-to-reel tape recorders whereby sounds recorded to the first deck resurfaced unpredictably when the tape passed through the second. Eno refined this for his expansive solo work and Fripp for the stage and studio with in his Frippertronics. Unconventional for 1973, it lay the groundwork for each of the artist’s most iconic works.

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Still under contract to Island records, Eno gathered together musicians including Fripp and John Wetton (bass) from King Crimson, and everybody from Roxy Music except Ferry, to create his frenzied and wildly experimental glam rock debut Here Come the Warm Jets (1974). The sprawling follow up, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy), was released the same year but used fewer guest musicians, and addressed a variety of subject matter including the Chinese Communist revolution, but was no less experimental or thrilling.

His third solo album Another Green World (1975) made great use of Eno’s Oblique Strategies, the card deck of creative philosophies designed to upend music creation in one sitting. The largely instrumental album moves like a beautiful dream and finally found a ground level for his genius, marking the point where he moved from experimenter to musical explorer.

Eno’s 1977 album Before and After Science marks the end of a his glam rock era. It’s twisted, abstract take on slow-burning funk, precise art-pop, cool vocal cooing, and eerie instrumentals, offers a sneak preview of the work that Eno would produce solo and with the Talking Heads, David Byrne, David Bowie, Devo and more in the months and years to follow.

For such critically lauded and influential albums these pop records remain surprisingly obscure. They spawned no hit singles and still receive zero airplay on classic rock radio, however these albums are absolutely essential collections of vital and visionary music from a creative mind synthesising the sounds of the day, creating something unique that still resonates, before Eno moved on to more ambient pastures.

This compilation covers some of the best and most interesting works from those early rock albums, including the lively and compelling single Seven Deadly Finns.

  1. Third Uncle
  2. Burning Airlines Give You So Much More
  3. The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch
  4. Another Green World
  5. Here Come the Warm Jets
  6. On Some Faraway Beach
  7. King’s Lead Hat
  8. By This River
  9. Dead Finks Don’t Talk
  10. Sombre Reptiles
  11. The True Wheel
  12. China My China
  13. Taking Tiger Mountain
  14. The Big Ship
  15. Needles in the Camel’s Eye
  16. No One Receiving
  17. Sky Saw
  18. The Fat Lady of Limbourg
  19. St Elmo’s Fire
  20. Baby’s on Fire
  21. Seven Deadly Finns

Further Listening:

  Eno: Discreet Music (1975) – highly influential ambient work, see Bowie’s Low (1977)

  Eno/Fripp: Evening Star (1975) – second Robert Fripp collaboration

  Bowie: “Heroes” (1977) – collaborator, co-songwriter

  Ultravox: Ultravox! (1977) – co-producer, ‘Enossification’

  Eno: Ambient One: Music for Airports (1978) – seminal ambient album of evolving soundscapes

  Talking Heads: Remain in Light (1980) – co-producer, collaborator 

  Eno/Byrne: My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981) – co-producer, collaborator

  Fripp: Let the Power Fall (1981) – an album of Frippertronics

Posted in Brian Eno, David Bowie, Downloads, Mixtapes, Robert Fripp, Talking Heads | 19 Comments

The Unstable Boys | Nick Kent

Now Reading: legendary rock journalist Nick Kent pens his first novel The Unstable Boys, a darkly comic caper about the strange afterlife of a briefly famous 60s rock group of the same name.

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Author of two of the best rock music books I’ve read, The Dark Stuff (1995) and Apathy for the Devil (2010), seminal British rock writer from the NME and Melody Maker, alongside other pioneering writers like Charles Shaar Murray, Roy Carr, and the late Ian MacDonald, Nick Kent’s first five interviews were with the MC5, Captain Beefheart, the Grateful Dead, the Stooges, and Lou Reed. Not a bad start. Widely considered one of the most important and influential UK music journalists of the 1970s, his passionate love for rock music was able to tap into the cultural zeitgeist at very close quarters, not to mention the serious drinking and drug-taking resulting in a rich and influential mix of analysis and fandom.

Notorious for wearing a perpetually ripped pair of leather trousers and dating Chrissie Hynde as he was for writing novelistic profiles of enigmatic figures such as Syd Barrett and Keith Richards, Kent’s books and articles were essential reading for anyone who cared about the rock culture of the ‘70s.

An unlikely, ungainly figure, well over six feet tall, unsteadily negotiating the sidewalks of London and Los Angeles like a great palsied mantis, dressed in the same tattered garb regardless of season or the passing of time, hospital-thin, with a perpetually dripping bright red nose caused by an equally perpetual drug shortage, all brought to life by wrist-waving, head-flung back Keith Richards effect, and an abiding interest in all dirt. That’s Nick Kent for you in the seventies and eighties. In short, a true rock’n’roller: someone who cared. – Iggy Pop

Now he’s back with his first work of fiction: The Unstable Boys, published by Constable in 2021. A washed up rock star turns up at the home of a wealthy crime writer, the band’s biggest fan who has publicly declared his love for his teenage musical obsession. When the twisted and maniacal frontman arrives on his doorstep things get weird. The writer quickly learns you should be careful what you wish for.

It’s a tale inspired by the British rocker Vince Taylor who sang the 1959 hit ‘Brand New Cadillac’ covered by The Clash on London Calling. He’s also known as The Legendary Stardust Cowboy and was an inspiration for Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character. Bowie had met Taylor in the ‘60s and became fascinated by him. By the 1970s, Taylor had gone from bad to worse and would turn up on the doorsteps of people that he imagined were his fans.

Buy Nick Kent’s Books:

♥    The Unstable Boys

♥   Apathy for the Devil

♥   The Dark Stuff 

Posted in David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Now Reading | Leave a comment

Greg Oakes – Her Listless Eyes

Electronic composer and synth pioneer Greg Oakes returns with a transportive sonic soundscape that creates a constant push / pull between discord and beauty.

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This instrumental voyage builds an ocean of ambience, submerging listener in a study in sound as sound, dramatic as it is, conjuring an atmosphere by no means tranquil but completely of its own. Oakes juxtaposes dissonant chords with spiky synths to create an enslaving throb, coaxing natural textures out of his electronic arrangements for a towering solo.

Abstract with a sinister undercurrent, the experimental producer’s latest composition ‘Her Listless Eyes’ was recorded live using battery powered synthesizers, in this case Korg Volcas (Drum, Nubass, Kick and Modular) and an Arturia Microfreak. It’s one of a series of tracks with the same deliberateness and innovative approach. The Australian-based artist explains:

All sequencing was done using the Volca’s sequencers with the Microfreak being played live, which is why it drops out when the Modular does its “solo”. After recording it on the Zoom H6 I transferred the files into Cubase for normalising and mixing. No edits – Cubase is just basically a tape recorder in this case. The not-a-guitar sound was generated by the Volca Modular going through a Zoom MS50G pedal using an amp simulator and was kind of inspired by Robert Fripp. I was trying to get that verging on being an out of control sound.

The absorbing video was assembled from a set of clips downloaded from Pexels.

The track’s title comes from a line in British author J.G. Ballard’s short story ‘Studio 5, The Stars’ which deals with the diminishment of art due to technology:

There’s a bit of a mistake where the first clip repeats but I can’t be bothered to fix it. There’s a couple of shots in the video that suggested “Her Listless Eyes” so that’s what stuck. I was on a bit of a Ballard binge at the time – it could have been called anything.

Like all worthwhile forward-pointing transonic electro, there’s a sense of choose-your-own-adventure here allowing the listener to build their own interpretations.

released January 16, 2022

Written & Produced, Arturia Microfreak, Volca Drum, Nubass, Kick, and Moduar by Greg Oakes
Video by cottonbro from Pexels

License: Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)

♥   ListenSoundcloudYoutube

♥   Follow: Facebook

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Posted in Bandcamp, Performance of the Day, Producers | 8 Comments

Beeswing | Richard Thompson

Now Reading: Beeswing | Losing My Way and Finding My Voice: 1967-1975, written by the great Richard Thompson with Scott Timberg, published in 2021.

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This long awaited memoir by master British guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson is compelling and regularly moving and written in a witty, self-deprecating style, a bit like his charming and magical onstage banter when I saw him in 2015 at the Melbourne Recital Centre. Free of any rudimentary 60’s clichés, the autobiography recounts the musician discovering his passion for music, his progression from skiffle and folk music and beat groups.

Forming Fairport Convention in late-60s London music scene with some schoolmates, Thompson recounts gripping reflections on losing his girlfriend and 19 year old drummer Martin Lamble in a tour bus accident, his conversion to Sufism, and a marriage to fellow musician Linda whose dramas were played out on excellent records such as I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, and on stage.

He also touches on glancing acquaintances with the troubled singer-songwriter Nick Drake, crossing paths with the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Jimi Hendrix, and falling out with the ill-fated Sandy Denny who left Fairport Convention a year or two prior to Thompson to pursue a solo career, but died after what seems to have been the last of many a nasty fall, perhaps accidental, in 1978.

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One of the more surprising and enlightening elements within the book, at least for this fan, was in the Afterword which touches on the recording sessions for perhaps his greatest ever record, initially produced by Scottish musician Gerry Rafferty of Stealers Wheel fame. Thompson recounts of being frozen out in the studio by a man in the grips of alcoholism and worst-of-all, at the expense of the music:

He approached us with very clear ideas of the record he wanted to make and the songs he wanted on it, and we were hoping the success he had had with ‘Baker Street’ would rub off on us. It was a claustrophobic recording process – lots of triple tracking of instruments and voices, until there was no air left in the music. It was dense and poppy, as can be heard on the bootlegs that have snuck out, but it didn’t really suit the songs or the performers. Gerry was drinking a lot – what I thought was a pint glass of healthy, bowel-stimulating apple juice at the start of the day’s recording, turned out to be neat whisky, and there were refills. It transpired his main motivation for doing the record was to get his hands on Linda. We felt like peripheral figures on our own record. When I turned up for the mixing sessions, no one would speak to me. By the end of the recording, we refused permission to release it.  Richard Thompson

Thankfully producer Joe Boyd (Pink Floyd, Nick Drake, Fairport and many excellent Richard Thompson albums) put them back on track and would go on to produce what would become Richard and Linda Thompson’s exquisite Shoot Out the Lights album, released in 1982, which gained them a good deal of fans, airplay on US college radio, and excellent reviews. The album still stands as one of Thompson’s finest works. The aborted sessions with Rafferty can be tracked down on bootlegs under the titles Rafferty’s Folly and Before Joe Could Pull the Trigger.

Beeswing is a fascinating look at his formative years in the vibrant, vital London music scene of the 1960s, capturing the life of this remarkable artist during a period of creative intensity.

N.B: Thanks Jus!

Further Reading:

♥   Carnival As Life

Posted in Now Reading, Richard Thompson | 7 Comments

Forward Fox – Ravestar

Sydney-based electronic artist Forward Fox, aka Siobhan Krelle, has released her mesmerising new single Ravestar, a track wreathed in decaying fizz and crackle and ghostly background tones.

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The vocalist, producer and multi-instrumentalist has released the darkly nuanced new single Ravestar, an electronic composition of atmospheric textures and tone-drenched mini-pleasures, where layers of bubbling synthwork swell over skipping percussive elements with an addictive, rhythmic drive. The prevailing mood is positivity; the track providing a gift of resonating comfort, executed with a mechanistic precision – a sound that gestures at what the future might sound like.

Forward Fox – Ravestar (2022)

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released February 4, 2022

Written & Produced by: Siobhan Krelle
Mixed & Mastered by: Brendan Zacharias at Cirrus Audio

♥   Purchase: Bandcamp

♥   Listen:  Youtube / Spotify

♥   Follow: Instagram / Facebook / Forward Fox

Posted in Bandcamp, Performance of the Day | 4 Comments

Top 5 Songs – Robert Quine

Robert Quine’s steady session work with a wide range of musicians created an individual vocabulary as crucial as any guitarist in rock. The Press counts down the American guitarist’s Top 5 Songs.

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Emerging in the New York punk scene in the mid-70s, the inestimable Robert Quine grew up as a fan of jazz and blues, famously introducing Miles Davis’ thirty-two minute magnum-opus He Loved Him Madly to Brian Eno in 1974, a song Eno later cited as a pivotal influence in his development of ambient music.

Originally from Akron, Ohio, Quine joined his first band while still at college, becoming a lawyer in 1969, and moving to San Francisco where he wrote tax law for a publishing company for three years. A rabid fan of the Velvet Underground, Quine travelled to many of their shows in the US and Canada recording their concerts from the audience, and his bootleg tapes of the band were ultimately released on Interscope in 2001 as the peerless triple live set The Quine Tapes.

He then relocated to New York and started working at a film memorabilia shop where he met musician and writer Richard Hell, with whom he would form the short-lived but ground-breaking Richard Hell & the Voidoids and release the 1977 punk landmark and classic document of the CBGB’s punk scene, Blank Generation, simultaneously embracing and shattering rock’s convention.

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Quine’s eclectic guitar style embraced influences from jazz, rock, and blues players of all stripes, and his thoughtful technique and uncompromising approach led to rewarding collaborations with a number of visionary musicians. Adventurous and influential, Quine was capable of playing anything and everything bar the predictable, and while his post-Voidoids work with artists such as a fruitful stint with Lou Reed, Marianne Faithful, Lloyd Cole and Matthew Sweet which earned him wide critical acclaim, Robert Quine remained relatively unknown throughout his lifetime. These Top 5 Songs serve as a tip-of-the-iceberg introduction to the late great guitarist.

Robert Quine – Top 5 Songs

5. Tom Waits – Downtown Train

Quine plays on two songs on Tom Waits’ finest album Rain Dogs (1985): Blind Love and Downtown Train, along with guitarists Keith Richards and G.E. Smith, respectively. On Blind Love you can hear Quine’s beautiful little chord voicings, and Keith plays off them, but it’s on the exquisite Downtown Train where Quine’s chugging rhythm guitar gives the track it’s power and emotion.

4. Brian Eno – Juju Space Jazz

This track off Eno’s 1992 album Nerve Net features the great bassist Bill Laswell and drummer Fred Maher (Voidoids, Reed). Working on this project Eno taught Quine about echo and sound, and he is credited with rhythm and reverse guitars on this experimental electro-jazz piece. Quine frequently collaborated with Eno from the late-1970s through to the mid-1980s (coinciding with the producer’s residency in New York) although much of the material remains unreleased.

3. Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend

He became a member of Sweet’s band in the early 1990s when they collaborated on several albums including the well-received Girlfriend (1991). The title track, accompanied by Quine’s idiosyncratic force of nature guitar work, was the singer’s modern rock radio breakthrough hit and Sweet immediately stood out as the premier power-popper of the decade.

2. Lou Reed – Women

Thanks to Quine, the sound on The Blue Mask (1982) is as close to the Velvet Underground as Lou ever got. Quine dropped his tuning down to D and came up with different voicings to match Lou’s guitar, at times creating a singular droning effect. Joined by Fernando Saunders (bass) and Doane Perry (drums), Quine’s guitar sound was definitive on this essential Lou Reed album.

“That album is totally unique. Lou just gave everybody a tape of the songs with him playing acoustic guitar, and I was literally free to come up with whatever I wanted. Total freedom. We went in with no rehearsals. None of us had ever played together before, but it just clicked immediately. What you hear on the record is totally live. There are no overdubs, except on one track. Any mistakes that happen are on the record. If I take a solo I stop playing rhythm. It’s the way they used to do things in the fifties. I’m especially proud of that record.”  Robert Quine.

1. Richard Hell & the Voidoids – Blank Generation

The anthemic title track combines Richard Hell’s sarcastic, angst-ridden poetry with aggressive, off-kilter rhythms and slashing guitars, coupling punk fury with eccentric delivery and rhythm that’s not afraid to swing. From the opening inverted tritones courtesy of Quine’s inspired anti-guitar hero phrasings, punk rock was suddenly intelligent, serving a notice that punk wasn’t just about spiky hair and misdirected anger.

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Further Listening:

♥   Lloyd Cole – No Blue Skies

♥   Lou Reed – Waves of Fear

♥   Richard Hell & the Voidoids – Betrayal Takes Two

♥   A Night With Lou Reed – Full Concert at The Bottom Line, NYC, 1983

♥   Broken Record Podcast with Rick Rubin – Extended Cut: Brian Eno

Posted in Bill Laswell, Brian Eno, Lou Reed, Miles Davis, Mixtapes, Podcasts, Richard Hell, Robert Quine, Top 5 Songs | 19 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

The captivating Eurythmics album cover for Revenge (1986) was the work of British artist Eric Scott and long-time graphic designer and visionary for the duo, Laurence Stevens.

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This impressive oil-on-canvas of a hyperrealistic Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart of UK electronic pop duo Eurythmics, was painted by former flatmate and Sunderland childhood friend of Dave Stewart, Eric Scott. The British artist based his painting on the stunning photographic portrait below. Collectors of his work included Paul McCartney and Prime Minister Harold Wilson for whom he created portraits.

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Dave Stewart bought many of Scott’s quite brilliant paintings, and in 1985 commissioned him to paint the cover for Revenge before handing it over to the band’s long-term graphic designer Laurence Stevens, whose artwork had been intrinsically important to the band. The main visual concept was to move away from having just Annie Lennox on the cover, rather incorporate the two of them using a different creative process.

Stevens was the creative director for many of their instantly recognisable album covers, singles, and posters of the 1980s and beyond, creating a strong aesthetic and visual identity for the duo. 

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All of the imagery for Revenge was used to accompany the tour merchandise and graphics at the time, the tour programme, t-shirts, even down to the Revenge badges that you could buy at the shows that were the exact replica of the Revenge badge that Dave wears in the painting on the front of the album cover.  Laurence Stevens 2021

References:

  Examining Eurythmics art design with Laurence Stevens

Posted in Album Covers, Images | 10 Comments

The Fall – It’s On Forever

After the dissolution of his long term allies in 1998, Mark E Smith reinvented The Fall with arguably two of the band’s greatest recorded achievements. 

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Where were you fuckers? The guy pulled a gun on us and you were nowhere to be seen!“. It was April 1998 and The Fall were about to play the final gig of a shoe-string US tour at New York’s Brownie’s club. Mark E Smith arrived in a particularly bad mood having just been held at gunpoint by a taxi driver and tensions were running high in the dressing room prior to the show. “Maybe it’ll teach you not to kick everything! How come he didn’t do us all a favour and pull the trigger”, shouted back trusty long-time bassist-come-road-manager Steve Hanley.

Vehemence and wreckage spilled over onto the stage as MES started goading drummer Karl Burns by removing his cymbals and attacking the drum kit. This lead to Burns going berserk, jumping the kit and assaulting the singer. Hanley tried to separate them in a haze of flaying limbs as they fell backwards onto the bass rig, but the ever-sartorial Mark E Smith wasn’t finished yet and started berating the band into the mic: “I was assaulted tonight and where were these three? This animal, this idiot and this Scotsman?”.

mesbHe continued his rampage by whipping his microphone towards new guitarist Tommy Crooks who promptly gave him a kick up the arse. Hanley, in a last-ditch attempt to continue the gig by playing the intro to the title track of their current LP Levitate, was scotched when MES dismantled the microphones before violently pulling Hanley’s bass lead. The remaining members eventually head for the dressing room while MES and keyboardist Julia Nagle attempt to carry on, but it’s over. The night wouldn’t get any better. MES in a drunken rampage ended up being arrested by New York police officers for assault and ongoing altercations at his hotel, was handcuffed in the back of a police car and served a three-day jail term in a cell in Manhattan. Exhausted and depleted, the onstage fight at Brownies was the tipping point, and the old Fall flatlined and split.

After a near-perfect run of albums in the 80s and into the early-90s, the reminder of the decade was tough on this Manchester post-punk institution. While their records were still strong, including CEREBRAL CAUSTIC (1995) ★★, THE LIGHT USER SYNDROME (1996) ★★★, and the unclassifiable LEVITATE (1997) ★★★★, for a band whose list of former members warrants its own Wikipedia page, the 1990’s was a decade that bought about label changes (Permanent, Jet, Artful) and multiple personnel updates including the reintroduction and subsequent dismissal of guitarist and ex-wife Brix Smith. Firing long-term guitarist Craig Scanlon in 1995 was a mistake, and now with the departure of bassist Hanley whose fearsome bass work defined the Fall from 1979, and drummer Burns amid the onstage chaos, this was surely rock bottom for Mark E Smith.

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But after 20+ years and countless albums, rock bottom turned out to be a great place for MES to be. He didn’t take a bit of hardship lying down, in fact it rekindled his artist force going on to recruit guitarist Neville Wilding, bassist Adam Helal (and early in the sessions, Karen Leatham), and drummer Tom Head, who all joined him and Nagle in London’s Battery Studios in late-1998 to record the first in a two-album resurgence with this hermetically sealed line-up, achieving a successful blend of garage rock and electronica on the extremely underrated THE MARSHALL SUITE (1999) ★★★★½, their second release on Artful Records, ushering in the Mighty Fall’s post-modern phase.

Despite including some killer moments of infectious breakbeats, abrasive guitars, and smeared, squirming electronics, such as the extraordinary single Masquerade, on Levitate the band sounded fractured and deranged. The producers enlisted for the Levitate sessions up and left early-on in proceedings taking the session tapes with them, so MES ended up producing the album himself. The result was one of the weirdest and messiest releases in the band’s discography, and with it’s nod to Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica album cover, Levitate has always divided fans and critics. So perhaps the split in NYC wasn’t a big surprise after all; but bouncing back with a new energetic garage band, while keeping in tact their integrity and refusal to compromise with an album as good as The Marshall Suite, was.

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The album has aged well and its high points are numerous. Smith’s bleak, wry humour wrapped in off-kilter techno production is conveyed via his sardonic Manchester accent, and his vocals have been reinvigorated to near career-best levels of insolence and menace throughout this cohesive batch of thirteen tracks. Three songs are covers: the fuzzy Mancabilly stomp of F-‘Oldin’ Money, a 1959 track by American rockabilly singer Tommy Blake, is twisted and experimental and a wonderful moment early on in proceedings. Bound is originally a 1974 soul instrumental by The Audio Arts Strings titled Love Bound, and there’s a fine garage cover of This Perfect Day first released by seminal Australian punk band the Saints in 1977. Nev Wilding’s guitars are at such a high-octane pitch on this album that the production is literally rocking the needle off its groove on any given track, particularly on speaker-thrashing opener Touch Sensitive. This vicious rocker about hard-living, beer-swilling types is a pacey singalong and one of the band’s most well known songs mainly due to an edit that was used in the UK as a soundtrack to an advert for the Vauxhall Corsa.

While The Marshall Suite launched a new era in The Fall’s astonishing history, it also consolidated the fact that MES was still in complete control of his unique artistic vision. The scintillating Shake Off and urgent electronic synth-based colossus (Jung Nev’s) Antidotes do not abide by any conventional musical rules, with looped strings and crashing drums underpinning Smith’s echo-laden drawl – they sound huge without slipping into bombast. Smith is coining outrageous rhymes and distilling complex wordplay into punchy, lasting images over industrial-tinged grunge music. The pretty Birthday Song even finds MES attempting a bit of balladry in the vein of Fall classic Edinburgh Man, to great effect. There’s also two skeletal sound collages of weird and obscure dance beats that wash over you as the album builds on some of the electronic rhythms and beats of its predecessor. The Marshall Suite is diverse with a weird commercial appeal, while remaining abstract and songless in parts creating a jumpy insecurity as the band tread a fine line between genius artistry, quirkiness and terror. 

Tom Head (drums), Neville Wilding (guitar), Mark E Smith (vocals), Adam Helal (bass) – Julia Nagle not pictured.

Long time Fall album cover designer Pascal Le Gras‘ artwork has a smudgy bleakness that mixes the obvious (dollar bill = F-‘Oldin’ Money) with the abstract. The album remained out of print for over ten years and in a back catalogue bursting at the seams with scores of reissues, it was a notable absentee until 2011 when UK indie label Cherry Red released a long-overdue 3 disc edition.

After continual touring, Smith and his new cohorts then galloped straight into their twenty-second album, resulting in the vital THE UNUTTERABLE (2000) ★★★★★, released in November on Eagle Records. The album was recorded in Manchester and London in mid-2000 and to say the band, and producer Grant Showbiz, are in fine form is a massive understatement.

51otmEupqUL._SS500The songs are regularly exceptional, consisting of all original material unlike the cover-heavy The Marshall Suite. Again the very proficient band consisting of Nagle, Wilding, Helal, and Head had really settled in by The Unutterable, and there was a good atmosphere within the band as they maintain a steady rockabilly/garage stomp that can catch fire and cool down as required. And catch fire they do. Regularly. The album also benefits from the crisp production from long-time Fall soundman/producer extraordinaire Grant Showbiz, as the sound is crisp and enticing throughout. It opens with their best song about an insect since ‘Ladybird (Green Grass)’ from 1993’s The Infotainment Scan. The oscillating Cyber Insekt and its Fall-patented Mancabilly meets Ballroom Blitz grind, underpinned by drummer Head’s rattling momentum, it features backing vocals by Julia and guest Kazuko Hohki from the Frank Chickens. With a naggingly infectious guitar line and dynamic riffing accompanying some oblique MES non-sequiturs, its the perfect opener:

Film of film on book-rack
Book of film
Book on station track
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Two Librans is backed by super-heavy guitars and bass and a snarling chorus – probably the most exciting straight ahead rock song The Fall ever recorded: Two Librans / Reflect-ah! This gigantic Fall rocker also includes observations on Oprah Winfrey, Peace Studies and Chechnya, and Wilding, Helal and Head excel bringing their relentless rock. Equally effective is the ominous start-stop chug of W.B. with its singular-uh speak-singing-uh lyrics that are adapted from great English poet William Blake’s A Song of Liberty:

Rome didn’t matter or come up
But Heaven and Hell did
And look up
The fire, the fire is falling
And look up, look up

Untitled5Packed with ideas, The Unutterable is as compelling an album and well-crafted set of songs that MES had ever devised. The first half of this masterpiece is flawless and ‘front-loaded’ ie: the more conventionally-structured or accessible songs are on the first two-thirds of the record, and some of the more experimental stuff brings up the rear. He sounds as engaged and forceful as ever showcasing his most playful (Pumpkin Soup and Mashed Potatoes), rocking (Sons of Temperance), and downright weird (Midwatch 1953) tendencies. He even lets guitarist Wilding write and sing the energetic swamp-thrash number Hands Up Billy! The intriguing Dr Bucks’ Letter features a heavily processed and distorted keyboard underneath a catchy synth line, yet another Fall career highlight. MES growls something about regretting losing his temper with a friend and appears to dispraise superficial materialist society. In the song, Smith lists his five essential items: sunglasses, music, PalmPilot, mobile phone and American Express card. He even chuckles to himself in a very endearing way as he recites the list. Priceless.

Hot Runes is a short but catchy-as-hell number which resembles say, Guest Informant from 1987’s The Frenz Experiment, and on motorik Way Round Mark sings about his hatred of roundabouts with some eerie Dr Who-esque synths in the background.

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The thunderous album centrepiece Octo Realm/Ketamine Sun began life as a cover of Lou Reed’s Kills Your Sons and features a rich variety (and quantity) of synthesizer effects. Once it settles into its devastating circular groove, Mark starts with his K-k-k-Ketamine Sun….. . The synth laser swing of Serum is all pounding industrial-strength drums, dive-bombing riffs, and speed-freak vocals, with Smith’s repeated numbers 101 and 101.1 are not explained in the context of the song, perhaps alluding to some chemical property of the serum:

Many have found pleasures in curvaceous women
Their undulating curves upper and lower
But what I really need is a glass of cold water

Smith’s canny turns of phrase are all over the techno tape collage throb of Devolute which makes great effect of overlapped vocals and random lyrics, particularly on headphones:

What would life be like without music and comedy?

The title track is a one minute spoken word piece but it all fits together perfectly into a wonderfully cohesive whole, and he sprinkles sparky synth washes over album closer Das Katerer which oddly has exactly the same riff as Fall classic Free Range from Code: Selfish.

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The Unutterable was the first and only Fall ‘official’ studio release to be issued on CD only, without a corresponding vinyl version. A double-LP set was eventually issued through Let Them Eat Vinyl in 2014. Once again the album cover was the work of the great Pascal Le Gras’, his last cover for a Fall studio album. What we have is brutal simplicity of the monochrome title against a kaleidoscopic variation on some boxers, contrasting neatly for an album achieving a successful blend of garage rock and electronica.

In conclusion, The Fall have made some of the best music in the history of mankind and these comeback albums from the brink were an exercise in creativity and inventiveness forever, from a band that, by all rights, should’ve burned out long ago. The fact that Mark E Smith could pull together these musicians and record two timeless albums in the space of two years was nothing short of heroic. As for what happened next, it all came apart again in 2001 when Wilding and Helal quit over money disputes, and Nagle had had enough by then as well, leaving MES to create yet another new line-up of The Mighty Fall.

References & Further Reading:

♥  You Must Get Them All

  The Fall Online

♥  Fall Tracks A-Z

♥  Buy The Fall Albums – Let Them Eat Vinyl & Cherry Red Records

  Top 50 Songs by The Fall

 The Fall in Fives

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Posted in Fall, The | 48 Comments

The Beatles – 1969 Photos

In the wake of Peter Jackson’s game-changing Get Back movie, The Press shares these rarely seen images of The Beatles taken from a roll of film in Yoko Ono’s stolen Instamatic camera – all care of Award Winning Author and Something About The Beatles podcaster Robert Rodriguez.

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This photo capturing John Lennon and Paul McCartney was taken on July 20, 1969, after the first draft screening of the film that became Let It Be, although it didn’t get that name until later that year. That’s Michael Lindsay-Hogg in the photo next to Linda. The film was Lindsay-Hogg’s cut, originally between two and two-and-a-half hours long, eventually cut down to remove much of the John and Yoko footage.

It is one of several colour photos that came from a roll of film in Yoko Ono’s Instamatic camera that was stolen. The images on the roll surfaced in 2013 and included several shots of The Beatles working on the Abbey Road album, as well as a few taken at the screening of what would become the Let It Be movie, showing all four Beatles plus George’s parents and his wife Pattie.

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This shot of John and Paul singing together at the mic in 1969 during the Abbey Road sessions and was also taken by Yoko (that’s her feet!), from her in-studio bed! Now that’s something I didn’t see a lot of in Get Back, HEADPHONES!

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Yoko had been injured in a family car crash in Scotland, so on Doctor’s orders John had a Harrods double bed placed in the corner of the group’s studio at Abbey Road. What a guy!

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There were no known photos taken of the “Ballad of John and Yoko” session, though funnily enough there are a few taken days later at the tracking of George’s “Old Brown Shoe,” showing John (whose instrumental contribution was later wiped) and George. As for Yoko’s role, the film screening shots are definitely tied to July 20 – the very day of the Apollo 11 lunar landing (which George watched with his father that night at Kinfauns), while the EMI session shots are believed to be within the next couple of days, specifically when John and Paul tracked the vocals to “Come Together,” belying Paul’s later claim that he was too embarrassed to ask if he could sing harmony on it.

Side note: there may be reason to think even more session photos exist, given the 2019 release from Harrison estate of a photo taken at the January 1970 “I Me Mine” session showing George and Paul on guitars, followed by several more which also depicted Linda. Seems like every time you think you’ve seen/heard it all, something else emerges! – Robert Rodriguez 2022

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Paul, George Martin, engineer Phil McDonald and John

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John & Paul

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Pattie, Mal Evans, Linda & Yoko

References:

♥   Robert Rodriguez – Something About The Beatles

♥   Beatles Archive

♥   found @ Feelnumb.com

♥   BBC News

Posted in Beatles, The, George Harrison, Images, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Podcasts | 10 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

David Bowie’s short-lived excursion into aggressive garage alt-rock caused a furore over its controversial LP cover illustration requiring its manly genitalia to be airbrushed out, all in the name of public decency . . . again!

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After Bowie attended an exhibition of British artist Edward Bell’s work in the late-1970s, he commissioned him to create the artwork for his 1980 rock opus Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and its singles. The two artists then became reacquainted in 1989 following a chance meeting, and Bowie asked Bell to produce the artwork for his side-band’s new album, Tin Machine II. The album cover Bell submitted featured a charcoal sketch of four naked ‘kouroi’ Grecian-style male statues (“we’re four dicks”) with their penises in full view causing a teacup-sized tempest.

Inane mini-controversy ensued when US censors blocked the album until the statues’ genitalia was airbrushed out prior to its release stateside, to defuse any potentially alarming negative reactions in rock consumers. Retailers also refused to stock the album until its cover was altered ensuring removal of the offending protrusions. The U.S. version of Tin Machine II would arrive in 1991 sans genitals and Bowie made a statement about censorship at the time and its effects on art: the revised cover shows the same statues sans sexual organs, calling attention to the neutered original intent.

Bowie toyed with the idea of allowing US fans to write to the record company to request the censored images, “then they could paste them back on. But the label freaked out at the idea,” he told CREEM magazine in 1991. “Sending genitals through the mail is a serious offense.”

But this wasn’t the first Bowie album to feature censor-bating genitalia. Bowie’s attempts to have bollocks appear on an LP cover were foiled previously with his Orwellian masterpiece Diamond Dogs, which featured Belgian artist Guy Peellaert’s flame-haired half-man/half-dog Bowie with emaciated features and a hard-to-miss canine penis. The original gatefold sleeve showed the hybrid creature’s full genitalia which also ran afoul of U.S. censors in 1974, who required the artwork to be airbrushed over; the few surviving original versions have become sought-after collectibles.

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As for Tin Machine II, the second and final studio album by Tin Machine which included guitarist Reeves Gabrels and Hunt and Tony Sales last seen as Iggy Pop’s rhythm section on Lust for Life, the only other newsworthy thing about the record was Bowie’s old label EMI ended up not being interested in releasing it, penises or no. The band went with Victory, an ill-fated Japanese start-up label whose collapse in 1994 began TMII‘s long sojourn in the wilderness, until recently, when the album was reissued in July 2020, via label Music on Vinyl.

Further Reading:

♥  Edward Bell – Unmade Up: Recollections of a Friendship with David Bowie

♥  Music on Vinyl – Tin Machine II

Posted in Album Covers, David Bowie, Images | 10 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

Never before had Lou Reed seemed so approachable and joyful as he did on 1984’s New Sensations, an album that cast him in a new light without losing any of what has made him an icon. 

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New Sensations may not be Lou Reed’s best record; that award goes to the likes of Transformer, Street Hassle or New York. Nor is it his most daring or musically accomplished (see The Blue Mask, Magic & Loss and Berlin). However, it may well be the most consistently enjoyable and melodic album in his lengthy catalogue. It’s the closest thing Lou ever made to bubblegum rock, and finds Lou musically smiling for the camera while we smiled back at the light-hearted album sleeve.

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Lou was going through something of a reinvention from scary drug-addled rock casualty of the 1970s, to a more clean cut, sober, and happily married working musician of the 1980s. New Sensations followed up two excellent comeback albums, the brutally personal The Blue Mask (1982) and its follow-up Legendary Hearts (1983). With the feedback and loathing dialled back considerably, it’s a stripped down affair with a tight band consisting of clean guitar tones, bass (Fernando Saunders), drums (Fred Maher), only this time augmented with some synth and added horns from the legendary Brecker Brothers.

Lou had taken on guitar duties himself due to an unfortunate falling out with former Voidoids guitar virtuoso Robert Quine a year prior. He even had a couple of enjoyable music videos for the album that received light MTV rotation at the time.

Overall, its damned catchy. The songwriting is consistent, and the playing and singing, is good. As far as Lou Reed albums go it is a lighter affair with tracks such as My Red Joystick a soulful celebration of the invention of the video game; rocking opener and minor hit I Love You Suzanne, and the loping title track which is a study in finding magic in everyday experiences set to a catchy and infectious rock groove. 

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Lou can capture New York City life like no other, and on New Sensations he effortlessly keeps it real, and breezy, lyrically: “Don’t wanna talk politics today/feelin’ pretty witty/gettin’ High In The City“, and that just about sums up the mood of the album.

The album cover is Lou at his most playful. Photographer Waring Abbott captured a lot of music stars in the 70s and 80s and beyond, none better than Lou Reed on the streets of NYC as seen here. Abbott’s work has appeared in countless publications including Time, Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

He shot album covers and photo spreads for the likes of Kiss, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and the proto-punk genius Reed where he photographed the cover for the aforementioned Legendary Hearts and, of course, New Sensations.

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Further Reading:

♥   Double Albums: UnDoubled – Rock ‘n Roll Animal & Lou Reed Live

♥   Lou Reed – Top 50 Solo Songs

♥   Average Guy – Lou Reed in the 80s

♥   Photos by Waring Abbott

Posted in Album Covers, Images, Lou Reed | 8 Comments

Iggy Pop / David Bowie Collaborations in 16 Tracks

Iggy Pop and David Bowie were strong musical partners throughout the 1970s and 1980s and this 16-track compilation provides an insight into the depth and breadth of their collaborations and friendship.

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“Some bands do Stones. Some bands do Chuck Berry. I cover Iggy Pop.” – David Bowie

Bowie was significantly inspired and influenced by The Stooges’ ground-breaking late-60s/early-70s records, even going on to produce their 1973 landmark album Raw Power when they shared the same management company Mainmain.

Bowie famously stuck by Iggy at his lowest ebb in the mid-70s, The Thin White Duke inviting him along on his White Light Tour of 1976 before producing avant-rock landmark The Idiot, recorded in France, and Lust for Life, written, recorded, and mixed at Hansa Studios in Berlin where the artists were living at the time. Bowie then accompanied Iggy on his triumphant US tour in 1977 playing keyboards alongside the Sales brothers rhythm section and guitarist Ricky Gardiner.

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“The friendship was basically that this guy salvaged me from certain professional and maybe personal annihilation – simple as that.”- Iggy Pop

Together they served each other as perfect foils. Working together allowed Bowie to get darker in his songwriting, musicianship and production than he would in his solo work, and Iggy able to focus his self-destructive instincts into a mature and refined artistry. Their work together resonates up to this day, and would go on to influence music and artists on both sides of the Atlantic.

David Bowie & Iggy Pop16 Collaborations mp3

TRACKS

1. Sister Midnight – (Bowie, Pop, Alomar) Recorded in Château d’Hérouville, France, in July 1976. Opening track off Iggy’s 1977 solo debut comeback album The Idiot. Earlier, Bowie had included this song on his 1976 tour set list.

2. What in the World – (Bowie) Underrated track off Bowie’s Low album released January 1977, features Iggy prominently on backing vocals.

3. Tonight – (Bowie, Pop) An album track on Iggy’s second solo album (Lust for Life) and later covered by Bowie with Tina Turner on backing vocals, serving as the title track to his 1984 Hugh Padgham produced disasterpiece Tonight…more of that to come.

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4. Little Miss Emperor – (Bowie, Pop) The first of three co-writes, these tracks lifted from Iggy’s very good Bowie-produced Blah Blah Blah (1986) album.

5. Isolation – (Bowie, Pop) Recorded late April-May 1986, Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland, Blah Blah Blah was Iggy’s most commercially successful album at the time. A highlight.

6. Shades – (Bowie, Pop) Blah Blah Blah notably includes Kevin Armstrong (Absolute Beginners, Tin Machine, Live Aid) on guitar, and songwriting and guitar contributions by heroic ex-Pistol Steve Jones.

7. Tiny Girls – (Bowie, Pop) Includes some lovely baroque sax from Bowie throughout, this track off The Idiot conjures up a smoky, late-night Berlin club.

8. Neighborhood Threat – (Bowie, Pop, Gardiner) A track off Iggy’s Lust for Life and another one covered by Bowie and drenched in melodrama, bombast and quite a lot of cheese for Tonight which featured five out of nine tracks with an Iggy Pop credit.

9. Play it Safe – (Bowie, Pop) This track taken from Iggy’s underrated Soldier (1980) LP. Jim Kerr from Simple Minds remembers: “In 1979 Simple Minds went to Rockfield studios in the Welsh countryside to record our second album. It’s probably our most Bowie influenced work. We were in the small studio just teenagers and we were like; Who’s in the big studio? It turned out it was Iggy Pop recording Soldier. One night Iggy comes through our door, talk about worse for wear! Bowie’s with him, holding a can of Heineken, and he goes ‘Skin Up!’ We hung out for a bit and then they disappeared. Twenty minutes later we get a call from the engineer in Studio A, “David would like you all to come round for a football crowd type chorus”. So we pile round pretty drunk, girlfriends and all. Bowie’s taking charge and he’s still got a Heineken and a fag, and we’re all around the mike for this track called Play it Safe. I remember Bowie saying very diplomatically “OK, sounds good. Now, can everyone who doesn’t sing professionally, step away from the mike”. That left me, aged 19, sandwiched between Bowie and Iggy Pop. Not one person had a fucking camera!

10. Bang Bang – (Pop, Kral) This is the non-hit single from Iggy’s flawed Party (1981) album. The track was produced by Tommy Boyce (The Monkees) and Bowie covered it to close out his Never Let Me Down (1987) album. Also recorded at Mountain Studios, Montreux, Bowie performed it regularly on his Glass Spider tour.

11. Tumble and Twirl – (Bowie, Pop) Carlos Alomar stars on this track off Tonight, a fresh 50-50 co-write in 1984 referencing their recent island travels in Bali and Java together in 1983, conjuring up some sharp jungle imagery on this exuberant, horn-driven rave up. Released in November 1984 as the B-side to Bowie’s flop single 7″ single Tonight.

12. Dancing with the Big Boys – (Bowie, Pop, Alomar) Iggy and Dave having fun at the mic in Le Studio Morin-Heights, Quebec, Canada, where Tonight was recorded. Closing track off Tonight includes some fantastic non-sequiturs only Iggy could dream up: “where there’s trouble there’s poetry”, “your family is a football team“, and “this dot marks your location”.

13. Don’t Look Down – (Pop, Williamson) This is Bowie’s cover of a superb Iggy/James Williamson original from his essential New Values (1979) LP, this cover ended up on Tonight. Bowie approaches this in reggae fashion and was the incidental music for the Julian Temple-directed mini-film Jazzin’ for Blue Jean.

14. China Girl – (Bowie, Pop) Iggy’s towering original version off The Idiot. Bowie covered this sumptuously on his mega-hit album Let’s Dance (1983).

15. Lust for Life – (Bowie, Pop) Title track to Iggy’s 1977 album (featuring the Sales brothers, later from Bowie 80s-cleansing rock project Tin Machine). Now considered a signature Iggy Pop song, and for good reason.

16. Red Money – (Bowie, Pop) Tying things up nicely, this closing track from Bowie’s otherworldly Lodger (1979) album, reworking the compilation opener Sister Midnight, and essentially closing our Bowie’s Berlin-era recordings.

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Posted in David Bowie, Downloads, Iggy Pop, Images, Mainman, Mixtapes, Producers, Steve Jones | 12 Comments

Bowie – Deep Cuts Pt.2

On what would’ve been the great man’s 75th birthday, The Press brings you Part 2 of our Bowie Deep Cuts series, collecting some interesting mixes, demos and live versions, and album tracks. 

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David Bowie – Deep Cuts Pt.2 mp3

TRACKS

1. Drive-In Saturday – Bowie introduced Drive-In Saturday just days after he wrote it and this super-rare live acoustic version is from one of his last ’72 American concerts, performed on 4 November 1972 in Phoenix. A superb rendition and the audience sits transfixed. This somewhat “forgotten” Bowie classic would eventually appear on Aladdin Sane and be released as a single reaching No. 3 in the UK.

2. What in the World – Co-sung with Iggy Pop and originally intended for The Idiot, this is the version that appears on Low. Recorded in France at the Château d’Hérouville in September 1976, the track notably features Eno’s ‘Pacman’ EMS Synthi One sound-effects. The song was a staple (and regular highlight) in the set of the Isolar II World Tour of 1978.

3. The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud/All the Young Dudes/Oh! You Pretty Things – The Mick Ronson-led live medley of songs from Ziggy Stardust the Motion Picture segue into each other as if they were always meant to. This is one continuous track rather than being split up song by song as it has been released on previous CD versions of the album. A perfect performance of three Bowie greats.

4. Black Country Rock – This is the Tony Visconti remix that appears on the reissued 2020 version of Metrobolist, aka The Man Who Sold the World. The remix is louder and much punchier than what was previously available and Visconti has added a few tricks such as unnecessary echo to this groovy album highlight.

5. Cracked ActorFive Years (1969-1973) 2013 remaster. Written in late-1972 in Los Angeles while on the American leg of the Ziggy tour, this seedy rocker with Ronson’s dirty, driving riff, is an underrated gem and the best track Aladdin Sane has to offer – and rarely gets a mention these days. When performed live in ’74 and again in ’83 Bowie wore a cape and sunglasses and sang to a skull in his hand of course.

6. The Prettiest Star – Bowie’s perfectly lovely follow up single to Space Oddity stiffed badly in the charts in 1970. Written for Angie with guest guitar work from friend Marc Bolan who plays melodically over Bowie’s strummed acoustic 12-string, it was eventually glammed-up and included on Aladdin Sane featuring Ronson’s muscular Les Paul crunch.

7. The Man Who Sold the World – Otherworldly live version performed with Klaus Nomi on Saturday Night Live on 15 December 1979 long before Cobain reintroduced it to the world some 14 years later. Bowie in career-best voice here.

8. Sue (Or in a Season of Crime) – Dark and distorted single version of a song recorded in 2014 that was remade for Bowie’s final LP Blackstar. Less propulsive and much less urgent than the remake but quietly affecting and highly avant-garde.

9. Nite Flights – Cover of colossal title track to the Walker Brothers final album in 1978, written by long-time hero and influence Scott Walker. This is the remaster off last year’s Brilliant Adventures (1992-2001) box set giving this fine Black Tie White Noise track extra muscle.

10. Lady Grinning SoulFive Years (1969-1973) 2013 remaster. Closing track off Aladdin Sane the magnificent Lady Grinning Soul finds Bowie in superb voice; an incredible performance and one of his finest and most underrated ever. Accompanied notably by Mike Garson’s exquisite piano flourishes and Ronson’s Spanish-flavoured acoustic guitar solo.

11. Moss GardenA New Career in a New Town (1977-1982) 2017 remaster. Bowie and Eno working together on the “Heroes” album recorded in Berlin 1977; the fluidity of Eno’s synthesised drones and Bowie’s koto plucking resulting in one of their best collaborations. The instrumental centrepiece of that masterpiece.

12. Karma Man – The John Peel recorded 1968 cut features John McLaughlin on guitar and Herbie Flowers on bass, ie: the definitive version. Includes Visconti’s lush string arrangements, dynamic drumming and a commanding vocal from our young hero.

13. John I’m Only Dancing – Bowie released two 7″ singles of this song – two entirely different recordings, but carrying the same catalogue number – in September 1972 and April 1973. This is the ‘sax’ version recorded on 20 January 1973 during the Aladdin Sane sessions and was intended to be included on that LP until scratched at the last minute for reasons that aren’t clear.

14. An Occasional Dream – A lush uptempo psych-folk serenade from 1969’s Space Oddity, with a jaunty recorder arrangement. This is the new mix by Tony Visconti for 2019’s Conversation Piece box set.

15. Sound and Vision – A rare live outing recorded during the Isolar II Tour at Earl’s Court, London on 30 June 1978. During the wobbly intro Bowie tongue-firmly-in-cheek announces “This is all last-night stuff folks!”.

16. I’m Deranged – An edgy live recording of this Outside classic from June 1997 at Amsterdam’s Paradiso and included on liveandwell.com a 1999 limited edition live album which could only be acquired by being subscribed to BowieNet at the time. Released publicly for the first time on 15 January 2021.

17. Glass Spider – This legitimately eerie track was reworked and enhanced by producer Mario McNulty as part of the new production of the 1987 album Never Let Me Down for the Loving the Alien (1983-1988) box set released in 2018. An inspired revision.

18. Win – Recorded in November 1974, this dreamy, spiralling ballad written for then-girlfriend Ava Cherry is taken from the remastered Young Americans off the 2016 Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) boxset.

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19. When the Wind Blows – This beautiful, doom-struck mini-epic and title track for Jimmy T. Murakami’s anti-nuclear-war film from 1988 is one of Bowie’s most unheralded songs of the decade.

20. A Foggy Day (In London Town) – Taken from last year’s Brilliant Adventures (1992-2001) set, this George and Ira Gershwin jazz standard was recorded in 1998 in New York in collaboration with Angelo Badalamenti and is one of Bowie’s best ever covers.

Posted in Albums That Never Were, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Downloads, Iggy Pop, Images, Mainman, Mick Ronson, Mixtapes, On This Day, Scott Walker | 13 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

The album cover for The Fall’s 1985 classic This Nation’s Saving Grace was designed by Danish painter Claus Castenskiold with British photographer Michael Pollard, brilliantly synthesising photography and drawing for one of the band’s strongest-ever releases.

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The band’s artistic confidence is reflected on the album artwork – a striking concoction of the urban and mundane, the mystical and abstract; the cover features detailed rendering of floating lettering and a cloud-borne chariot dashing over the gritty Manchester skyline at night. The album title appears on the LP in green lettering spread over both sides of the gatefold sleeve. Neither Castenskiold nor Pollard knew what each other were doing. They were operating individually and the Beggars Banquet art department pulled the concept together.

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The below photograph was taken by Michael Pollard on the steps of the Stanley Street bend off Cheetham Hill Road, overlooking the Manchester City Centre, in 1985.

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Pollard had photographed The Fall in Prestwich in 1984 after they had signed to Beggars Banquet and needed a photo to send out to the music press to announce the move.

The following year Mark E Smith rings me at home one night and asks if I could produce a drawn image of a Manchester cityscape for the cover of the forthcoming album ‘This Nation’s Saving Grace’. I still can’t get over the fact that, not only does he know of me but that he also wants me to work on this cover. For a fan like me this has all been the ultimate dream in that no matter how small a part, I somehow became part of my group’s history. Michael Pollard.

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The first Fall album to have a gatefold sleeve, This Nation’s Saving Grace stands as the best from their Beggars Banquet era and is widely accepted as one of the great 80’s records.

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Posted in Album Covers, Fall, The, Images | 6 Comments

Christmas with Dino

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Dean MartinChristmas With Dino mp3

Christmas with Dino is a good collection containing some of Dean Martin’s most popular versions of Christmas standards originally recorded for Capitol in the ’50s and Reprise in the ’60s sung in his own inimitable style.

Merry Christmas….Hic!

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Posted in Downloads, Mixtapes | 7 Comments

The Lemon Twigs – Bowery Ballroom, NYC

With a new album on the way, we appease our excitement with twelve of the greatest moments on record from New York’s incredible The Lemon Twigs.

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Brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario of The Lemon Twigs recently played two shows in NYC’s Bowery Ballroom accompanied by bassist James Richardson and Andres Valbuena on drums, and as announced at the shows, have a new album in the can.

To celebrate, The Press has compiled selected highlights from the duo’s 2016 debut Do Hollywood and 2018’s concept album Go to School, along with a standalone double-A-side 7″ single, and the Brothers of Destruction EP (2017). The collection also includes tracks from their brilliant third LP, Songs for the General Public, released last year and all available on the band’s official website for independent record label 4AD. The wildly creative duo’s albums are also available on the Lemon Twigs Bandcamp page.

It’s hard not to admire the ambition, talent and showmanship, and the breadth of influences – from glam to music hall – of this band who, in a few short years have gone from playing New York’s bars to a record deal with 4AD, and received praise from everyone from Iggy Pop to Elton John. The fevered nature of their live shows can be witnessed in the link below: a heady, lavishly rococo brand of rock ‘n roll, bearing the influence of Big Star, Todd Rundgren, the Beach Boys and Broadway showtunes, recreated in their own unique style.

The Lemon TwigsGreatest Hits mp3

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TRACKS

  1. Why Didn’t You Say That   03:18
  2. The One   02:26
  3. Foolin’ Around   02:48  
  4. Rock Dreams   05:39
  5. Wonderin’ Ways   02:46
  6. Tailor Made   03:38
  7. Baby Baby   04:56
  8. Hi + Lo   04:58
  9. Fight   02:56
  10. Small Victories   03:56
  11. Queen of My School   04:40
  12. As Long As We’re Together    05:03

Total running time: 47:38

 

The Lemon Twigs – Bowery Ballroom, NYC, 15 December 2021

 

SETLIST

1:53 – Hell on Wheels

6:05No One Holds You

9:44 – Fight

14:32 – Small Victories

20:26 – Still It’s Not Enough (unreleased)

24:10 – The One

26:45 – Queen of My School

32:30 – Every Day is the Worst Day of My Life (unreleased)

36:40 – These Words

40:26 – What You Were Doing (unreleased)

45:18 – Live in Favor of Tomorrow

49:13 – Hog

53:44 – Only a Fool

57:10 – Ashamed

1:02:55 – Leather Together

Acoustic Set

1:07:39 – Joanne (Mike Nesmith cover)

1:12:00 – Corner of My Eye (unreleased)

1:16:00 – Some Love? (unreleased)

1:19:25 – If You Give Enough

Encore

1:23:40 – As Long as We’re Together

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BUY THE LEMON TWIGS RECORDS:

Do Hollywood (2016)

Go to School (2018)

Songs for the General Public (2020)

 

PHOTO CREDITS:

 @goldfish.gwen on Instagram

George Faulkner

Posted in Albums That Never Were, Bandcamp, Downloads, Gigs, Images, Lemon Twigs, The, Mixtapes, Performance of the Day, Todd Rundgren | 9 Comments

David Bowie – Hunky Dory

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.

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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 Rick 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

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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, Mainman, Mick Ronson, On This Day, Rank the Songs, Rick Wakeman, Velvet Underground, The | 19 Comments

Queen – Deep Cuts Pt.1

This 12-track selection of Queen deep cuts showcases Freddie Mercury’s incomparable voice and Brian May’s insane talents as a lead guitarist to full effect during its first decade which saw the band forge a career that was as varied and powerful as any act in rock. 

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Queen’s creative juices were flowing from the innovative recordings of the early and mid-1970s when they were a young and hungry British hard rock act looking for their groove. They quickly gained success on both sides of the Atlantic with their detailed, meticulous productions, before going to become a mass-audience favourite whose legend continues to grow.

Not only were they the hit making colossus that we know and love, but many treasures can be mined from their varied and required-listening album cuts too; from quasi-operatic cabaret dramas, to bombastic proggy album suits and arena-oriented hard rock, so much of Queen’s music is still under-recognised even by people who know and love the hits.

So, resident Queen expert and The Press guest programmer, Chris Stanek, has compiled this selection of Queen’s best Deep Cuts Pt.1 from one of the most successful and productive bands of the rock era at the height of its powers.

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Queen –