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, with 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 | 8 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 | 6 Comments

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

Fifty years on from his self-titled solo debut album, and eight 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 what was an apparent copyright dump.

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The 17-track album of Reed’s 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. 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, he can be heard flexing his considerable songwriting muscle. Lou was reinventing his musical career after leaving the Velvet Underground, one of the greatest and most influential bands in rock history. Lou found himself a penniless, strung-out wreck, with a career suddenly 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, in 1971, RCA signed him to a solo contract and sent him to London to record Lou Reed, which was released in 1972.

I’m So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos contains low-key demo versions of songs that appeared on Reed’s debut solo album and his breakthrough follow-up, the Bowie-produced Transformer. 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 making the rounds for several years, but most now seeing the light of day for the first time.

Lou Reed – I’m So Free: The 1971 RCA Demos mp3

TRACKS

1. Perfect Day (Demo – Takes 1 & 2). An audibly nervous Lou commence 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 in his first compilation album in 1977 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 just a basic acoustic guitar for the whole session thus far. Another late-era Velvets ballad that Lou revisited for his self-titled solo debut album which included some top-flight session musicians including Rick Wakeman and Steve Howe from Yes, giving it a bump up in tempo.

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). Lou must have just written this one, “Smiling faces they can’t be forgotten“. Misses the groove of the full band version 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 joke song. 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 the mid-70s. 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 Sally Can’t Dance LP.

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, Hangin’ ‘Round.

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). A Loaded outtake – was the opening song and single off Lou Reed, 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. It would be until Transformer later in the year that Lou became a star with his fluke hit single Walk on the Wild Side.

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Posted in Albums That Never Were, David Bowie, Lou Reed | 16 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 was released in October ’85 and notably includes Kevin Armstrong (Absolute Beginners, Tin Machine, Live Aid) on guitar, and songwriting and guitar contributions by 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 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, 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 originally 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 | 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 that would eventually appear on Aladdin Sane and 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; a regular highlight in the set on the Low/”Heroes” 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.

4. Black Country Rock – 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 to this funky 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 another Aladdin Sane highlight that 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.

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.

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 great 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 equally affecting and highly avant-garde.

9. Nite Flights – Cover of 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. 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 record.

12. Karma Man – The John Peel recorded 1968 cut features John McLaughlin on guitar and Herbie Flowers on bass – 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.

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 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 is taken from the remastered Young Americans off the 2016 Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) boxset.

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 | 11 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 | 5 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.

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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.

hunky-dory

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

Hunky Dory

11. Eight Line Poem

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

10. Fill Your Heart

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

9. Kooks

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

8. Song For Bob Dylan

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

7. Andy Warhol

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

6. The Bewley Brothers

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

5. Quicksand

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

4. Queenbitch

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

3. Oh! You Pretty Things

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

2. Changes

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

1. Life On Mars?

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

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

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

Posted in Bob Dylan, David Bowie, European Rock Pilgrimage, Lou Reed, Mainman, Mick Ronson, On This Day, Rank the Songs, Rick Wakeman, Velvet Underground, The | 14 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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1. Brighton Rock – This lean and muscular Brian May delay-drenched opus launches Queen’s third and arguably best LP, Sheer Heart Attack (1974). Tense and vicious, the track highlights Roger Taylor’s ferocious drumming and a manic Freddie vocal delivery finishing with a mischievous cackle: “Oh no I’m compromised, I must apologise, if my lady should discover how I spent my holidays.” 

2. Sleeping on the Sidewalk – The song showcases the band’s early blues rock sound which would further be explored later on tracks like US No.1 hit Crazy Little Thing Called Love. This one is written and sung by May and taken from the globe-conquering album News of the World (1977).

3. White Queen (As It Began) – A wistful Mercury classic off their underrated second album Queen II (1974), it’s one of his best ballads, sung without a trace of irony or camp.

4. Good Company – Another entry into the band’s vaudeville-rock canon, this cabaret number off the chart-topping A Night At the Opera (1975) was written and sung by May with his chugging ukulele.

5. The Prophet’s Song – An onslaught of guitars and pummelling rhythms that eventually transforms into a call-response choir and a challenging mid-song vocal a cappella, this track is a triumph and one of Queen’s longest ever songs clocking in at eight-and-a-half minutes. Witness May’s feature-length cataclysmic prog-rock epic off A Night At the Opera (1975) as it highlights the band’s in-studio wizardry of multitracked harmonies and labyrinthine guitar orchestrations.

6. My Melancholy Blues – Live favourite for Queen and album-closer off News of the World, My Melancholy Blues has an eccentric cabaret vocal performance from Mercury and features his beautiful classically-trained piano work, accompanied tastefully by Deacy’s subtle bass and Taylor’s brushes. A Queen gem.

7. Some Day One Day – Another track off Queen II, written and sung by Brian May, his first lead-vocal performance for Queen and a multi-tracked electric and acoustic guitar showcase.

8. Dead on Time – Menacing and aggressive May-penned rocker off 1978’s Jazz album, is something of a sequel to their anthemic first single Keep Yourself Alive; it even name-checks that song.

9. The Millionaire Waltz – The definitive epic mid-70s Queen sound is in overdrive here: music hall in 3/4 waltz time moving into a 12/8 hard rock multi-multi-tracked extravaganza, and back again, its one of the best tracks off A Day at the Races (1976) with Brian May’s orchestrated guitar choirs, Deacon’s lead bass part, and a Freddie Mercury performance so flamboyant with many an indulgence in camp, operatic flourishes and massive vocal overdubs, the band are clearly celebrating their own pomposity.

10. Dragon Attack – This gyrating funk-fusion romp is the only track here off the excellent The Game (1980), as Queen initially entertain disco; then increasingly so, into the early 80s.

11. Dreamer’s Ball – Confidence and self-intoxication is apparent on this elaborate British music-hall track off the outrageous Jazz. Its grand-scale guitar choir, not to mention Freddie’s exaggerated vocal performance and over-the-top campiness, is well and truly in full blossom by this stage of their career.

12. Dear Friends – This short moving ballad off Sheer Heart Attack was written by Brian May and sung by Mercury and is a good example of the band’s abilities as songwriters – the perfect deep cut album closer.

Posted in Albums That Never Were, Downloads, Mixtapes, Queen | 8 Comments

John Lennon

So long ago
Was it in a dream?
Was it just a dream?
I know, yes I know
It seemed so very real
Seemed so real to me

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

Rick Wakeman – Get It On

Keyboardist icon Rick Wakeman demonstrated a breathtaking versatility playing with rock force or graceful beauty with Yes, and as a prolific solo artist, but few knew he was also the missing link between glam and the progressive rock era, to pay the rent.

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Having made his name in the late-60s as a session musician, playing on David Bowie’s Space Oddity among others, Wakeman rose to prominence during a brief tenure with the British progressive folk outfit The Strawbs; flooding Britain’s halls with extended classical-style organ solos and some of the best harpsichord-rock ever heard, to standing ovations, even making the cover of Melody Maker as “tomorrow’s superstar” in 1970. The pay wasn’t enough though, so Wakeman left after two albums and resumed his session work.

Through his connections with record producers Tony Visconti and Gus Dudgeon, Wakeman had secured session work with the likes of Cat Stevens, Lou Reed and Elton John, but one day in 1971 the recently married Wakeman found himself £8 short on his rent.

Desperate for work, he took the train from Gants Hill in East London to Tottenham Court Road station and walked to Denmark Street looking for a session in a Southern Music recording studios in Tin Pan Ally, and then onto the studios of Regal Zonophone on Oxford Street, where he could always earn a couple of quid playing a demo session. But there was nothing going on.

He was in a Wimpy Bar on the corner of Rathbone Place and Oxford Street drowning his sorrows with a coke when he bumped into producer Tony Visconti, an old acquaintance. Visconti said:

“Rick, session tonight in Trident Studios, midnight, for Marc Bolan’s new single. He wants you to play piano.”

Wakeman asked how much. “Nine quid” was Visconti’s response. “I love you!” said Rick. Not only has he got the £8 for the rent but he’s got a drink on top of that as well.

Later that night he went to Soho’s Trident Studios and there was Marc Bolan and the T. Rex band playing the soon-to-be hit Get It On. Marc ran through the formidable Chuck Berry-styled riff on the guitar, and the band joined in with King Crimson’s Ian MacDonald providing baritone and alto saxophones.

The pianist-extraordinaire listened to the track and eventually said: “Marc, there is no piano on this. I can’t hear a piano part at all. Anything I add will take away of the rawness you are trying to achieve.” Bolan said, “All I want you to do is this”, and he ran his hand down the piano keys in a glissando. “I want you to do that every time I nod at you”. Wakeman said, “That’s very kind of you, but you could do that.” 

“Do you want your nine quid or not?

I could give you the nine quid or loan it to you, but you wouldn’t take it would you? So you can earn it. You can sit here ’till 3am doing gliss’s.” 

Released on 2 July as a taster for Electric Warrior, considered the first glam rock album, it only took three weeks for Get It On to become the second of four T. Rex number 1 hits. Steeped in sexuality and with some brilliant lyrics, Get It On is the sound of an artist at the top of his game. Wakeman earned his £9 for those little touches of sparkle that really lift the track.

With the T. Rex track and the piano glissandos mastered, Rick went home and paid his rent. It’s well known he would go on to play on Bowie’s Hunky Dory masterpiece later that year. It’s less well known that he was offered a place in the Spiders From Mars line up, and the job with Yes, on the same day. Wakeman would turn Bowie down, join Yes, and go on to make some of the best progressive rock music of all time on albums such as Fragile, Close to the Edge and Tales of Topographic Oceans, before leaving Yes to pursue an expansive solo career while continuing to sport a multitude of famous on-stage capes.

Further Listening:

Cat Stevens – Morning Has Broken (1971)

Elton John – Madman Across the Water (1971)

David Bowie – It Ain’t Easy (1972)

Posted in David Bowie, Lou Reed, Rick Wakeman, T.Rex | 20 Comments

Syd Barrett – Earl’s Court

Mick Rock captured these seminal shots of Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett outside his flat in Earl’s Court during the Madcap Sessions. The photos are some of the best the late-great legendary snapper shot, and considered to be Rock’s first renowned images.

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Heavily immersed in the heady and dissolute hippie lifestyle culture of the time, Barrett was 23 and renting a three-room flat in Wetherby Mansions at 310 Earl’s Ct Square. It was April 1969 and Syd had his massive American car parked right in front of the building when his friend the 19-year-old British photographer with a good eye Mick Rock, saw the incredible prop that was too good to pass up. He began shooting what Rock later described as “a beautifully burnt-out rocker” reclining on the bonnet of Barrett’s abandoned 1959 convertible midnight blue Pontiac Parisienne, wearing a pair of Gohil Boots – which Roger Waters would allude to 10 years later in the lyrics to Nobody Home off The Wall – released on this day 42 years ago.

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The seductively dishevelled Barrett was the hippest thing in London at the time. Having recently extracted himself from Pink Floyd, he was in the throes of exploring his inner landscape on his debut solo comeback LP, The Madcap Laughs. He had become a reclusive figure following a protracted, LSD-fuelled mental breakdown, but had recently signed to EMI and commenced recording at Abbey Road Studios with the assistance from ex-bandmates David Gilmour and Waters. As for the photo shoot, there was no stylist, no hair and make-up, just jet black eyeliner and untouchable cool. The Pontiac must have looked incredibly out of place on the streets of London in 1969.

It was then upstairs and into the mysterious Wetherby Mansions flat. The task of designing the album sleeve fell to Floyd stalwarts Storm Thorgeson and Aubrey “Po” Powell, but Syd had painted some interesting orange and turquois stripes on the slats, a fine setting for the final images and the Hipgnosis album cover concept. His female acquaintance at the time, the model ‘Iggy the Eskimo’, cuts a striking figure visible in the background on the compelling and unsettling album sleeve.

The startling and iconic images are both intriguing and terrifying, particularly in the context of what happened to Syd Barrett, and were taken in a single two-hour session. The shambling and intimate The Madcap Laughs was released a few months later in January 1970 and was well received by critics and fans.

Mick Rock was an exceptional talent visually, he also had luck with timing in his career. He shared a friendship with Syd that began in the acid haze of the sixties and endured until the early seventies. He was the right photographer for the right subjects and in a professional career that spanned over 50 years, Mick Rock believed he never bettered these pictures. One of the truly iconic rock photographers of all time.

Syd’s mental state worsened so much, that he stopped lacing his Gohil boots and used elastic bands to keep them on.

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Posted in Images, Album Covers, Pink Floyd, On This Day, Syd Barrett, Mick Rock | 5 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

These are the four original photographs of the members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, taken by filmmaker Gus Van Sant, for their Rick Rubin-produced funk-rock classic, Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991).

In 1991 Van Sant was commissioned by the Chili Peppers to create the artwork for their first album for Warner Bros. and the iconic image incorporated Van Sant’s photographs of the inked-up Flea, Anthony Kiedis, Chad Smith and John Frusciante arranged around tribal-style tattoo art designed by Dutch artist Henk Schiffmacher, a.k.a. Hanky Panky.

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A definitive funk-rock masterpiece, the cover of the album features the stylised tongues of the band members reaching out towards a single, metaphorical rose, conceptually recontextualised from cover of their previous album Mother’s Milk, with thorny vines in black and white coming out of their open mouths. The band personified Hollywood’s dirty, funky cool and the album stands at the threshold of an enormous cultural shift in the 90s, and remains one of the most iconic album sleeves of the era.

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Posted in Album Covers, Images | 2 Comments

RIP Mick Rock

Mick Rock, who captured iconic images of artists including David Bowie, Lou Reed, Queen, Iggy Pop and more, has died, aged 72. A photographic poet and The Man Who Shot The 70s he created some of the most magnificent photographs rock music has ever seen.

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Posted in Album Covers, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Images, Lou Reed, Mainman, Mick Rock, Mott the Hoople, Queen | 4 Comments

The Flying Burrito Brothers – Wild Horses

Gram Parsons rewired country music into his own beautiful vision where his considerable gifts were evident on one of his finest ever recordings. 

GP4Gram Parsons, an immensely talented musician haunted by personal demons and a penchant for cocaine and heroin that cut his life drastically short in 1973 at the age of just 26, never achieved the stardom that was his creative due. A revolutionary musician who became a cult figure, his legacy is undeniable and spirit lives on through records such as Safe at Home (1968), as a member of the short-lived and long forgotten International Submarine Band, and replacing David Crosby as a member of The Byrds, heavily contributing to one of their best albums, the country-rock classic Sweetheart of the Rodeo (1968). 

He was also an original member of The Flying Burrito Brothers and developed a prolific songwriting partnership with ex-Byrd Chis Hillman, and bassist Chris Ethridge, as evidenced by the genre-defining landmark THE GUILDED PALACE OF SIN (1969) ★★★★★. Parsons took the lead and creatively fused country with rock, creating a perfect synthesis of the rural with the urban, the traditional with the contemporary. His sweet soulful voice the centrepiece on many of the tracks. When the Burritos performed at the the ill-fated Altamont Free Concert in December 1969, as documented in the film Gimme Shelter, it was frontman Gram who was the focal point, confidently calling the shots.

Their follow-up BURRITO DELUXE (1970) ★★★, is best remembered for containing the first recording of the Jagger/Richards composition ‘Wild Horses’ a year before The Rolling Stones’ version surfaced. It continued Gram’s fusion of life-in-the-fast-lane rock with country soul, but found him deliberately stepping back to make more room for Hillman and future-Eagle Bernie Leadon, but Gram was soon to depart. After missing too many gigs or showing up too inebriated to play, he was fired from the Burritos in June 1970. 

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Gram had developed a close friendship with Keith Richards as early as 1968, reintroducing the guitarist to country music and expanding his musical horizons. Gram’s influence can be heard on The Rolling Stones’ frequent excursions into country music on Let it Bleed (1969) and Sticky Fingers (1971), as well as providing them with a template for the best of their early 70s work. Gram even joined the Stones’ camp at Keith’s Villa Nellcôte in the South of France during the sessions for Exile on Main Street in 1972, hanging out and writing music, and rumours persist that he appears on the legendary album. If you listen closely you may just hear him singing backup on Sweet Virginia.

It didn’t last long though. In Keith’s 2010 autobiography Life he concedes Mick Jagger was the impetuous for Parsons’ departure. The closeness of Gram and Keith, their marathon drug sessions, even talk of making an album together, awakened jealousies and anger in Mick:

“Mick didn’t want Gram. It took me a long time to realise something that everyone around me suspected. He made life difficult for him, flirted with his girlfriend, and somehow made it clear that he was not welcome”

Richards also recalls that Jagger behaved like a “tarantula” when he was around Gram, and while he believed that Gram’s presence expanded the band, the singer saw it as a betrayal. Parsons attempted to rekindle his relationship with the band on their 1972 American tour but Jagger shut that down, and discussions of a solo LP by him on their own label proved inconclusive. On Parsons, Richards makes no secret of his influence on him: “Gram taught me to play country, the differences between styles; Today I can play with any musician of the genre without blushing. I know I had a good teacher ”.

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Richards had given Parsons the demo tape of ‘Wild Horses’ on December 7, 1969, the day after the concert at Altamont, and the Burrito’s relatively unknown, slow-burn version, which fittingly closes out Burrito Deluxe, is a desperate take, dripping with emotion.

“I had my freedom… but I don’t have much time…”

Gram owns it, his golden voice sounding soulful yet cracked, with an undertone of anguish and hopelessness. The great Leon Russell also features on one of the great piano solos of all time, and when it kicks in with “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow’s pedal steel guitar playing over the top, it is the definition of rock ‘n roll beauty. 

After two albums and no commercial return, and with his dissatisfaction with his bandmates growing, Parsons decamped again. Returning to America, our hero met the protégé Emmylou Harris, a harmony singer of astonishing purity, and they formed a formidable partnership, their voices complementing each other and blending in exquisitely on the promising GP (1973), the first of two solo albums that are the centrepiece of his catalogue, replacing The Flying Burrito Brothers’ warped humour with melancholy and sweet beauty.

While the album received enthusiastic reviews, it also failed to achieve any significant commercial success. Likewise the country-soul of his even-better final album, Grievous Angel (1974), was met with a similar reception. No matter what his lifestyle was like, Gram’s writing was at its very best here, and his voice seemed fuller, more controlled and more heartfelt than ever. Unfortunately his health deteriorated due to years of drug abuse and he died of an overdose in a hotel room at Joshua Tree Desert in California prior to the release of the album.

Since his death, Parsons has attained a cult-hero status and has been been credited with helping to found both country rock and alt-country. In barely five years, he had altered the shape of American music by bringing country, rock ’n roll, soul, R&B and folk together. A true artist and self-made shooting star that burned out way too soon.

Further Listening:

 The Byrds – One Hundred Years from Now

The Byrds – Hickory Wind

The Flying Burrito Brothers – Do Right Woman

The Flying Burrito Brothers – Older Guys

Gram Parsons – Return of the Grievous Angel 

Gram Parsons – Brass Buttons

 

Posted in Didn't Know It Was a Cover, Eagles, Gram Parsons, Rolling Stones, The | 18 Comments

Bob Dylan – 1965, Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY

The next concert Dylan played after his controversial appearance at the Newport Folk Festival performance was on 28 August 1965 at Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, New York. This photo is Bob at the soundcheck before the gig. 

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On August 28th, 1965, Bob Dylan made one of the most infamous appearances of his career at the Forest Hills Stadium in Queens, NY. Many fans will point to Dylan “going electric” at the Newport Folk Festival as the turning point in his career, and in rock music at large, but the legend doesn’t stop with Newport. Evolving too fast for some of his young followers, Dylan’s performance at Forest Hills in 1965 was hotly contested, with fans rushing the stage, displeased, immediately after he took out his Fender Stratocaster.

Captured here by photographer Daniel Kramer, who accompanied Dylan to the Forest Hills concert, wrote: “Dylan held a conference with the musicians who were going to accompany him in the second half of the concert. He told them that they should expect anything to happen—he probably was remembering what occurred at Newport. He told them that the audience might yell and boo and that they should not be bothered by it. Their job was to make the best music they were capable of, and let whatever happened happen.”

Posted in Bob Dylan | 5 Comments

The Rolling Stones – Drift Away

The 40th Anniversary expanded edition of the Rolling Stones classic Tattoo You was released this month featuring one of their best kept secrets, an amazing remake of ‘Drift Away’.

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I never really cared for this song that much…until now. Written by songwriter Mentor Williams in 1972, ‘Drift Away’ is essentially a love song to rock ‘n roll, made famous by soul singer Dobie Gray in 1973 and covered by everyone from Roy Orbison to Bruce Springsteen. The Stones recorded their version during the sessions for It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (1974), but omitted it from the finished album and replaced with ‘Ain’t Too Proud to Beg’. It’s the Stones getting back to their blues-driven brand of rock ‘n roll and the recording is warm and inviting, packing an emotional punch, with Mick’s camp-country drawl accompanied by a gritty Keith harmony over airy guitars and a rhythm section softly working the pocket. It’s tossed-off but sounds effortless, not careless.

Historic for Stones fans, ‘Drift Away’ finally sees the light of day on this excellent new set which includes a newly remastered and expanded reissue of the original 11-track album, nine extra songs as part of a Lost & Found: Rarities disc (essentially expanding on the reworked left-overs project that was Tattoo You), and a scintillating 26-song live show from the world-conquering supporting tour, finding the Stones firing on more cylinders most bands could only dream of.

It is still possible to be surprised by the Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the World as they nail this cover, and while some of the Lost & Found: Rarities tracks appear to feature some contemporaneous and modern instrumental and vocal overdubs, ‘Drift Away’ is one of the few that appears in its original loose and improvisatory glory. 

Recorded: Musicland Studios, Munich, Germany, Nov. 13-24 1973.
Mick Jagger on Vocals, Keith Richards on Guitar and Backing Vocals, Nicky Hopkins on Piano, Mick Taylor on Slide Guitar, Bill Wyman on Bass and Charlie Watts on Drums.

Posted in Never Heard It Before...Until Now!, Performance of the Day, Rolling Stones, The | 18 Comments

Bob Dylan – Too Late

Bob Dylan’s Springtime in New York is the latest instalment in his vast unreleased catalogue containing tour rehearsals, demos, and outtakes from the dawn of the ’80s.

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It’s a rich and rewarding era for Bob, it’s also a period marked by questionable choices, particularly in terms of track selection, something the new set highlights with the inclusion of a previously unpublished song called ‘Too Late’ – Dylan’s stream of consciousness take on death and destiny.

While the music industry was grappling with the arrival of new trends and technology, from MTV to digital recording, Dylan was writing and recording new songs for a new decade, creating an often overlooked, yet essential new chapter in his extensive and complex studio catalogue. Released by Legacy Records in September 2021, Bootleg Series Vol. 16: Springtime in New York 1980–1985 takes in the tail end of Dylan’s Christian phase (1981’s Shot of Love), through his excellent work with Mark Knoplfer (1983’s Infidels), up to one of his more criticised studio albums (1985’s Empire Burlesque).

This simply exceptional song is included on Disc 3 of the Deluxe 5-CD box-set and thankfully also makes the cut for the Standard 2-CD Edition. It may sound familiar to Dylan aficionados who have heard an arguably inferior reworking of the song called Foot of Pride, an Infidels outtake from the original Bootleg Series Volume 1-3 (1991). ‘Too Late’ differs markedly, and for the better, but the seeds of that track can be heard here, if anything providing a fascinating transition.

You know what they say about being nice to people on your way up
“You might meet ‘em again on your way back down”

There are two versions: the shaggy acoustic sketch and the full band demo – quite possibly the best thing on the whole set. It’s non-selection for the excellent Infidels album, while perplexing, charts the creative path Dylan chose to traverse, and the track serves up an intriguing new angle.

“The journey of ‘Too Late’ and ‘Foot of Pride’ is fascinating,” says series co-producer Steve Berkowitz, who has worked on all of Dylan’s Bootleg series releases. “To listen to the three takes included, to me that’s the listen. There’s the acoustic version, then the full band version, and a couple of days later it becomes ‘Foot of Pride’. That’s the journey, and it’s a fascinating journey. For me, those three versions are a really big deal. Each take is important, and I like that we put out one in advance and people reacted to it really well.”

Posted in Bob Dylan, Never Heard It Before...Until Now! | 14 Comments

Top 5 Songs – The Style Council

After breaking up The Jam in 1982, Paul Weller formed the Style Council, a radical and fearless departure that fused contemporary soul, effortless cool, and exuberant pop with political activism. The Press counts down the short-lived outfit’s five most essential songs.

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If it came as a surprise when The Modfather disbanded The Jam, it was nothing compared to surprise upon hearing the musical manifesto of the first handful of singles, and excellent videos, by the Style Council in 1983. While The Jam’s final tour hinted at a new direction with the introduction of a brass section and a Curtis Mayfield song in the live set, Weller and his new band-members Mick Talbot (keyboards), Steve White (drums) and later-on D.C. Lee (vocals), mixed social comment and European fashion with a wide range of musical styles including jazz, gospel, funk, and northern soul, melding with surprising harmony, and chops to match.  

They swapped punk and mod for horn charts and organ licks on terrific early non-album singles ‘Speak Like a Child‘ and ‘A Solid Bond in Your Heart‘, and consolidated with their strong début album CAFÈ BLEU (1984) ★★★★. The group expanded this obsession with the excellent OUR FAVOURITE SHOP (1985) ★★★★★, a UK #1 and a richer, more accomplished work full of tripping melodies that found the band on top of their game, tackling big societal and political issues set to confident melodies and sophisticated pop instrumentation. Unlike many of their British post-punk contemporaries, the Style Council didn’t hesitate to move with the times, embracing heavily sequenced ’80s studio technology at times to the detriment of the material. THE COST OF LOVING (1987) ★★, while a hit in the UK, was downbeat in tone, anaemic in melody, and the band’s increasingly political conscience did little to lift the mood. 

By the following album, CONFESSIONS OF A POP GROUP (1988) ★★★, the band had lost interest in touring and the material was a confusing mix of jazz and classical influences, incorporating French orchestration over organic acoustic instrumentation like flutes and harps, at times drifting towards cocktail-hour muzak. Apart from a couple of choice tracks, the album just about sank the band. In fact their following album MODERNISM: A NEW DECADE (1989) ★ did just that, incorporating house and garage to an extent that their record label Polydor ignominiously rejected the offering for veering too far into the dance-music realm, finally seeing the light of day as a footnote-release ten years later.

Weller, the one-time voice of a generation, split the band and sloped off to rethink his approach. Without a record deal or a publishing contract, he took a two-year sabbatical and returned, taking up where The Jam had left off with a series of strong solo albums that restored his standing as one of Britain’s most powerful songwriters and performers. The Style Council however stand as a brave and distinctive achievement; the distillation of a time and approach where the soul-pop landscape, and the upper echelon of the UK charts, was to be freely explored.

The Style CouncilTop 5 Songs mp3

5. My Ever Changing Moods

The band’s fifth single, the incandescent ‘My Ever Changing Moods’, a major hit in the UK, was their only hit in the US reaching #29 on the billboard charts, and the first single from the band’s début album Café Bleu. The album version features vocals by Weller only accompanied by Talbot’s acoustic piano, however this exemplary 7″ single version is the galloping full band recording.

4. You’re the Best Thing

The now-classic second single from the band’s début album Café Bleu, is the epitome of the Style Council’s smooth soul and was one of their biggest hits, peaking at #5 on the UK Singles Chart in 1984.

3. Long Hot Summer

The group really hit their stride with this quality 7″ single ‘Long Hot Summer’. Full of nuance and lyrical lightness, the band nails languid, evocative soul-pop, ranking among Weller’s finest ever work; the accompanying homoerotic video helped give the band it’s biggest ever hit (UK #3) in August 1983.

2. Shout to the Top

Soulful and bursting at the seams with energy, the Style Council’s infectious call-to-arms hit single (UK #7) was a non-album track in 1984, later included in Our Favourite Shop expanded edition, it has a clear Curtis Mayfield influence, an addictive driving string section, and is a clinic in effortless-cool music.

1. Walls Come Tumbling Down

You don’t have to take this crap/You don’t have to sit back and relax. Rocking yet soulful, this defiant political anthem off Our Favourite Shop distils everything great about the Style Council. They assert their confidence on this classic. It was their last major hit single, and contains its first massive hook at 0:50. Simply put the song absolutely cooks.

Posted in Downloads, Mixtapes, Style Council, The, Top 5 Songs, Wig Outs | 12 Comments

Bowie and Egon Schiele

The composition for David Bowie’s Lodger album cover reflected the influence of Egon Schiele’s Self-Portrait as Saint Sebastian (1914).

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A major figurative painter of the early 20th century, Egon Schiele’s (1890-1918) work is known for its anguished eroticism, explicit sexuality and raw nudity, exaggerated and distorted bodies depicted through angular, contorted sketches and heavy lines. The twisted body shapes that characterize Schiele’s paintings and drawings mark the artist as an early exponent of Expressionism and his many self-portraits are some of his most inward-looking and objectively tortured works that have influenced multiple artists from Francis Bacon, who was similarly engaged with the relationship between the human body and psychological anguish, to Julian Schnabel, Tracey Emin, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and of course David Bowie. 

In the 1970s, Berlin was a strange, unexplored and politically unstable city, and had the legacy of the German Expressionists in the air. Many bohemians, artists and musicians found their inspiration in this neglected and desolated atmosphere, including cultural trailblazers David Bowie and Iggy Pop. The music they created reflected the atmosphere of Berlin at the time and expressed an artistic freedom, anonymity and new creative inspiration.

Bowie’s ‘Berlin trilogy’ and the rebirth of Iggy Pop with The Idiot and Lust for Life, are acknowledged as important artistic testaments influencing genres of music and musicians up to this very day. Upon relocating there in November 1976, the musicians studied the works of Schiele, Erich Heckel and the Die Brucke (‘The Bridge’) movement, often visiting the city’s Brücke Museum. The album covers accompanying this music projected the influence of the Expressionists often possessing the same avant-garde, emotionless, almost robotic poses, with Iggy’s ‘Idiot’ a homage to Heckel’s painting Roquairol 1917.

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So onto the Lodger LP cover design. During a long BBC Radio One interview in 1979 centred on the making of Lodger, his newest record, he mentioned an artist who was making a big impact on him around then but was largely unknown at the time. It was Egon Schiele. Clearly inspired by Schiele’s self-portraits, it’s the positioning of limbs and figures, an accident victim; contorted, a broken nose achieved through make up, however the bandaged hand came from a real incident where Bowie had burned his hand in a coffee spill on the first morning of the shoot, although it perfectly suites the dishevelment and drama of the image.  

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The original wrap-around gatefold album sleeve featured a full-length shot of Bowie by photographer Brian Duffy, who had previously photographed Bowie on the iconic Aladdin Sane sleeve, was deliberately of low resolution, taken with a Polaroid SX-70 type camera. After shooting on Kodachrome film, Bowie rejected Duffy’s hi-res shots, instead preferring the look of the Polaroid which was used as the album cover at the last minute.

In keeping with the surprise Berlin-themed Where Are We Now single in 2013, Bowie also used a sculpture of Egon Schiele by Al Farrow for the cover of ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ off The Next Day. Some of Bowie’s own paintings can also be seen as a restatement of Schiele’s work, none more so than the cover of the new Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001) boxset due for release on 26th November 2021, the fifth in a series of box sets chronicling his career from 1969 to the 21st century.

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David Bowie in 1977 with a tactically deployed Egon Schiele book.

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Further Reading:

David Bowie & Iggy Pop in Berlin: Rock Pilgrimage

David Bowie: Heroes

♥  The Bowie Connection

More Album Cover Outtakes

♥  Iggy Pop – Top 50 Songs

Posted in Album Covers, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Images | 12 Comments

Never Heard It Before…Until Now!

Released on this day 33 years ago, the ramshackle swagger of Fisherman’s Blues marked a clear departure for charismatic bandleader and principal songwriter Mike Scott and his band the Waterboys.

The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues (1988)

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Coming three years after their third and most successful album to date, the epic This Is the Sea – an album that yielded the surprise UK hit ‘The Whole of the Moon’ – the Waterboys found themselves on the verge of major commercial success and fame. Then multi-instrumentalist Karl Wallinger left the group and Mike Scott moved to Ireland to commence recording sessions for the band’s much anticipated follow-up. Three years was spent exploring a newfound folk-punk path, soaking up traditional Celtic influences, retiring from the pressures of the spotlight, and recording a lot of tracks for this rightly lauded masterpiece, now considered the Waterboys’ signature album. At the time critics and fans were split between those embracing the new rootsier influence and others disappointed after hoping for a continuation of the more rock-oriented “big music” stylings of This Is the Sea

The LP showcases many guest musicians that had played with the band in Dublin and Galway, and the line-up of Scott, fiddler Steve Wickham and Anthony Thistlethwaite (sax/mandolin), both crucial to the Fisherman’s Blues sound, are now joined by a brotherhood of contributors including Trevor Hutchinson on bass and Peter McKinney on drums, forming what was dubbed a “Raggle Taggle” band. 

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Whittled down from a reputed fifty finished tracks from the now-legendary sessions at Spiddal House, the album consists of thirteen numbers; some original, some traditional folk tunes, and some covers. Highlights include the desperate, optimistic rush of the opening title track, perhaps a reaction to the stadium rock U2 went on to embody, and exactly the sort of music that many expected Scott and his cohorts to make in the wake of This Is The Sea.

Castin’ out my sweet line
With abandonment and love
No ceiling bearin’ down on me
Save the starry sky above

And I know I will be loosened
From the bonds that hold me fast
And the chains all around me
Will fall away at last

The open-hearted sentimentality of ‘And a Bang On the Ear‘ and the driving ‘We Will Not Be Lovers‘, one of the best songs on the album, showcase Scott’s passionate vocals set to oblique Dylan-esque imagery in a delightfully rustic setting, and to great success. Then there’s the Celtic Soul epiphany of Van Morrison’s breathtaking ‘Sweet Thing‘ where Scott drops McCartney’s ‘Blackbird’ into the midst of it all, and a Woody Guthrie classic overlayed with a thick Waterboys filter to close out the album (‘This Land Is Your Land’). 

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Spiddal House, County Galway, Ireland

The playful ‘When Will We Be Married?‘ and country music tribute to Hank Williams, ‘Has Anybody Here Seen Hank‘ are late-album highlights, with only ‘World Party‘, a track co-written by and lending its name to Wallinger’s then project, maintains the feel from their previous widescreen-rock outings.

Repackaged with a treasure-trove of unreleased gold-dust eventually seeing the light of day in 2013 – the multi-disc extravaganza Fisherman’s Box – the original thirteen track LP is a peerless, yet warm and rewarding collision of country folk and traditional Irish music with a stripped-down rock ‘n roll sensibility, delivering more emotion, power, and depth most acts could only dream of. Fisherman’s Blues has since become the Scots-Irish troubadours’ bestselling record. It was a path less travelled, but the best ones always are.   9/10

Posted in Never Heard It Before...Until Now!, On This Day, Waterboys, the | 13 Comments

Waiting on a Friend

This photo of Mick and Keith was taken at The Feathers pub on 36 Tudor Street, London, on 30 July 1967 after both had just been granted bail and released from jail under conditions pending their appeals, following one of the Sixties’ most infamous drug busts. 

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As cool as you like and enjoying a post beat-the-rap pint, the two Stones were freed on bail pending an appeal which would, a few weeks later, see the sentences quashed. The appeals court overturned Richards’ conviction for lack of evidence, and gave Jagger a conditional discharge.

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Tucked away on a quiet corner off the hustle of Fleet Street in the extensive networks of lanes, courts and alleys, this historic London pub is located just outside the Tudor Gates of the Inner Temple and was rebuilt in 1974 and renamed The Witness Box. It has now sadly been converted into a branch of Jamie’s godawful wine bars.

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And in a show of fleeting support The Who recorded and released a tribute cover single of Under My Thumb and The Last Time to coincide with the Glimmer Twins’ incarceration. What!?!

Posted in European Rock Pilgrimage, Images, Rolling Stones, The | 15 Comments

Bowie – Deep Cuts Pt.1

We all know about comfort food but what about comfort music? Look no further. This Bowie collection of different mixes, demos versions, and album Deep Cuts acts fast to provide immediate soothing relief to get you through whatever life throws at you, be it a global pandemic, lockdowns and earthquakes. An elixir for these dark and strange times.

DB Deep Cuts Pt1

David Bowie – Deep Cuts Pt.1 mp3

TRACKS

1. Up the Hill Backwards – This rare prototype version can be found on Vampires of Human Flesh, a bootleg of demos and alternative takes of Scary Monsters tracks recorded at New York’s Power Station in February 1980.

2. Red Sails – In 2015 Tony Visconti remixed Lodger with Bowie’s approval, as they were never really satisfied with the original mix. It was eventually released in 2017 and Red Sails sounds freshly muscular, however Visconti adds quite a bit of echo, reverb and moves things around the stereo field from left to right, as was his want. But he got the fade-in right.

3. Hang Onto Yourself – Studio version of a track on the Ziggy 30th Anniversary set, this underrated album track was the concert opener on many of the Ziggy US dates back in 1973.

4. Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?) – As much as I love the raucous Watch That Man, I have always felt the title track was a more suitable curtain raiser for the chart topping Aladdin Sane. It’s dissonant sprawls come alive in both clarity and tone on this 40th Anniversary 2013 remaster, featuring the debut of long-time Bowie avant-jazz pianist Mike Garson.

5. Boys Keep Swinging – Bowie promoted this song famously on the Kenney Everett Video Show in 1979 to remarkable effect, and this is the audio recording of that performance with a different vocal take to that off Lodger.

6. Holy Holy – A remake of the original 1970 single, this magnificent amped up Spider From Mars version didn’t make the cut for Ziggy for reasons that aren’t clear, winding up as a B-side a few years later.

7. Queen Bitch – Unrepresentative of the general sound and feel of Hunky Dory, this energetic Bowie-fied Velvets pastiche was the B-side to the Life on Mars? single in 1973.

8. Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise) – One of the finest ever moments committed to tape, this is taken from the iSelect compilation released in 2008 and is a single track, rather than being split up song by song as it has been released on previous CD versions of Diamond Dogs.

9. Sound and VisionLow was remastered in 2017 as part of Parlophone’s ‘Berlin’ box set A New Career In A New Town (1977-1982), and like most of side one the euphoric Sound and Vision is bass-heavy, previously hampered by the restrictions of vinyl regarding the bottom end. Not sure it sounds better than my German 1977 vinyl pressing of Low though.

10. Joe the Lion – One of the greatest, most chaotic songs Bowie ever recorded, it was originally on “Heroes”, however this version is taken from the handsome Rykodisc box set Sound and Vision released in 1989, not the pointless 1991 remix of the song.

11. A New Career in a New Town – Side one of Low closes with this stunning instrumental that was the B-side to the Sound and Vision single in February 1977.

12. D.J. – Another interesting Tony Visconti 2017 remixed Lodger track, this one is quite spectacular: crisp and perfectly balanced highlighting Adrian Belew’s guitar fireworks and Simon House’s queasy electric violin.

13. Teenage Wildlife – One of Bowie’s longest ever songs and something of a ‘sister song’ to the classic “Heroes”, this version of Teenage Wildlife is another remaster from A New Career In A New Town (1977-1982), a box set which included the Scary Monsters album.

14. Space Oddity – Recorded for the 1979 New Year’s Eve telecast, Will Kenny Everett Make It To 1980?, this remake of the original Bowie classic shows how powerful it is as a song without all the strings and synthesizers, featuring only piano, drums, acoustic guitar and bass. This stripped down, dramatic affair packs a punch and was released as the B-side to Alabama Song in 1980, although the version we have here was from a 1992 reissue of Scary Monsters in a different mix which notably extends the deafening silence after the line “may God’s love be with you”.

15. I Can’t Explain – Tucked away on Pin Ups this is a cover of the famous song by The Who, one of Bowie early favourite bands of the London 60’s club circuit. It’s all about Mick Ronson’s guitar tone here and this underrated gem showed up on a very good, yet unauthorised RCA compilation called Golden Years in 1983.

16. Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed – Parlophone released a box set of five CDs featuring recordings from 1968–1969 called Conversation Piece to mark the 50th anniversary of Space Oddity. It included a 2019 mix by original producer Tony Visconti, but this is a very good song, and an album highlight, whichever way you slice it.

17. Stay – Live version off the 2005 reissue of Stage which reinstated the concert song order and added two unreleased songs, one of them was was Be My Wife, the other was this scintillating performance of a Station to Station album cut.

18. Cat People (Putting Out Fire) – Originally from a 1982 OST album to the erotic horror film Cat People, this Giorgio Moroder collaboration is taken from the Re:Call 3 remastered tracks disc on the A New Career In A New Town (1977-1982) box set. Had a second life when featured in Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards.

19. Because You’re Young“Look in my eyes, nobody ho-ooo-ome”, another track off Vampires of Human Flesh, a demo of what ended up buried on side two of Scary Monsters. This version delivers an entirely different arrangement, occasionally altered lyrics and a different title “Because I’m Young”. I think I prefer this version.

20. Remembering Marie A. – Lifted off the original Baal EP, this passion project for Bowie consisted of five tracks recorded at Berlin’s Hansa Studios in 1981, applied the same recording techniques as “Heroes”, and used a proper 15-piece German pit band of old guys. The result is ornate and lush; the lovely standout Remembering Marie A – an exquisite closer.

Further Reading:

♥  The “Life On Mars?” and “Vampires Of Human Flesh” sleeves are excellent fan art by Honeypot Designs.

Posted in Adrian Belew, Albums That Never Were, David Bowie, Downloads, Iggy Pop, Mick Ronson, Mixtapes, Robert Fripp | 20 Comments

Ziggy Played Guitar

This newly unearthed photograph of David Bowie with a red Zemaitis Stratocaster was taken by legendary producer Tony Visconti in the old Haddon Hall wine cellar in early 1970, pointing the way to the electric glam-rock that would make Bowie a superstar.

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It’s a portrait of a man who would go on to sell the world, capturing Bowie’s own moment of ‘going electric’ after the mostly acoustic prog-folk of the previous year’s Space Oddity – the true first chapter in an often brilliant career. The guitar was owned by Tony Visconti, made by British luthier Tony Zemaitis, and was adorned with home made ceramic discs before being stripped back to it’s original wood finish as it looks today.

241973172_10227867996787972_2367585179979169857_nFrom David’s permed hair you can tell he just had a hit with Space Oddity. The story behind the guitar is that it belonged to Tom Evans of Badfinger. I owned a Blue Fender Jazzmaster guitar. His bass player had the same color Fender Precision bass and Tom wanted them to match. I made a swap with Tom. As you can see the guitar is red. Shortly after this photo was taken I decided I didn’t like the red and started to strip the body and sand it down to its natural wood finish. It was a chore because we were stripping a plastic coating, not paint. David and Ronno each took turns to help me. The Marshall amp belonged to Ronno. We thought the foam would slightly mute the loudness, but we received complaints from the other tenants. These basement rehearsals led to the beginning of The Man Who Sold The World album. – Tony Visconti.

With a keen ear for great guitarists who shaped and created his stylistically fluid music, Bowie himself would only have brief flirtations with Stratocaster guitars. It was on Diamond Dogs (1974) where Bowie was the principal guitarist – his first in quite some time not to feature the great Mick Ronson. Bowie’s distorted, trashy sound is singular and distinctive on the record but he never took on sole guitarist duty again.

To promote the album, Bowie recorded a lip synced performance of the rock ‘n roll classic Rebel Rebel for the Dutch television programme Top Pop with a bright red Hagstrom I Kent PB-24G Stratocaster, while donning a black eye-patch and thrift-shop spotted neckerchief. A real “Give me a guitar and I’ll do something with it” moment, it was clear the punks were watching as Bowie, blithely arrogant, if a little awkward, holds the guitar with disdain, hardly pretending to play it. This guitar was only used in this promo for the Diamond Dogs album, and there’s no record of him ever using it elsewhere, apart from this TV appearance

Filmed in Paris in June 1977, Bowie lip-synced to Be My Wife, the 2nd and final single from Low. It was Bowie’s first official video since the Mick Rock-directed Life on Mars? filmed in 1973. The Stanley Dorfman-directed video found Bowie performing solo against a stark white background, using a red Fender Stratocaster, with a mirrored pickguard, as a prop while strangely miming the guitar solo. A conventional guitar for a very unconventional song, he somehow manages to appear nonchalant and anguished at the same time in this bizarre plea for marital union. Bowie’s make-up and mannerisms in the video were influenced by the comic, Buster Keaton.

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Then in September 1977, he appeared alongside Marc Bolan on his TV show ‘Marc’ playing a sunburst Fender Strat on the bluesy jam number Standing Next to You. This guitar belonged to Marc, who gave it to Bowie as he turned up guitar-less on the day. Bowie also performed his current single “Heroes” on the show, the first televised performance of the song, but it would be Bolan’s last performance, a week later he was killed in a car crash in London.

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In 1983 Let’s Dance was a huge commercial hit worldwide, and the title track featured the exuberant blues soloing of Texan guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan who helped Bowie access his inner American to create music, with a “European sensibility, owing its impact to the blues.” Unfortunately due to management disagreements, Vaughan did not accompany Bowie on the Serious Moonlight tour and was quickly replaced by Earl Slick. In the video shot in Australia, a bleached blonde, white-gloved Bowie was spotted miming the solo on a chocolate Strat in the outback.

Discovered by Bowie while he was playing with his three-piece Double Trouble, Vaughan was not impressed with Bowie’s Stratocaster-stylings in the clip, as Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton recalled: “Stevie was about to become world famous as the guy who played that solo, but the video really bothered him. Bowie’s wearing white linen gloves, and Stevie said, ‘That motherfucker shouldn’t be pretending to be playing shit he wasn’t playing!””

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Elsewhere, despite Reeves Gabrels’ favouring of newer-made headless guitars for Tin Machine, he and Bowie also used older gear including a 1963 Stratocaster once owned by Marc Bolan. And on Blackstar the clanging, distorted guitar to abrade the verses and outro on Lazarus, Bowie used a Fender Stratocaster that Marc Bolan had given him in 1977, weeks before Bolan’s death (the Sunburst perhaps?). The majestic power chords stand alone, tearing through the opening verse; scars that can’t be seen but heard.

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NB: This is a photo of Bowie with Kevin Armstrong in 1987, signing the Fender Stratocaster Kevin used as part of Bowie’s band at Live Aid. Armstrong also played on Absolute Beginners, Iggy Pop’s Bowie-produced Blah Blah Blah (1986), was a non-official member of Tin Machine, and co-wrote the title track to his underrated 1995 record, Outside.

Posted in David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Images, Mick Ronson, Producers, T.Rex | 4 Comments

Frank Zappa: The Central Instrumentalizer Vol II

Frank Zappa. Uncatergorizable, astute, genius, paradigm-shifting virtuosity at its uncompromisingly brilliant (and ballsy) best, this hand-picked Vol II selection highlights Zappa’s astonishing yet accessible instrumental work from his mindbogglingly expansive career.

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Frank Zappa: The Central Instrumentalizer Vol II mp3 

1. I Promise Not to Come in Your Mouth – Zappa in New York (1978)

2. Duke of Prunes – Orchestral Favorites (1979)

3. Son of Mr Green Genes – Hot Rats (1969)

4. Flambay – Sleep Dirt (1979)

5. Eat That Question – The Grand Wazoo (1972)

6. The Orange County Lumber Truck – Weasels Ripped My Flesh (1970)

7. Theme From The 3rd Movement Of Sinister Footwear – You Are What You Is (1981)

8. St. Etienne – Jazz From Hell (1986)

9. Sleep Dirt – Sleep Dirt (1979)

10. D.C. Boogie – Imaginary Diseases (2007)

11. Rubber Shirt – Sheik Yerbouti (1979)

12. Jim & Tammy’s Upper Room – Guitar (1988)

13. RDNZL – Studio Tan (1978)

14. Marque-Son’s Chicken – Them Or Us (1984)

15. Ancient Armaments – Halloween (1978)

16. Bowling on Charen – Trans-Fusion (2006)

17. Echidna’s Arf (Of You) – Roxy & Elsewhere (1974)

18. Big Swifty – Waka-Jawaka (1972)

19. Envelopes – Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch (1982)

20. Montreal – Imaginary Diseases (2007)

Running Time: 1:54:33

Posted in Downloads, Frank Zappa, Mixtapes | 8 Comments

Frank Zappa: The Central Instrumentalizer Vol I

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The uncatergorizable Frank Zappa. Astute, paradigm-shifting virtuosity at its uncompromisingly brilliant and ballsy best. The Central Instrumentalizer Vol 1 is a hand-picked selection of major highlights of Zappa’s astonishing yet accessible instrumental work drawing on material from albums throughout his mindbogglingly expansive career.

Frank Zappa: The Central Instrumentalizer Vol 1 mp3

1.  Filthy Habits – Sleep Dirt (1979)

2.  Twenty Small Cigars – Chunga’s Revenge (1970)

3.  Pink Napkins – Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar (1981)

4.  We Are Not Alone – The Man From Utopia (1983)

5.  Zoot Allures – Zoot Allures (1976)

6.  Treacherous Cretins – Shut Up And Play Yer Guitar (1981)

7.  Apostrophe’ – Apostrophe’ (1974)

8.  Rat Tomago – Sheik Yabouti (1979)

9.  Black Napkins – Zoot Allures (1976)

10. Watermelon in Easter Hay – Joe’s Garage (1979)

11.  Rejyptian Strut – Sleep Dirt (1979)

12.  Sofa No.1 – One Size Fits All (1975)

13.  What’s New in Baltimore – FZ Meets the Mothers of Prevention (1985)

14.  Tink Walks Amok – The Man From Utopia (1983)

15.  G-spot Tornado – Jazz From Hell (1986)

16.  Blessed Relief – The Grand Wazoo (1972)

17.  Peaches En Regalia – Hot Rats (1969)

18.  Aybe Sea – Burnt Weeny Sandwich (1970)

19.  Imaginary Diseases – Imaginary Diseases (2007)

20.  Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – Guitar (1988)

Running time: 1:39:07

Posted in Downloads, Frank Zappa, Mixtapes | 19 Comments

The Rolling Stones – Still Life

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The aural equivalent of a Stones t-shirt? Maybe, but this short single-disc live outing, recorded during the band’s 1981 American tour, was released in time for the European leg when the Stones were enjoying a second life in popularity, touring the now canonised Tattoo You.

Still Life sashays exuberantly through the decades, opening with a scintillating ‘Under My Thumb‘, then moving onto Stones staples like ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ and a blistering ‘Shattered’ where the weaving guitars of Ron and Keith are at their brilliant best, as Charlie effortlessly keeps it all together, and pre-departure Bill Wyman is faultless as always on bass – although Bobby Keys, still on the outer with Mick, is sadly absent.

The rhythm section and band interplay is exemplary. A concert movie was also released to accompany the album and Mick’s banter after the opener is priceless:

“Welcome to everyone watching on TV, hoping everyone’s having a good time, sinking a few beers, smoking a few joints…alright!”

They don’t make them like this anymore. The album is heavy on covers: ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ and ‘Going to a Go-Go’, both blues classics, are all garish mannerisms from Mick as he runs from one side of the stage to the other in his spray on tights as Ron and Keith smile and nod at each other with their perennial cigarettes.

There’s occasional vocals from Keith where it sounds like “Return of the Living Dead the Musical”, before they launch into a pacey ska version of Emotional Rescue’s ‘Let Me Go’. It’s delivered at break-neck speed, before Keith unleashes the trippy tones of his MXR Phase 100, a signature sound for this era, for the marvellous ‘Time Is On My Side’. Keith’s guitar treatments are subtle and as always sublime and his plaintive riff ringing out across the crowd is even more bittersweet.

We have room for another cover, Some Girls‘ Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me), a show stopper as Mick, Keith, and Ronnie sing together at the mic – a fine middle-era Stones moment. Then the high octane ‘Start Me Up’ and a super-fast ‘Satisfaction’ are exhausting just listening to them as they close out the album all too soon.

It does finish rather abruptly. I was having a lot of fun but it was brought to a sudden close and the outro ‘Star Spangled Banner’ (the Jimi Hendrix recording) chimes in as the Stones depart stage left.

Despite the album seemingly truncated, super-ultra-brief and probably released as a cash grab as a tour promo, it’s an amazingly enjoyable short burst of Stones live frivolity bringing back some great summer memories.

While it doesn’t document the overall performance of the ’81 shows, it is representative of who the Rolling Stones were at the time: a great live rock ‘n roll band. The album cover, a painting by Japanese artist Kazuhide Yamazaki whose work inspired the tour’s extravagant stage design, is very much of its time.

Tracks:

  1. Under My Thumb
  2. Let’s Spend the Night Together
  3. Shattered
  4. Twenty Flight Rock
  5. Going to a Go-Go
  6. Let Me Go
  7. Time is On My Side
  8. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)
  9. Start Me Up
  10. Satisfaction

Released: 1 June 1982

Recorded: 5–6 November 1981, 25 November 1981, 8-9 December 1981, 13 December 1981, 18–19 December 1981, Overdubs: March–April 1982

Produced by the Glimmer Twins. Mixed by Bob Clearmountain at Power Station Studios.

Posted in Gigs, Rolling Stones, The, Wig Outs | 8 Comments

Charlie Watts

Vale the legendary drummer for the Rolling Stones, Charlie Watts.

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The Rolling Stones recently announced Charlie wouldn’t be joining them on their scheduled tour next month due to undergoing a medical procedure. Charlie’s quote at the time was as classy as the man himself: “For once my timing was a little off”. No fuss, and as always dignified. It would be the only time.

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A peerless drummer with such impeccable feel and timing, he was always cool, always suave, deadpan, took no shit, and was the anchor, the engine room of the Stones. He was a jazz man too, and a total pro. The Stones worked hard to secure his services way back in 1961. Charlie wore classy suits, and no one seemed to have a bad word about him; and that’s as good an epitaph for the finest drummer of his generation.

Keep on drumming Charlie.

Posted in Rolling Stones, The | 17 Comments

Adrian Belew Meets David Bowie

Guitarist par excellence Adrian Belew was discovered by Frank Zappa in a small club in Nashville, only to be poached by David Bowie for a globe-straddling tour. The Press has the lowdown.

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The extraordinarily inventive Belew caught the eye of Frank Zappa one night in 1976, while playing as the guitarist for local cover band Sweetheart at a small Nashville biker bar. Zappa had just played a show in town at a big arena and, as usual, was prowling for some interesting local talent. This weird group of people walked in and immediately Belew knew they were the real deal. He remembers thinking: “Wow, that’s Frank Zappa.” With Zappa was his bodyguard John Smothers and other assorted characters from his entourage, who proceeded to place themselves front and centre.

The guitarist started playing and singing the best material he had for the new arrivals: Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, the Stones, Steely Dan. After 40 minutes Zappa was impressed. He got up, walked up to the stage and shook Belew by the hand saying, “I’m gonna get your name and number and I will call you when my tour’s over. I’d like to audition you.”

Six months later Belew was desperate; he was behind on his rent, his car had broken down, and Sweetheart had long split up. He was in a crummy Nashville hotel room one day when the phone rang. It was Frank Zappa.

Normally not one to audition musicians who couldn’t read charts, on this occasion Zappa took a chance. After a tough audition session requiring Belew to learn and play 12 super-tough, complicated songs, he offered Belew the job. Then it was onto rehearsals: eight to 10 hours a day, five days a week for three solid months. Frank took Belew under his wing, putting him up at the Zappa home in LA, before embarking on an extensive international tour.

So entered Adrian Belew into the Zappa circus. Between September 1977 and February 1978, the band performed about 70 shows in the US, Canada and European cities.

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When they landed in Cologne on 14 February 1978, Brian Eno happened to be in the audience; he was working with German electronic group Cluster at the time. Naturally Eno and Belew got to talking after the show and Eno mentioned David Bowie was looking for a new guitar player for his upcoming tour. The very next night Zappa rolled into Berlin, where Bowie was living at the time. During Zappa’s long extended guitar solo – when most the band left the stage – Belew noticed Bowie and Iggy Pop standing by the monitor board. He walked over.

“Mr Bowie, I just want to thank you for all the music you’ve made. I’m a real fan of your work.”

“Great, how would you like to be in my band?”

Belew pointed to Zappa out there in the middle of the stage and said, “Well I’m kinda working with that guy.” Ever the gentleman, Bowie laughed, “I know, but let’s talk about this. I’ll meet you back at the hotel and we can go and have some dinner.”

Belew’s head was spinning when he arrived back at the hotel, and upon his arrival saw Bowie sitting discreetly in a corner with his assistant Coco Schwab. Belew looked around, walked over, and in a hushed tone, Bowie whispered, “Just go on up to your room, don’t say anything, and come back down in five minutes. We have a car waiting outside.”

Belew thought he was in a spy film. Five minutes later he came downstairs, walked outside and a driver opened the door to a big black car. He got it the back seat and there was Bowie, who started going crazy, telling Belew how much he loved what he was doing, the songs they would be playing, and the elaborate plans he had for the world tour.

Eventually the car arrived at Bowie’s favourite Berlin restaurant. The three of them got out of the car, walked through the front door, and at the very first table sat Zappa and his entourage. Totally busted.

What else was there to do other than walk over and sit down to a very uncomfortable silence. Bowie broke the ice: “Frank, this is quite a guitar player you have here.” Zappa, looked at him, and took a long drag from his cigarette.

“Fuck you Captain Tom.”

Not only had Zappa demoted Bowie from Major to Captain, but when Bowie responded with, “Surely we can be gentlemen and talk about this”, again it was, “Fuck you Captain Tom.”

By this time Belew was wishing he could find a hole to crawl into, but not intimidated, Bowie wasn’t giving up, and tried one more time. “So you don’t really want to talk about anything Frank?” “Fuck you Captain Tom” was Zappa’s response again. So they got up, left the restaurant, and sitting in the back of the car Bowie said, “I thought that went rather well.”

It should be noted that Belew never thought he was leaving Zappa’s band for good. Indeed, a few days later Belew found himself at the back of the tour bus with Zappa heading for London’s Hammersmith Odeon to complete the tour.

They got down to business. Belew had accepted the Bowie offer and Zappa understood. The agreement was that Belew would finish the European tour with Zappa, who would then keep the band on retainer while he finished editing the Baby Snakes film. In the meantime, Belew would join David Bowie for a four-month tour and return to the Zappa band after that.

But as history shows, things didn’t work out that way. Zappa didn’t end up editing the film at that time, instead starting a different band, replacing Belew with a couple of other guitarists and singers, and kicking off a world tour in August 1978. Meanwhile Bowie’s Isolar II tour – a career high for the English star – covered the US, Canada and Europe, before extending into Australia, New Zealand, and finally Japan.

While Belew’s stint with Bowie was relatively short, lasting just 18 months, as lead guitarist he was integral to arguably Bowie’s greatest-ever ensemble, which included Carlos Alomar, George Murray and Dennis Davis. Belew played on the double-live album Stage, and also contributed to Bowie’s next album, Lodger.

The following year the guitarist would work with Talking Heads and the Tom Tom Club, before going on to become the singer, second guitarist and frontman (as well as occasional drummer) for King Crimson between 1981 and 2009, one of the longest tenures in King Crimson by anyone other than founder Robert Fripp. He also returned to working with Bowie, acting as musical director on the 1990 Sound+Vision Tour, while also playing guitar and singing.

Within the space of just a few years, Belew went from being behind on his rent, driving a broken-down Volkswagen and playing for a Nashville-based cover band, to touring and recording with Frank Zappa, David Bowie, Talking Heads and King Crimson.

He has also recorded with such artists as Herbie Hancock, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Jean Michel Jarre, Laurie Anderson, Paul Simon, Nine Inch Nails, formed the Adrian Belew Power Trio, Gizmodrone with Stewart Copeland, and thus far has recorded about 20 eclectic solo albums.

A true rags-to-riches rock’n’roll tale.

Adrian Belew: Five Highlights (1978 – 1982)

The following is a brief selection of songs from the Zappa and Bowie years, career defining moments with Talking Heads and King Crimson, and a track selected from his first solo outing.

  1. Blackout – David Bowie (Stage 1978)

cover_49591919112009This double live document of Bowie’s 1978 world tour, Stage includes healthy doses of Belew’s Fender Stratocaster art-rock stylings all over a good chunk of Ziggy, and Station to Station, as well as transforming King Crimson alumni Robert Fripp’s parts from “Heroes” via his own technophilian splendour: be it leaning heavily on his tremolo, or the unorthodox practice of grasping the upper body of his guitar with his right hand, and pulling the headstock with his left; either way, his note-bending style is unmistakable.

2. City of Tiny Lites – Frank Zappa (Sheik Yerbouti 1979)

a FrontOne of Belew’s showcase numbers on stage with Zappa’s band, here he takes the lead vocals with flare and charm. Recorded live at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in January 1978, it wound up being included on one of Zappa’s most commercially successful albums, the double-LP Sheik Yerbouti – the only ‘studio’ album featuring Belew. Listen out for the song’s monster two-note riff at 2:17 underneath the moustachioed guitar-God’s face-melting solo.

3. Red Sails – David Bowie (Lodger 1979)

CoverOn Lodger, Brian Eno sampled and constructed various guitar parts from fragments of Belew’s playing to produce some otherworldly solos. None more so than on avant-pop masterclass Red Sails where Belew’s physical approach dramatically fires off, snakes and cuts through in all its unedited glory. This Neu!-influenced swashbuckling Bowie classic is a high point on Lodger, bridging the sound of the late 70’s new wave and the dawn of the 80’s new romanticism.

4. The Great Curve – Talking Heads (Remain in Light 1980)

talking heads_remain in lightAdrian Belew recorded his solos over the basic track of this then-untitled song, then David Byrne write a song around it. It’s fair to say that it features some of his wildest guitar moments on record. The solos on The Great Curve at 1:53 and 5:28 are characterised by his unmistakable feedback-drenched fuzz tone, huge intervallic skips, and serrated dive bombs over Talking Heads’ funky frenetic afrobeat.

5. Elephant Talk – King Crimson (Discipline 1981)

King Crimson 1981 Discipline frontHis initial interest in the guitar was making it sound unlike a guitar, and on Belew’s first outing with a brand new King Crimson line-up, he wrangles and strangles his guitar creating a unique blend on this approachable LP opener. The resultant album stands tall in their immense catalogue and finds Robert Fripp’s disciplined, precise playing and Belew’s looser, more unconventional style coexisting seamlessly.

6. Swingline – Adrian Belew (Lone Rhino 1982)

1982-Lone RhinoThe guitarist extraordinaire’s signature sound included an animal squall that became the centrepiece for warped-pop songs like Tom Tom Club’s L’elephant and King Crimson’s aforementioned Elephant Talk. That sound is stamped all over his diverse and relentlessly creative debut as a solo artist. He also handles the drums, giving space and feel to his artistic creativity and emotional expression.

 

Further Viewing:

Frank Zappa: Black Napkins – Live At Palladium New York (1977)

David Bowie: Live at Musikladen – Extra Pro Shot (1978)

Talking Heads: Live in Rome – Full Concert (1980)

73277493_10151291297159995_3154268624072474624_nA big thankyou to Pete Cruttenden who edited this article.

Posted in Adrian Belew, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Neu!, Robert Fripp, Talking Heads | 15 Comments

Mott the Hoople – All the Young Dudes

Glam rock’s definitive anthem recently turned 49, and this image of a young dude was originally earmarked as the album cover for Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes released in July 1972. 

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Dude ’72 is the name of the image, and the photo of the London boy posing with a cardboard guitar was taken by “The Man Who Shot the Seventies” photographer Mick Rock, in 1972 while walking the streets of Camden Town.

Mick Rock has photographed some of the most iconic images in rock history, everyone from Bowie, Lou Reed, Queen and Iggy Pop, to Bryan Ferry and Blondie, and had he run with the original concept of Mott’s cardboard rockstar in Regent Park Estate, it may well have become one of Rock’s more recognisable images of the era.

The photo appears in his book, Glam! An Eyewitness Account with the intentionally vague caption: “Why it wasn’t used I can’t remember, nor can Ian Hunter, must have been a chemical shift.”

While the Bowie-penned title track climbed to number 3 on the UK charts, and the album the band’s biggest success to date, the concept importantly captures the glam-emboldened kids in England dreaming of a world beyond suburbia’s oppressive notion of normalcy, assimilating perfectly with the anthem of solidarity for the disaffected, consolidated by the song’s stunning introductory chimes of freedom.

In London, adventure parks for British youngsters sprang up in the 1950s on old bomb sites, and today it’s still there as a recreational area with basketball courts and play equipment. In the background stands the ornate Windsor House on Cumberland Market. Unsurprisingly, Mick Rock’s photo was snapped up all too late, used by Third Eye Blind for their album Out of the Vein, released 2003.

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An illustration of a trio of Gatsby-esque frat boys in a 1917 American advertisement for clothing manufacturers ended up replacing the original idea for reasons that aren’t clear. The final sleeve concept and art direction was designed by Mick Rock and George Underwood, fresh off his collaborative work for Hunky Dory, who colour-tinted the vintage illustration that had come from an issue of Saturday Evening Post with old English typeface.

All the Young Dudes put the great Mott the Hoople back on the map. They were a killer live band with four solid but moderately selling rock ‘n roll albums under their belt, but by 1971 they had essentially split up, playing awful gas tanks in Zurich.

Upon returning home to London, Pete Watts had rung Bowie and offered his services as a bass player. When big-Mott-fan Bowie asked why, he explained that they had disbanded. In response, Bowie offered his idols a song he’d written and the opportunity to record it, and his services as a producer.

They all met up at the Mainman offices in Regent Street and it was there where Bowie sat cross-legged on the floor with an acoustic guitar and played them perhaps the best song he ever wrote. Ian Hunter said, “I went cold. I knew that was the one.”

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The guitar intro was Mick Ralphs’, and the wry clarion call for a glam-rock army to kick out the old and begin the new at the end of the song, was Hunter’s. With Bowie adding backing vocals, Mott delivered their breakout hit; the dystopian rock ‘n roll anthem ‘All the Young Dudes’.

The album found them moving away from their earlier rock-jam style to exploring more hooks and choruses, ushering in their golden period and coming through with a genuine classic. From their reworking of Lou Reed’s ‘Sweet Jane‘, through an assemblage of originals such as ‘Jerkin’ Crocus‘, ‘Sucker‘ and Ralphs’ ‘Ready for Love‘ (re-recorded a year later as founder of the mega-selling Bad Company), every song hits the target square down the middle.

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The album also spawned the release of a great spin-off single ‘Honaloochie Boogie‘, catapulting them to the upper echelon of the charts again and to the lights and glamour of Top of the Pops, before following up with the release of two more increasingly successful albums, Mott (1973) and The Hoople (1974), and a further string of hit singles, staking their place as prominent members of the credible glam-rock club.

Posted in Album Covers, Albums That Never Were, David Bowie, European Rock Pilgrimage, Ian Hunter, Images, Lou Reed, Mainman, Mick Rock, Mick Ronson, Mott the Hoople | 18 Comments

McCartney – Paperback Classics: Vol V

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

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McCartney – Paperback Classics: Vol V mp3

I’ll Give You a Ring – This is the 2015 remastered version of a song believed to have been written around 1973 or 1974 as a demo that was bootlegged on the so-called The Piano Tape then surfaced as an obscure B-side with overdubs for Take It Away in 1982. Listen out for when the drums kick in at the bridge at 1:06: “Oh man I know I won’t be lonely any more…”. World class Macca.

On The Wings of a Nightingale – A catchy and elegant paperback classic written by Paul for the Everly Brothers in 1984, ending up their last charting hit. This is strictly a McCartney demo recording and is a clinic in the art of effortless pop mastery, and remains unreleased to this day.

Further Listening:

McCartney – Paperback Classics: Vol IV

McCartney – Paperback Classics: Vol III

McCartney – Paperback Classics: Vol II

McCartney – Paperback Classics: Vol I

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

Elvis Costello – Shipbuilding

This relentlessly affecting composition was co-written by Elvis Costello and producer Clive Langer intended for English musician Robert Wyatt in 1982. 

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Langer, not happy with the lyrics that he had written himself, presented the tune to Costello, and within days had penned what he described as “the best lyrics I’ve ever written“. “It’s the best tune I’ve ever written,” Langer replied.

Shipbuilding is a song of it’s time, but also timeless in it’s emotional depth and power

The poignant Shipbuilding reflects on the dark irony of an economic boost off the sales of warships in an English coastal town on which their own sons would perish in a senseless war they had no reason to be in. Upon writing the lyric for Robert Wyatt, the seriousness of the music forced Costello to think about what he was saying, his phrasing overlaid into Langer’s extra-irregular musical form, allowing him the space to think out a pure coherent thought. 

Is it worth it?
A new winter coat and shoes for the wife
And a bicycle on the boy’s birthday

Written in Australia while on tour, Costello’s anti-Falklands war lament, brilliantly understated in its narrative form and perfectly rendered in Wyatt’s aching very English delivery reminiscent of his version of Strange Fruit, was first released as a single in August 1982 a couple of months after the war ended. It was played constantly on John Peel’s Radio 1, and with a rare justice, Wyatt’s single peaked at number 35 on the UK charts, becoming the first Top 40 entry for the label Rough Trade.

It’s just a rumour that was spread around town
By the women and children, soon we’ll be shipbuilding

A few months later Elvis Costello and the Attractions recorded their version of the song and it stands out on PUNCH THE CLOCK (1983) ★★★, an album that was co-produced by the famous partnership of Langer and Alan Winstanley responsible for an assembly line of hit records at the time including the likes of Madness and Dexy’s Midnight Runners, and its here where the song reached a broader audience. 

Crucially, the track features jazz legend Chet Baker’s mournful trumpet solo of extraordinary colour. Baker had fallen out with Stan Getz while on a European tour, and was suddenly playing a show at London’s Covent Garden and Elvis was in attendance. He simply asked him to play on it. It was one of Chet’s last recorded performances and Langer recalled: “Chet played live with the band, so we had to edit the multi-track just to get the trumpet right. What you’re hearing is three different band performances spliced together. Amazingly, they’re all the same tempo, with no click track.”

All these years later, the song is still moving: “Can’t we do something else, something brighter and more beautiful than war-making and bullying?” Elvis once asked.

With all the will in the world
Diving for dear life
When we could be diving for pearls

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One of the finest songs ever written, Costello’s version may be the more emphatic instrumental performance, however it is Wyatt’s version that gives it that extra emotional weight due to the subtle use of the double bass (Bedders from Madness stars here), and the sadness and vulnerability of Robert’s vocal making it sound like he’s lived the narrative. Attraction Steve Nieve (piano) and Costello (backing vocals and session production) both contribute to the exquisite Wyatt original.

Posted in Didn't Know It Was a Cover, Elvis Costello, Producers | 10 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

Photographer Al Clayton was present during the last session for Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait (1970) album. These black and white pictures here finds Dylan at ease, conversing with musicians and listening to a playback at Columbia Records’ studio in Nashville. Dylan’s son Jesse can be seen playing on the floor.

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The above photo was fashioned into the cover design for Dylan (1973), an album made up of nine rejects, essentially covers, culled from other album sessions between 1969-1970. Columbia Records hastily compiled it with no input or consent from Dylan following his departure from Columbia for a brief stint at David Geffen’s fledgling Asylum Records, and slapped the rather unimaginative title on it. In Europe the album was released with the title A Fool Such as I.

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For Clayton, approaching Dylan wasn’t easy. In an interview published in The Sunday Times, the photographer recounted: “Dylan was unusual. My first impression was of an extremely shy person; he seemed on the edge of paranoia, really frightened. We didn’t get into what he was frightened of, it would be very deep, I think, psychologically. I tried to talk to him, but whenever I would bring up a topic, he would say: “I don’t know anything about that.” He was completely withdrawn, and very unto himself.”

Although Al Clayton took pictures all over the world, his work focused heavily on subjects related to the people, culture, and music of the American South. Clayton also photographed for Rolling Stone and major record companies, producing album covers for Dylan, Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, Townes Van Zandt and many others. He was also responsible for one of the most famous photos in country music, taken on Guy Clark’s porch in 1972 of Clark, wife Susanna Clark , Townes Van Zandt, and Daniel Antopolsky.

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Townes Van Zandt (left), Susanna and Guy Clark with Daniel Antopolsky (far right). East Nashville, Tennessee, 1972.
Posted in Album Covers, Bob Dylan, Images | 4 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

David Bowie – Earthling (1997)

In the mid 1990s, Bowie started to work with the then upcoming fashion wunderkind Alexander McQueen who had designed stage costumes for Bowie and his band for the 1996 tour. The sleeve for his experimental Earthling LP, which incorporated the serrated electronic textures dominating music at the time, found Bowie decked out in McQueen’s somewhat-tattered Union Jack long coat, chiming in perfectly with a UK enthralled in all things Britpop.

The music on the album, however couldn’t have been further from that guitar-based genre of bands that he had inspired. It is laced with dynamic, industrial-styled electronic aggression, and frenetic drum ‘n bass rhythms, and possesses sliced-and-diced, mad-genius piano from Mike Garson. It’s a Bowie album that smears the lines between organic and the synthetic. Unfortunately his work from the 1990s has largely been overshadowed by the rest of his catalogue, although with Earthling he was making some of the most inscrutable, challenging music of his life.

For the striking cover, ironically, David was not shot in the UK. It was New York where photographer Frank Ockenfels took the photo and designer Dave De Angelis was responsible for placing Bowie in front of the English evergreens. 

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David Bowie – Station to Station (1976)

Bowie masterpiece Station to Station may really be the Holy Grail of recorded music:

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Bowie was about to tackle Peter and the Wolf, something the great Leonard Bernstein had narrated and conducted with aplomb in 1960. Maybe he had some of his stuff lying around? That may explain the uncanny resemblance between the stark rear cover of Station to Station to that of Bernstein Plays and Conducts Beethoven Piano Concerto No.1 in C New York Philharmonic (1963).

 

Posted in Album Covers, David Bowie, Images | 5 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

The elegant aerobics of Grace Jones is captured by French artist, illustrator, and graphic designer Jean-Paul Goude on Grace Jones’ 1985 compilation album Island Life, with the singer, artist and actress in an arabesque position, her skin glistening like metal shined to a high-polish finish.

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In the photo, which was first published in New York Magazine in 1977, Goude stitched together photos from various angles to create this anatomically impossible composite image. The body position is “anatomically unlikely”.

It was a series of consistently stellar and pioneering album covers, including the cool snarl of Nightclubbing (1981), the iconic Living My Life (1982), and elongated Slave to the Rhythm (1985), where Goude translates his grandiose vision of the singer into an image of her as a surreal, otherworldly muse.

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The rigid femme/masculine binary images are now almost as famous as the music itself: a seductive post-disco fusion of reggae, icy funk, and rock, driven by the rhythm section of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, and later producer Trevor Horn, with strong original material and radical and imaginative covers (eg: Use Me) performed in a singular vocal approach, sounding both detached and all-powerful.

Goude wrote in his book Jungle Fever, “I cut her legs apart, lengthened them, and turned her body completely to face the audience, then I started painting, joining up all those pieces to give the illusion that she was capable of assuming such a position.

These images helped propel Jones from musician to icon, and the duo collaborated on many projects over the course of their respective careers, but the Island Life cover remains cemented into the landscape of modern pop culture.

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Posted in Album Covers, Grace Jones | 7 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

The castle depicted on the iconic album cover of U2’s The Unforgettable Fire is the stately ruin Moydrum Castle, and the dramatic image was taken by photographer Anton Corbijn north of Athone in Ireland. The album’s photograph, design, sepia tone colouring, even the polarising filter technique was a virtual replica to that of the cover of a 1980 book called In Ruins: The Once Great Houses of Ireland by Simon Marsden.

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The band was all about Irish mysticism at the time, and the image’s ambiguity fit the bill. The cover photo for U2’s fourth studio album The Unforgettable Fire (1984) was taken from the same spot and used the same photographic techniques, but with the addition of at least two band members. For this copyright infringement, the band had to pay an unknown sum to Marsden.

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The album represents a turning point for U2, and the sound is remarkably timeless. Filled with lush, broad arrangements and heartfelt, nuanced, and impassioned vocals, it was released at a time when U2 was in a unique position of still being at the cutting edge of modern rock, while also achieving widespread international mainstream success.

With The Unforgettable Fire not only did U2 embrace an experimental stylistic change of sound with the help of producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois, but the title of the album also aptly describes how the Gothic monument depicted on the cover met its end in a blaze of epic proportions on the 4th of July 1921, lending some meaning to the songs. The castle, dating from the early 19th century, was once a mansion and fortress of the English crown, today it appears to tourists as a heap of ruins after a riot by the Irish Republican Army at the time of the war for independence.

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Moydrum’s architectural detail is enshrouded in ivy and upon visiting the castle there are scrawled tributes on the gate, a reminder of over zealous U2 fans, and if in the course of history the castle has been a symbol of English oppression, for the band it represents a new style of music.

Featuring some powerful and iconic career-best moments: the title track, ‘A Sort of Homecoming’, ‘Bad’ and ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’, the album also features several atmospheric and meditative pieces such as the stunning MLK and 4th of July, that were recorded by Eno unbeknownst to the band, then built up in the studio.

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The album cover image gives a better clue as to what’s inside: on this album U2 tear down the walls of their previous hard-rock sound with a radical move into ambient territory. This LP also started the band’s enduring fascination with America, specifically it’s blues and gospel heritage and conflict-ridden racial history which would unfold further throughout their next two releases: The Joshua Tree (1987) and Rattle & Hum (1988).

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More Album Cover Outtakes

Tom Phillips’ 1972 oil on canvas After Raphael. A detail was used on the front cover of Brian Eno’s 1975 masterpiece, Another Green World.

Tom Phillips was one of Eno’s mentors and friends from his Camberwell School Of Art days, and the painting was inspired by the English artist’s fascination with the Golden Section, a geometrical term that has fascinated architects, artists and mathematicians from the Renaissance onwards, and has been seen as a mystical harmony that pervades all nature.

The scene in the middle-right has been dramatically cropped from the original artwork, ending up as the final album sleeve. It displays three regal Eno-esque figures proportionately spaced between each other, one presumably outside the window conversing with another one inside, while the third looks on, fanning itself.

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This incredible album includes contributions from a small core of guest musicians including John Cale, Phil Collins and long-time collaborator Robert Fripp who plays ‘restrained lead guitar’ on several of the album’s tracks. In the studio, they would experiment with Eno, record their parts, creating loops; essentially framing those contributions and creating something new. There is a parallel in the concept of the crop of the Tom Phillips’ painting, and how Eno would use the recordings of these musicians to create unique song structures and new sonic worlds; highlighting his ability to use ideas and make them his own through editing and treatment. 

Another Green World is widely considered to be one of Eno’s greatest records ever, in the intervening decades since its release its status has continually garnered wide attention as one of the finest, and most influential, recordings ever made and has continued to find new audiences year after year.

On the album cover, aside from looking a bit like Eno did in the mid-70s, with beret, the simplicity of the colours and shapes could also hint at the “neo-plasticism” of Eno’s beloved Piet Mondrian, who helped spark his initial interest in visual art.

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100 years ago, today

Not a mobile phone in sight just people living in the moment:

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All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy….

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Producer: Hugh Padgham in the 80s

Hugh Padgham was the invisible catalyst behind dozens of best-selling, multi-platinum albums and was among the most successful, and sought after, music producers in contemporary British rock and pop history. We take a stroll though his work throughout the decade at which time he served as a recording engineer and producer on many high-profile and critically acclaimed commercial pop albums.

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Hugh Padgham has either produced, engineered or mixed many of our favourite albums. His work behind the desk producing and mixing records was prolific; not only responsible for creating a truly modern sound with the sonic invention of the gated reverb sound of recorded drums while working with Peter Gabriel in 1980, he would define the sound of the decade, resulting in a wave of pioneering albums that introduced new musical developments. Padgham has worked with some of the biggest acts in music: Genesis, XTC, The Police, David Bowie, Sting, Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson, in some of the greatest and most lavish studios of the day: The Manor, Oxfordshire; Le Studio, Quebec; The Townhouse, London; The Farm, Surrey, AIR Studios, Montserrat and A&M studios Los Angeles.

British born Padgham began his recording career working in London’s Lansdowne Studios in the late 70s, learning the ropes, running engineering sessions, desperate to work with the rock bands he so admired. It was in Shepherds Bush, London where he bullshitted his way into a job with Virgin Records at the Townhouse Studio and found himself in the right place at the right time for Derek and Clive’s Ad Nauseum; essentially Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s last major recording session.

Working as the engineer on Peter Gabriel’s third album PETER GABRIEL III (1980) ★★★★★, was a huge leap forward. A big Genesis fan from his schooldays where Gabriel was a personal hero, Padgham had met producer Steve Lillywhite when working on the excellent XTC album DRUMS AND WIRES ★★★★, in 1979. They were the new boys on the block in a happening post-punk London scene, and this early work was emblematic of the run of albums from 1980 onwards: moments of potent vital brilliance sitting alongside studio experiments using the technological advances of the day.

Engineer and uncredited whistling on Games Without Frontiers weren’t his only contributions to the album. Through working with Gabriel and Lillywhite he met Phil Collins at the Townhouse, and it was in the large drum space of that studio, the Stone Room, where the gated drum sound was invented. Prior to current imitations, this served as a reliable watermark to date pop recordings made between 1982 and 1991. 

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Peter Gabriel had said from day one that there was to be no cymbals on the album, and no hi-hats either: “Artists given complete freedom die a horrible death. So, when you tell them what they can’t do, they get creative and say, ‘Oh yes I can,’ which is why I banned cymbals.” It was on the album’s opening track, Intruder, where the first known recording of the gated drum sound was captured.

As luck would have it, in the Stone Room one day, a live recording took place with Phil Collins on drums, where a reverse talk-back microphone permanently rigged up in the ceiling was connected to the console that had a vicious compressor built in. Phil was tuning his drums, hitting them hard, when Hugh pressed the talk-back mic for a quick word. Out came this thunderous drum sound into the room. Everyone agreed it sounded interesting, but can it be captured to tape? It was then run through a noise gate, creating a decay effect that starts huge then cutting off dramatically to nothing. Intruder was basically built around this recorded idea. Peter had Phil play the drums for 5 minutes at a set tempo as he wrote the song around it, while the effect thundered through the console. Fortuitously this only works when there are no cymbals.

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Hugh Padgham’s career literally took off from there. After mixing and engineering tracks for Spandau Ballet’s first album, then The Buggles’ The Age of Plastic (and mixing the track Video Killed the Radio Star), he met production-wiz Trevor Horn at Sarm East Studio in London. Horn was lead vocalist for British prog-rock group Yes at the time, and it’s fair to say they were not at the pinnacle of their artistic genius. Padgham found himself engineering what would become DRAMA (1980) ★★, but found the sessions to be as drug-fuelled and disastrous as the material. However every cloud has a silver lining, and the Spinal Tap-sized horror show that was Yes in the studio, linked him once again to down-to-earth Swindon lads XTC, and an offer of working on BLACK SEA (1980) ★★★★★, with producer Steve Lillywhite was put on the table. Engineering XTC was a dream come true for Padgham, and after the progressive-obscura of Drama, XTC’s music was punchy (Rocket From a Bottle), well-written (Towers of London), with well-recorded hits (Generals & Majors), forming an outstanding collection of tracks on a wonderful album.

Phil Collins began to write songs during a break in activity from his band Genesis who had just made the album Duke (1980), their last with long-time producer David Hentschel, and much of the material he had written was concerning his personal life and a recent marriage breakdown. The material’s most potent quality was its emotional transparency and like the pensive portrait on the cover, the songs addressed the listener with an unflinching directness, and was clearly unsuitable for a Genesis project. Phil, pursuing a solo release, thought this new drum sound discovery of Padgham’s created on Melt, was the best thing since sliced bread. So with production duties now allocated to Padgham, work on what would become Phil’s first solo album FACE VALUE (1981) ★★★ commenced.

Working at Townhouse Studio 2, and occasionally bumping into Freddie Mercury recording with Queen who were making Flash Gordon in Studio 1, Phil played Padgham the morose demo for what would be his breakout hit, In the Air Tonight. At the time there was no thought that it would be a single let alone the ubiquitous presence it would soon become. The demo had very little to it. A simple programmed Phil pre-set drum beat produced on one of the new synths, and a space-age four-chord accompanying keyboard motif. Simple perhaps, but Hugh couldn’t replicate it to sound the same in the studio, tempo-wise or sound-wise. So they ended up dubbing the demo onto the Townhouse’s 24-track desk; so essentially what we’re hearing on the final track is Phil’s original demo with studio overdubs.

The incomparable drum sound at 3:41 was an afterthought, but the song has become one of the more dramatic moments of the decade. Unfortunately through mass media advertising and general FM radio over-exposure, In the Air Tonight has been reduced to little more than a cliché, however it’s haunting slow burn verses and that thunderous drum moment is always astonishing: here the gated reverb effect just works. 

Surprisingly, Phil had trouble writing upbeat, funky songs; he used to write ballads and speed them up, which happened on several tracks on this record, most notably album highlight, top 20 single, with accompanying “big-budget” clip I Missed Again. Less-so when he accidentally played Behind the Lines, a Genesis song off Duke, at an increased speed. He liked it so much he decided to re-record it for Face Value. The album ended up going five times platinum in the UK and US, a level of commercial success Genesis had yet to achieve. Keyboardist Tony Banks insists that Phil never played him In the Air Tonight, and Genesis may have had their biggest ever hit, but now it was time for them to go back into the studio to record their 11th album. 

Phil bought his new co-producer Padgham along to the ABACAB (1981) ★★★★ sessions, something of a gripe for Banks, but it was a fresh start for the band: new producer, new studio, new approach, albeit with an extremely commercial synth-pop slant. It is also the cut-off point for many die-hard Genesis fans. It was 1981, and the synthesizer was the instrument of the day. It was a new beginning for the band, and technically, things were about to become more succinct, and commercially, much more successful. 

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It was, however, a stressful time for our man Hugh. In 1981, Genesis was at a crossroads. Phil Collins had just scored a massive hit with his solo debut and the other members of the group thought that it was time to bring more of that element into their own sound. Genesis had extensively rehearsed the album in the sitting room of a farmhouse in Surrey while Hugh essentially built the studio, so after initial hesitation, recording began. Genesis had worked up songs from their rehearsals using their usual methodology: record their jams, go home listen to them, come back and choose the best pieces, then splice them together or change the key to make them fit as needed, and finally choose the lyricist; whoever draws the short straw. This is how Genesis write.

The aim was 22-minutes per side for sound quality on vinyl, drums to the forefront and, as agreed between the band, management, and producer, it was time to ‘make it’. The album was a conscious decision to write songs outside their previous style, and Abacab would mark the band’s development from their progressive roots into more accessible, pop-oriented, supergroup. The results were positive from critics, and the album was a commercial success for the band. The material stands up pretty well today, and highlights include the magnificent title track, Keep it Dark, and Dodo. Abacab became their second No. 1 LP in the UK and their first to reach the top ten in the US, but there was plenty more where that came from.

With Genesis and Phil Collins successes in the bag, Padgham quickly moved on to further mixing work with Hall & Oates on their hugely successful H2O album at Electric Ladyland in LA (think, Maneater), then engineered the basic backing tracks for The Dreaming by Kate Bush, again in the Stone Room at Townhouse Studios where they’d met during the Peter Gabriel III sessions. This was however rudely interrupted when he got a call from the manager of a top-selling, dynamite three-piece, called The Police.

It was the XTC connection. They had toured extensively with The Police in the late-70s / early-80s, and none other than Andy Partridge had recommended Padgham to the band as producer for what would become their fourth album: GHOST IN THE MACHINE (1981), ★★★★★. “Good three-piece bands always really excite me”, says Hugh. Recorded at AIR studios in Montserrat, things were really happening at the time for Hugh, but before he boarded the plane for the exotic Caribbean Islands, The Police’s hard-ass manager Miles Copeland wanted to know the answer to one question: “Do you do drugs?” The answer was: “No, of course not!”

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For a London boy, Padgham was getting used to flying off to these amazing locations such as Los Angeles, New York and Montserrat, and working with the likes of The Police was a dream come true. Sessions for Ghost in the Machine found the material more refined and relatively “polished” compared to their previous releases. It also featured the heavy use of keyboards and the addition of horns, a bold and daring move for the band, but one that added more flavour and texture to their arrangements and overall sound. It was a comparatively dark and haunting record for The Police, and Sting had by then stepped up taking over most of the songwriting duties. From Padgham’s perspective it was a very easy record to make, “The musicians were so talented and focussed; my job was allowing artistic freedom in the studio.”

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To record the basic tracks, the band members were separated into different rooms. Padgham didn’t like the sound of the lifeless recording space so he moved the drums into the dining room for sonic improvement. And Sting liked to record in the control room with the producer. Rarely using an amp in the studio, he would always direct-inject (DI) his bass guitar from the control room and record his parts from there. This caused problems for Hugh as Sting was always fitness mad; he had a jogging trampoline where he would pogo while recording his bass parts. While The Police were a very exciting live band, and Sting an accomplished musician, bouncing up and down in the control room created all sort of problems for the producer, such as expensive equipment moving around the room. Sting’s playing wasn’t as good either, but when it was firmly requested this be kept to a minimum, Sting would say: “Fuck orf“. He wanted the vibe. Hugh explains: “Sting thought the studio was creatively boring, so he’d want to do everything as quickly as possible.”

While Sting’s brilliance as a songwriter shines through on the album, the band’s jazz rock influences had also become more pronounced and their expansive sound was all over songs such as Too Much Information and Rehumanize Yourself. While the album had a very strong, sophisticated pop appeal, there was also depth. There were unavoidable tensions creeping in among the band members, particularly between Sting and Stewart Copeland, with relationships becoming increasingly volatile during the making of the album. Hugh describes the atmosphere on Ghost In The Machine as “pretty good – a bit of healthy bickering”, but it would be the next album where things would really boil over.

The record was a huge critical and commercial success; highlights include the vicious funk rocker Demolition Man, the pop classic Every Little Thing She Does is Magic with a great clip filmed in the Caribbean, and a pair of exquisite album-closing ballads: Secret Journey and Darkness. Ghost in the Machine achieved platinum success in the UK and triple platinum in the US. 

Before working again with Genesis on their second EP, the top ten hit 3 x 3, which included the delightful Paperlate, and rather good Abacab leftover You Might Recall, Padgham applied his fully-fledged production talents to XTC on the widescreen brilliance of ENGLISH SETTLEMENT (1982) ★★★★★, emerging only 18-months after Black Sea. Fatigued from their gruelling touring schedule, XTC were given the time and space to create a double album full of majestic songcraft and ever increasing studio prowess. The pace of many of the songs is almost leisurely when compared to their earlier more frenetic efforts, and XTC’s “White Album” not only highlighted Padgham’s technical skills as a producer by simply by enabling XTC to hone their songwriting and studio craft, and to an even higher degree, he allowed the band to create this well-structured double album full of singular rock songs like: Senses Working Overtime and No Thugs in Our House to name but two. It must be said Hugh’s talent was not in pigeon-holing the artist or forcing ideas upon them to make the album he had in mind. He would leave this to Todd Rundgren a few years later on Skylarking (1986).

The result was a career-defining statement from XTC and, in that sense, is it also viewed as a career punctuation point, unfortunately their last with underrated drummer Terry Chambers. The album achieves a perfect balance between sounding accessible while moving into the more adventurous territory they would soon explore with Mummer (1983) and The Big Express (1984). English Settlement achieved chart success both in the UK and US, receiving widespread critical acclaim. Padgham’s production style is a fine example of respecting the artist, while allowing the creative process to unfold working within record company constraints, time pressures to finish the record; not to mention money, touring commitments, release dates, eccentric characters like Andy Partridge, and the next contracted project – a skill unto itself.

A blockbuster Phil Collins record followed: Hello I Must Be Going (1982), recorded during a break in activity for Genesis, it was an AOR affair and included a faithful Supremes cover, ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’, in a decidedly pop vein, hinting at the direction forward for the solo artist. The album made him a star in his own right reaching number one on the UK charts and top 10 in the US. Another massive seller, although things were about to get much much bigger.

Padgham had struck up a friendship with New Zealand art-rock band Split Enz while working for Virgin Records in 1979. They were signed to A&M at the time and were in the middle of recording the less-than-stellar album Frenzy with American producer Mallory Earl at the controls. It’s fair to say Hugh was not fan. Earl’s production values on the album did not do this fine band justice, so when it came to the follow-up, TIME AND TIDE (1982) ★★★, they asked Hugh to take over.

Unfortunately the wonderful single Six Months in a Leaky Boat coincided with the Falkland’s War and was “discouraged from airplay” in the UK, as references to leaky boats were not appropriate during naval action in the war. Sadly the excellent song sank without a trace outside of Australia and NZ. Padgham then joined Split Enz in Australia to produce their next offering, CONFLICTING EMOTIONS (1983) ★★★, at a time when talented brothers Tim and Neil Finn’s relationship was disintegrating. Neil was taking over the band and there was resentment over Tim Finn’s blossoming solo career having just released the successful album, Escapade, and was more focused on promoting it rather than the new Enz project. Therefore the album suffered badly, particularly in promotional aspects, and wasn’t even released in the UK. A shame, as it contains some of the band’s greatest ever songs, such as Message to My Girl.

Split Enz only had one more album in them. Later Neil Finn visited Padgham and played him demos for his new band (Crowded House); Hugh unfathomably passed. Perhaps his biggest career regret?

When Hugh reconvened with The Police in late-1982 to work on their fifth and final album, the band was famously at loggerheads. The recording methodology on Ghost in the Machine was again employed, but after two weeks of recording, again in Montserrat, there was absolutely nothing to show for it. Tensions were so bad that a call was made to manager Miles Copeland to come to this desert island in the Caribbean for an urgent crisis meeting. A discussion took place outside the studio around the swimming pool with Sting, Andy and Stewart, Padgham the producer, and Miles Copeland, and the ultimatum was either make a go of it, try and be civil to each other, or quit right now. Thankfully, the decision was made to get on with it, and that they did, somehow making an iconic album in the process; the seminal SYNCHRONICITY (1983) ★★★★★. 

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The vibe of the album is one of anger and frustration, and in the studio things were, at times, icily formal. Sessions in Montserrat included laying down the tracks and overdubbing onto multi-track edits of the songs, then continued at Le Studio in Quebec in a ski resort 100 miles north of Montreal. Stewart and Sting didn’t like being in the same room together by this point, and Sting would ski in the morning and Stewart would work in the studio, and in the afternoons, vice versa.

From the moment Sting’s demo of Every Breath You Take was first played to the rest of the band, plus manager Miles Copeland and Padgham, they knew it was a hit. Hugh remembers being told by Miles at the playback: “There’s a goddamn hit if I ever heard one! Don’t fuck it up, Hugh!” The producer admits it would have been hard to fuck it up, noting: “I really think if my pet dog had produced Every Breath You Take, it would have been a hit.” Towards the end of the creative process on the track, Stewart wanted to overdub a flamboyant hi-hat idea. Padgham was already reticent, but got it done. Sting came into the studio in the afternoon and said: “What did you work on this morning?”

Hugh: “Stewart’s recorded a hi-hat overdub for Every Breath You Take.”

Sting: “I hate it.”

Hugh: “Don’t you want to hear it first?”

Padgham thought it only fair that he played Sting the overdub. “Fucking hate it. I never want to hear that hi-hat again, erase it now.” Sting made Hugh erase the track and stood by the tape machine as it ascended into the big studio in the sky. The next time Stewart came in he said: “Where’s my fucking hi-hat?” Hugh had to placate the drummer with “sometimes less is more.” This did not help ease the tension in the studio. The problems over recording Every Breath You Take arose precisely because it was so simple, Hugh explains: “If Stewart couldn’t be The Police’s hit writer anymore, he wanted to show off his drumming skills. And he couldn’t show off on Every Breath You Take.” 

The album is masterfully assembled. Side one consists of energetic full band tracks (Synchronicity I), up-tempo funk (O My God), and experimental oddities (Andy Summers’ Mother). The band had an agreement there had to be a Stewart song (Miss Gradenko) and there had to be an Andy song, and the King Crimson-esque Mother is by far the most challenging piece on the album. It’s so bizarre, it’s almost good. Andy Summers presented the demo to the band, it was mixed, and placed on the record. Done. No other band member contributed to it. Perhaps not everyone’s favourite song, Padgham recalls: “My assistant at the studio adored the Police, and at the end when making safety copies, asked for a copy of the album and said: if you don’t mind, can you leave Mother off my version?” Interestingly the song that was left off the album for the inclusion of Mother, incredibly, was the stunning I Burn For You, a song Padgham adored, and is still mystified why it did not make the cut.

Side two was largely created in post-production by Hugh and Sting at the desk, implementing precision studio-craftmanship for songs like King Of Pain, Wrapped Around Your Finger, and Tea in the Saraha. Hugh said: “We’d mute out parts so the chorus becomes bigger as a contrast to make the songs breathe more. I give Sting huge credit for that, as it was mainly me and him mixing in Quebec.” Light and shade was the focus for the side two tracks, “Record the band, go in and edit, take a long time removing tracks, strip it back, sometimes take everything out. Mute the drums, leave the bass drum.” The songs were masterfully constructed and recorded in the studio and the result is well… Synchronicity

Hugh says: “When we made Synchronicity, we sat down and said we were not going to use any effects apart from a bit of subtle tape echo, maybe a little harmoniser, but no out and out flanging and that sort of thing. Any effects that we did have on guitar, Andy Summers would get at point source, in other words out in the studio. I suppose if I have a favourite effect then it’s tape echo – it’s not an effect as such, but you can do so much with it. You can make things sound like they’re coming from a long, long way away, by using long repeating effects and giving things a lot of depth.”

Although Hugh himself prefers to steer away from effects, he does have a great respect for those who go in full tilt such as Trevor Horn: “Although even he doesn’t use many effects, his style comes from the way he arranges the songs and edits, more than studio gadgets. Like in that Yes single, Owner Of A Lonely Heart, one of the best things where it just edits with that acoustic guitar in the middle – that’s a brilliant idea. There is nothing studio gadget-y about that at all.”

Bonus song Murder By Numbers appeared only on CD and the track was also recorded in Montserrat. Hugh recalls: After dinner one night, Andy started playing a jazzy chord sequence. Sting said, that sounds quite good. I’ve got some lyrics that might go with that. Twenty minutes later the song was recorded. Drums ad-libbed. One and only, first take. Absolutely live.” A great performance, it’s Synchronicity’s x-factor.

Sadly, at the end of the sessions, it was obvious The Police were about to break up, and Stewart had graciously accepted the fact: “By Ghost In the Machine, we’d got as big as we were ever going to get,” he admits. “Sting very generously stuck it out for one more album than he had to. For our career, we broke up at exactly the right time.” Despite this, the band launched a massively successful world tour ending in 1984, and Hugh recalls inter-band relations were at there worst: “The worst fight were physical fights at a Police gig outdoor festival in France, Sting and Stewart had a fight and Stewart ended up with a cracked rib and couldn’t sit up let along play the drums. Couldn’t cancel. They all had their own roadie who was good at playing their instrument. Stewart’s roadie was Jeff who could play, he ended up sitting in on the whole gig wearing a hat. Telling the lighting techs not to light the drums. No one ever knew.”

As the early-80s went by, along with Phil’s increasingly successful career as a solo artist, the remaining members of Genesis had their own spin-off projects to fill their time. But the day job continued as they were finally big-time rock stars after a decade of hard work. For Hugh this also meant working with a band who loved each other: what a relief!

Known as the Mama album, or Shapes, the material was once again worked up in the studio, and GENESIS (1983) ★★★★, turned out to be their first platinum-rated US hit record, their greatest commercial success at the time, and their first album written, recorded, and mixed in its entirety at their studio: The Farm.

Collins and his bandmates, keyboardist Tony Banks and bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford, established a rule that no individual member could enter the studio with pre-written musical ideas, and the opening track, Mama, originated during a group jam session where Padgham and the band were experimenting with a Linn drum machine fed through a gated reverb and a Mesa Boogie amplifier. It was then “turned up incredibly loud” to the point of amplifiers jumping off the studio floor. Collins went for a dramatic vocal performance with a dark undercurrent and a laugh that resembled “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

Overall the album is full of sleek, pulsating pop tunes and includes some major highlights such as the hit single That’s All, and Tony Banks’ synth-bass part on It’s Gonna Get Better. After an eight month break, and having shed most of their progressive rock sensibilities, the new album, the band’s twelfth, would see the three-piece redefining themselves as a pop group, and becoming more and more acquainted with mammoth commercial success.

In 1981, Phil Oakey and producer Martin Rushent had made one of the best-loved and most successful British pop albums of all time: The Human League’s Dare. The newfound upbeat electronic sound became a global success and a string of hit singles taken from that album defied the misconception that synthesizers were only capable of producing cold, emotionless music. However, sessions for their much-anticipated follow up, HYSTERIA (1984) ★★★, were so torturous and overextended that Rushent and Chris Thomas abandoned their roles as producers and were replaced by Hugh Padgham who eventually finished the project. Not keen to take on the job, Hugh asked for twice the fee; they still said yes.

Following up the excellent Dare would prove difficult for The Human League, and Hysteria attained relatively lacklustre success in comparison to its multi-platinum predecessor. Even so, it yielded three top-20 singles, including The Lebanon. Hugh recalls the sessions: I really loved working with Phil Oakey on that album, but we were slightly lumbered with the material at hand. The hits were not quite as hit-y as on the previous album, and looking back on something like The Lebanon, the guitar is not big enough, not loud enough.” 

“There isn’t an album I’ve ever made where I don’t cringe at one point or another”

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A major regret for the producer was his work with superstar David Bowie. Mere months after he’d finished the blockbusting Serious Moonlight World Tour, Bowie was back in the studio, out of nowhere rushing out another album to cash in on the coattails of the hugely successful Let’s Dance (1983) album, all at EMI’s behest. Bowie originally asked Bob Clearmountain to produce TONIGHT (1984) ★★, and while newcomer and funk-based producer Derek Bramble was given the nod, he was promptly ‘let go’ after picking holes in Bowie’s singing and requesting multiple vocal takes from the usually one-vocal-take Rock God. Hugh got the call to finish the record after being originally enlisted as the engineer. 

tonightOnce sessions got underway with Padgham in charge, it was clear Bowie had very little original material to work with. Tracks consisted of two originals (the very good Loving the Alien and Blue Jean), three Iggy Pop solo covers (Neighbourhood Threat, Don’t Look Down and Tonight), two old-time remakes (a grotesque reworking of the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows and a throwaway version of Leiber and Stoller’s I Keep Forgettin), and two new Iggy co-writes (Tumble and Twirl and Dancing With the Big Boys).

Bowie was fast losing interest and bored stiff in the middle of nowhere at Le Studio in Quebec, and clearly his heart wasn’t in it. The resulting album, to be kind, is a well-recorded, well-sung, if patchy affair, certainly not Bowie’s finest hour, however he and Padgham got on very well and remained friends even though Bowie slagged off the album quite heavily over the years branding it “my Phil Collins years“. Hugh recalls: “The record took longer than David generally liked to take. A big regret was I wasn’t more assertive regarding the material, and unfortunately I didn’t get to work with him again.” Despite all of this, the album incredibly hit the top of the UK charts in 1984.

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Hugh Padgham turned 30 in 1985 and was in the midst of working on his most commercial project thus far – the zenith of the 80’s white R&B sound, and it’s unlikely superstar: Phil Collins’ NO JACKET REQUIRED (1985) ★★★★. Few cultural artefacts scream 1985 more than this album, and Collins was up to his rolled-up-jacket-sleeve elbows in the most prolific run of UK Top 40 singles of any artist of the decade. No Jacket Required contained a string of hits that never left the radio and Phil, with his globe-straddling turn at Live Aid and unstoppable radio airplay, was well on the way to becoming unpleasantly ubiquitous.

The recording process for the album was quick and achieved another level of success for the artist and producer, selling 12 millions copies in the US alone and hitting number one all over the world. Even today, it is one of the most commercially successful records ever, and there’s no denying that, for sheer proficiency and mastery of its domain, it’s blend of power ballads and synth-led, hook-heavy pop, remains unbeatable.

The album wizzes by in a blur of saucy horns, machine rhythms, and splashy electro-jitterbugging synthesizer, often leaving little room for proper songs or real feeling to squeeze through.

When Hugh produced Genesis’ 13th studio album, INVISIBLE TOUCH (1986) ★★★, again at The Farm in Surrey, it would become the band’s most commercially successful album yet. Reconvening again after each got their respective solo projects out of their system, the band would assemble songs from jams again, and when the time came to record the song, they had a completed structure. Padgham knew it was going to be huge, “The electronic drums sounds was achieved by plugging them into a PA and recording them ‘live’ with the rest of the band playing over the top.” 

By 1986 there really was no avoiding Phil Collins. It was also difficult to differentiate between his solo hits and those of Genesis. It was likely the record-buying public didn’t either, probably didn’t even remember a time when Phil Collins wasn’t the frontman of Genesis. The anti-hero of Bret Easton Ellis’s 1991 novel, serial killer Patrick Bateman, is a big fan of the Genesis star’s solo career, and apart from Sussudio featuring prominently in the 2000 film adaptation starring a suitably bonkers Christian Bale, he dedicates a whole chapter to Padgham: 

41BY1C7XJML._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_Invisible Touch is the group’s undisputed masterpiece. It’s an epic meditation on intangibility, at the same time it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums. It has a resonance that keeps coming back to the listener, and the music is so beautiful that it’s almost impossible to shake off because every song makes some connection about the unknown or the spaces between people (“Invisible Touch”) questioning authoritative control whether by domineering lovers or by government (“Land of Confusion”) or by meaningless repetition (“Tonight Tonight Tonight”). All in all it ranks with the finest rock ‘n’ roll achievements of the decade and the mastermind behind this album, along of course with the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford, is Hugh Padgham, who has never found as clear and crisp modern a sound as this. You can practically hear every nuance of every instrument. Bret Easton Ellis – American Psycho (1991)

Padgham produced one more project in 1986, and that was British artist Howard Jones’ very good single No One Is To Blame. The song, in its original version, can be found on his second studio album, Dream Into Action (1985) produced by Hugh’s friend, the late great Rupert Hine. Following the success of the previous singles taken from that album, No One Is to Blame was remade to lend it a more radio friendly sound. Phil Collins plays the drums and Padgham really nails it in the studio. It’s a lesson in majestic 1980s pop studio production (it helps that it’s a good song to begin with) and it drastically improves on the original track. The song unsurprisingly became Howard Jones’ biggest hit in the US (No.4).

In 1986, Paul McCartney saw the future, and the future was David Bowie’s Tonight and Genesis’ Invisible Touch; thus, he hired Hugh Padgham to produce his next album PRESS TO PLAY (1986) ★★, only the second time he’d handed over the reins to a proper producer, the other being Chris Thomas on 1979’s Back to the Egg. Unfortunately working with Paul was not a particularly happy time for Hugh. He was sent Macca’s demos on cassette, and was excited, until he heard the songs. Padgham said it felt like he would need to polish a turd and the recording process did not go smoothly. There was conjecture over who was producing the album; was it Hugh, or was it ex-10cc member Eric Stewart who would come in every day and sit at the back of the control room, and the sessions were slow and laboured, as Hugh recalls: “It would take ages for a bass overdub, then Paul would recount Beatles anecdotes.”

Hugh: “That middle eight might be too long Paul.”

Paul: “How many hit songs have you written Hugh?”

Live Aid happened while Press to Play was being recorded, and while Padgham had nothing to do with any technical aspects associated with Live Aid, he unfairly copped the blame for McCartney’s microphone outage on his concert-closing version of ‘Let It Be’.

With Press to Play, what we end up with is mix of catchy mid-tempo pop (Press), lightweight ballads (Only Love Remains) and half-finished ideas (Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun), with a sound very much anchored in 1986. And while the project did promise a resurgence in McCartney’s creative achievements since the forgettable Give My Regards to Broad Street (1984), it was met with a lukewarm response. McCartney’s musical renaissance wouldn’t come into full bloom until Flowers in the Dirt three years later.

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Having had two big albums with The Police earlier in the decade, manager Miles Copeland’s raison d’etre was: “the more successful the album was, the more money you must’ve made, therefore you’ve made too much money, so I’m not going to pay you as much.” This led to Padgham being overlooked for Sting’s first solo record Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985), Neil Dorfsman just off Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms would produce that (an album Sting also appears on), as well as the follow-up …Nothing Like the Sun (1987).

Sting said Dorfsman didn’t understand the bass, so he called Padgham to mix the record at A&M studios in LA. Staying at Sting’s house in Malibu, Padgham found himself living the 80s record producer dream: driving an American sports car, roof down, listening to loud FM radio. Hugh recalls: “There are some fantastic songs on that record and I love the band. Sting was moving in a jazzy direction coming out of the live Bring on the Night project. We used studio effects such as delayed-reverb, where you put the signal through a digital delay, then through an echo-plate, where the echo comes back a bit later than the main signal making everything sound much bigger. Andy Summers also plays on The Lazarus Heart and Be Still My Beating Heart.Hugh and Sting got on so well they made three more records in the Nineties, “I loved making those records, he always had such fantastic musicians.”

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Hugh would close out the decade on a low-key note by producing Remembrance Days by the Dream Academy. Working with songwriter Nick Laird-Clowes was difficult and there were familiar record company pressures and inter-band tensions, “A lot of in-fighting; they were feeling the pressure to follow their first hit single (the marvellous Life in a Northern Town).” The album however does include some fine moments, the beautiful Power to Believe and Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime, produced by Lindsey Buckingham, although the album didn’t connect with the public.   

Things were changing in the rock music landscape, the slick studio polished music was going out of fashion, and hard rock bands such as Guns ‘n Roses were steamrolling everything in their path, not to mention the alt-rock scene (Sonic Youth, Pixies) coming to the fore. Mixing Julia Fordham’s self-titled debut album in 1988, which included the lovely single Happy Ever After, did not achieve the sort of commercial success he’d become accustomed, but Padgham struck up a friendship with guitarist Carlos Alomar, met bassist Tony Levin and prolific sessions guitarist Dominic Miller, subsequently introducing him to Sting and he would become his long-term right hand man, even today. “Sting never thanked me for that. Julia is a huge talent, a professional artist and I loved working with her.”

Padgham also mixed Brian Wilson’s first self-titled solo album, released in 1988, best known for the magnificent single Love and Mercy, and he recalls the time being sometimes comical but at the same time really sad. “In New York one day in Warner Bros offices having a meeting with legendary producer Russ Titelman (who has worked with everyone from Randy Newman to Eric Clapton, George Harrison to Steve Winwood) who mentioned he was in the middle of making a record with Brian Wilson and asked if he fancied mixing it in LA at A&M studios. The first day of mixing, Brian comes in, being friendly but not quite normal, sits down next to me, and while we’re listening to a playback of one of the songs, suddenly pushes up two echo-plate faders, nearly blowing the speakers not to mention everyone’s ears. We had to stop the tape and say politely to Brian, please don’t do that again.”

Hugh mixed everything except ‘Rio Grande’ on the album but recalled the period with Brian being very odd. “Brian was still being managed by the sinister Dr Eugene Landy. Under his spell, taking betablockers to keep him down. Landy was trying to get his hand in by writing lyrics. This has since been rescinded. There were Landy recorded lyrics and Brian recorded lyrics. Writing credits to Landy and his wife Alexandra Morgan and executive producer credits to Landy were removed after the album’s 2000 reissue. For historical purposes, all tracks are as they were originally credited, albeit with a strikethrough for credits that are no longer officially recognised.”   

Padgham produced Julia Fordham’s critically-acclaimed Porcelain in 1989 and would work on Collins’ reflective …But Seriously. Fifteen weeks at No.1 in the UK, the album was a departure from the all-out pop of No Jacket Required. On this oft-ignored album Phil plays live drums, overall there’s much less drum machine, less cheesy 80s synths, but it is also his most polished production. From purely a sound engineer perspective it sounds smooth. Padgham had become bored with the same people playing on the albums, so he enlisted Dominic Miller as well as some big names such as Eric Clapton and Stevie Winwood. At the time of recording they knew it was going to be a hit, and a hit it was, reaching number one all over the globe. 

Sandwiched between more rock-cred genres like prog, punk and AOR in the 1970s and (synth)pop, alternative rock, and heavy metal in the 1980s and 1990s, Padgham inspired new developments in the studio and pop music technology, all from behind the glass. There isn’t another producer who is responsible for more hits, iconic songs, or iconic chart-topping albums from the 1980s, that still resonate today. 

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Posted in Andy Summers, David Bowie, Genesis, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Police, The, Producers, Rupert Hine, Sting, Todd Rundgren, XTC | 31 Comments

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

Here at The Press we look at expansive double albums and trim it back to a single, filler-free listening experience. In the case of Lou Reed’s scary ’73 glam-phetamine performance, brashly released as two single live LPs in the mid-70s, we reconstitute the show at the height of his solo stardom as one double-gatefold behemoth in this 14th instalment of the UnDoubled series.

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The Albums: Prefiguring punk, Lou Reed fronts a muscular mid-70s hard rock road band and performs a blistering live set on December 21, 1973 at Howard Stein’s Academy of Music in New York City at the height of his shaven-headed, junkie-chic phase. Arena rock bombast was the order of the day, and the songs performed were a mix of anthemic Velvet Underground favourites and selections from Lou’s most recent solo offerings Transformer (1972) and Berlin (1973). The tracks were arranged in a different order and released within a 12-month interval exploiting his then-notoriety, on two promethean screaming-guitar proto-punk-metal live albums: the iconic RCA best-seller Rock n Roll Animal in February 1974, and its sequel; Lou Reed Live in March 1975, the follow-up to US top 10 hit album Sally Can’t Dance

The Band: In 1970, Mitch Ryder and former Detroit Wheels drummer Johnny “Bee” Badanjek put together a new band called Detroit. Their sole 1971 LP contained a hard rock recasting of the Velvets’ Rock & Roll featuring a new intro riff written and played by guitarist Steve Hunter. Lou dug Detroit’s version of the song and recruited Hunter and Detroit’s producer Bob Ezrin for his Berlin album. Detroit’s Rock & Roll and the version of Sweet Jane found on Rock n Roll Animal are a great double. For the 1973 world tour, Reed had put together a band that included the duel guitar attack of Hunter and Dick Wagner, who had previously worked with Alice Cooper, and both would go on to record and perform on Coop’s first solo outing Welcome to My Nightmare, again with producer Ezrin. 

The well-selected songs contain a certain drama, and the guitar arrangements are spectacular. The extended guitar intro to concert opener Sweet Jane, and the timed applause (dubbed in post-production from a John Denver record) as Lou creeps onto the stage, is breathtaking however there are moments on the album where the bombast outweighs the nuance, particularly during some more intricate moments that do not necessarily scream for such flashiness.  

The Show: Lou is freed up to perform solo; he’s cynical and sadistic, yet giving his all. Unusually guitarless, sporting an inhuman look; black eye-makeup, nail polish, dog collar, clad in leather, he even simulates shooting smack in a dark-drama set piece during Heroin. Its the closest you can get to total drug nightmare without having to go to rehab. His vocals are predictably drug-addled but controlled, microphone in hand. Infused into his performance are some odd, jerky rock star moves that are still imitated today as Lou prowls the stage like Iggy on mandrax.

Lou Reed Live: Rock n Roll Animal 

TRACKS:

  1. Intro/Sweet Jane
  2. How Do You Think It Feels?
  3. Caroline Says I
  4. I’m Waiting for the Man
  5. Lady Day
  6. Heroin
  7. Vicious
  8. Satellite of Love
  9. Walk on the Wild Side
  10. Oh, Jim
  11. Sad Song
  12. White Light/White Heat
  13. Rock ‘n Roll

It wasn’t the first or last time Lou Reed would reinvent himself. His next move was a fan-alienating double album of electronic noise. This live album might as well be a different guy. Might as well be different songs. But it was a great sound and a great imaginative leap by the artist, and retains it’s punch as a double live rock and roll album, just a whole different……animal.

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Posted in Albums That Never Were, Alice Cooper, Double Albums: Un-Doubled, Downloads, Gigs, Lemon Twigs, The, Lou Reed, Performance of the Day | 9 Comments

Look Closely: Black Sabbath’s Heaven And Hell

Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell (1980)

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In 1980 Black Sabbath, fronted by the great Ronnie James Dio at the time, were in a jam. They were releasing a new album called Heaven and Hell and the original album cover idea was not working out. Enter artist Lynn Curlee. “The Smoking Angels” painting was not commissioned specifically for the heavy metal legends, rather inspired by a charming 1928 photograph of some young women dressed as angels, madly smoking and playing cards during their short break between acts at a college Christmas pageant.

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One of the great album covers, Smoking Angels took Curlee three weeks to complete. “It was done in acrylic on canvas, and measured about 4 by 6 feet,” he says. “I work with standard brushes in a meticulous technique, with no airbrushing. Since the painting already existed, it didn’t exactly fit into the square album format, so the right side had to be severely cropped. Of course, the original painting includes the entire wing of that angel.

What the artist didn’t mention was that two of the angels had been removed for the painting. Can you tell which ones? Here’s my rather primitive mock-up. Go nuts.

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They say that life’s a carousel
Spinning fast, you’ve got to ride it well
The world is full of kings and queens
Who blind your eyes and steal your dreams
It’s heaven and hell, oh well

Posted in Album Covers, Images | 7 Comments

Pink Floyd – Animals Remix

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Roger Waters updates Pink Floyd fans on the upcoming Animals box set and has taken a giant swipe at former bandmate Dave Gilmour in the process, labelling him nothing more than a “jolly good guitarist“.

In a typical Waters style he has frankly revealed the planned Animals package was held up due to ongoing issues between himself and Floyd’s former guitarist/vocalist. Such behaviour! The old bastards should know better.

Gilmour:…when I was still in charge” indeed. What utter poppycock. I can’t imagine slogging my way through a tome by Roger, where he gets his digs in at everyone he feels aggrieved by, at every turn — and pretends like he was Pink Floyd. “…jolly good guitarist and singer”. Complete balderdash.

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A note from Roger Waters to Pink Floyd fans:

As I am banned by Dave Gilmour from posting on Pink Floyd’s Facebook page with its 30,000,000 subscribers, I am posting this announcement here today and in full on rogerwaters.com.

First, a warm welcome back to our little band of brothers and sisters who have always kept an open mind, let’s hope some of the fans whose access to my words is suppressed by Gilmour find their way here and discover some truth.

What precipitated this note is that there are new James Guthrie Stereo and 5.1 mixes of the Pink Floyd album Animals, 1977. These mixes have languished unreleased because of a dispute over some sleeve notes that Mark Blake has written for this new release. Gilmour has vetoed the release of the album unless these liner notes are removed. He does not dispute the veracity of the history described in Mark’s notes, but he wants that history to remain secret.

This is a small part of an ongoing campaign by the Gilmour/Samson camp to claim more credit for Dave on the work he did in Pink Floyd, 1967-1985, than is his due. Yes he was, and is, a jolly good guitarist and singer. But, he has for the last 35 years told a lot of whopping porky pies about who did what in Pink Floyd when I was still in charge. There’s a lot of “we did this” and “we did that,” and “I did this” and “I did that.” So, two things:

(1). I am agreeing to the release of the new Animals remix, with the sleeve notes removed. Good work James Guthrie by the way, and sorry Mark Blake. The final draft of the liner notes was fact checked and agreed as factually correct by me, Nick and Gilmour. Here they are, enjoy, there’s nothing controversial, just a few simple facts.

Mark Blake: Liner Notes
Pink Floyd: Animals
Despite being recorded in London during the long, summer heatwave of 1976, Pink Floyd’s Animals remains a dark album. Its critique of capitalism and greed caught the prevailing mood in Britain: a time of industrial strife, economic turmoil, The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and the race riots of Notting Hill. The album was released on January 23rd 1977, but the roots of Pink Floyd’s tenth studio album go back earlier in the decade. Following the success of 1973’s The Dark Side Of The Moon, Pink Floyd pondered their next move. During a two-to-three week jam session in early 1974, the band worked on ideas for three new compositions. From these sessions the band developed Shine On You Crazy Diamond, (A passionate tribute to Syd Barrett, words by Roger Waters. Added by me, sorry couldn’t help it.) which became the centrepiece of Floyd’s next album, Wish You Were Here, and Raving And Drooling (composed by Roger Waters) and You Gotta Be Crazy written by Waters and David Gilmour.

Raving And Drooling was a tale of violent social disorder, while You Gotta Be Crazy told the story of a soulless businessman clawing and cheating his way to the top. Both were performed live for the first time on the Floyd’s winter tour of 1974. They were both considered for the Wish You Were Here album, but Roger insisted that neither song was relevant to the overall idea, that “Wish You Were Here” was essentially about absence, and as neither song fitted his conception of the record’s overall theme, neither song should be included. The band eventually concurred. Scroll forward two years, and Roger had an idea for the next Pink Floyd album. He borrowed from George Orwell’s allegorical story, Animal Farm, in which pigs and other farmyard animals were reimagined anthropomorphically. Waters portrays the human race as three sub-species trapped in a violent, vicious cycle, with sheep serving despotic pigs and authoritarian dogs. You Gotta be Crazy and Raving And Drooling perfectly fitted his new concept. In the meantime, a year earlier, the group had bought a set of disused church buildings in Britannia Row, Islington, which they’d converted into a studio and storage facility. Prior to this every Pink Floyd studio release had been partly or wholly recorded at Abbey Road studios. Pink Floyd had also found a new recording engineer. Brian Humphries, an engineer from Pye studios, who they had met while recording the sound track for “More”, a movie directed by Barbet Schroeder. Brian had gone on to engineer Wish You Were Here at Abbey Road, and also helped them out on the road, so they had got to know him very well. Using their own studio marked a significant change in their working methods. There were setbacks and teething problems, but also a great sense of freedom.

Following Roger’s instincts about the new songs paid off, the songs had an aggressive edge far removed from the luxuriant soundscapes on Wish You Were Here. It was a timely change of direction. At Britannia Row, he renamed Raving And Drooling, Sheep and Gotta Be Crazy became Dogs. The narrative was completed by the addition of two new Waters songs: Pigs (Three Different Ones) and Pigs On The Wing.

On Pigs (Three Different Ones), the lyrics namechecked Mary Whitehouse, the head of the National Viewers And Listeners Association. Whitehouse was an outspoken critic of sex and violence on British television and a topical target for Roger’s ire. The subject matter was bleak, but Nick Mason recalled lighter moments over dubbing songs with special effects and barnyard noises. While Sheep also made room for Roger’s blackly comic variation on Psalm 23: “He maketh me to hang on hooks in high places/ He converteth me to lamb cutlets…” The music and the performance mirrored the intensity of the lyrics. Keyboard player Richard Wright’s eerie-sounding synths and Hammond organ cranked up the unease. While David Gilmour’s shared lead vocal on Dogs and his guitar playing throughout Animals offered a striking counterpoint to Roger’s brutal lyrics. In contrast, Animals began and ended on an optimistic note. The verses of Pigs on The Wing were split in two and bookended the album. Roger’s lyrics and vocal performance of acoustic intro and outro (“You know that I care what happens to you/ And I know that you care for me too…”) suggested hope for humanity. The idea for Pink Floyd’s flying pig was also Roger’s. He had already commissioned its building as a stage device for the next tour. Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell of the design company Hipgnosis, had produced a number of design ideas for an Animals sleeve and presented them to the band but none of the band, liked them, and when Roger added his disapproval someone said, ”Well why don’t you come up with something better then?” So he did, on the drive from his house in South London to Britannia Row, he regularly passed Battersea Power Station. He was drawn to the imposing brick building, and by the number four. Four in the band, four phallic chimneys, and if the power station were turned upside down then it resembled a table with four legs. He pursued his idea and had a maquette made, a small scale model of the eventual full scale inflatable pig. He then took photographs of Battersea Power station and created a photographic mock up of an album sleeve. The rest of the band loved it. Storm and Po, who had designed all of the previous Pink Floyd album covers, graciously offered to source photographers for the photo shoot, and did. On the first day of the photo shoot, the pig failed to inflate. On the second day, it broke free of its moorings and disappeared into a beautiful brooding sky, prompting a frantic call to the police and a halt to all flights in and out of Heathrow. The pig eventually crash-landed in a farmer’s field in Kent.

The following day, the shoot went ahead without a hitch, great shots of pig in situ but no brooding sky. So Storm and Po stripped Day three Pig into Day two sky, bingo! History. Animals was a hit, reaching Number 2 in the UK and Number 3 in the US. Pink Floyd’s pig, Algie, made its live debut on their subsequent “In The Flesh” tour in 1977. At stadium shows in America, it was joined by another Water’s idea, an inflatable nuclear family comprising a mother, father and 2.5 children, surrounded by the spoils of a consumerist lifestyle: an inflatable Cadillac, oversized TV and refrigerator. Roger called it Electric Theatre. Both the album and the tour signposted the way to Pink Floyd’s next release, The Wall, and to Roger’s ever more ambitious ideas, both in terms of his music, narratives, politics and stage shows. But his themes and ideas explored on Animals have endured. More than 40 years on the album has been remixed in stereo and 5.1. In troubled times and an uncertain world, Animals is as timely and relevant now as it ever was.
Mark Blake

Thanks Mark, sorry you were redacted.

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(2). I am in the middle of writing my Memoirs and inevitably some of it contains references to some of the content above. For anyone with a faint heart, I suggest you sit down, but anyone who likes a good laugh, sit back and ****ing howl!  I’m going to sit back and howl along with you.

At the beginning of this post on the subject of porky pies, I say, “There’s an awful lot of “we did this” and “we did that,” and “I did this” and “I did that.” Right? So here’s a short extract from my memoir:

“As chance would have it I was doing a bit of delving in a book of press clippings and came across an interview David Fricke of Rolling Stone Magazine did with DG in a hotel room in NY in 1982, DG’s talking about the Cash register tape for the defining 7/8 rhythm on Money. The interview was published in Musician Magazine, so even back then DG was sowing the seeds of the false narrative. I quote this bit of the article verbatim:

David Fricke: “You recorded the sounds for ‘Money’ on a loop of tape.” Gilmour explains: ”You’re trying to get the impact from the cash register, ‘the snap, crack, crsssh,” You’d mark that one and then measure how long you wanted that beat to go, and that’s the piece you’d use. And you’d chop it together. It was trial and error. You just chop the tapes together, and if it sounds good, you use it. If it doesn’t, you take one section out and put a different one in. Sometimes we’d put one in and it’d be backwards, because the diagonal cut on the tape, if you turn it around is exactly the same. We’d stick that in and instead it would go ‘chung, dum, whoosh.’ And sound great so we’d use that.”

Well! The reason everything DG is saying here to David Fricke sounds like gobbledygook is because it is ****ing gobbledygook. He has no ****ing idea what he’s talking about. Why? Because unless he was hiding under the ****ing chair, DG wasn’t there when I made that SFX tape loop for Money in the studio I shared with my wife Judy at the bottom of our garden at 187, New North Road, Islington, next door to the North Pole Pub where I used to play darts!

THE FULL STORY OF WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IS IN MY MEMOIRS!
So, I hope that whets your, and David and Polly’s appetites
Love
R

Posted in Pink Floyd | 19 Comments

Tangled Up In Bob

On the great man’s 80th birthday, guest writer and long-time fan Chris Wyness brings us – Tangled Up in Bob: My Personal Relationship With Dylan.

As a long-time Bob Dylan fan, his 80th birthday got me thinking about my personal relationship with, to my mind, the greatest songwriter of our time. When did I first hear his music, when did he become important in my life and why have I always connected with him in such a powerful way? Of all the musicians and songwriters I enjoy, Dylan has long been at the top of my list as the standout favourite, which is saying something considering the high calibre of musicians who reside on that long list.

His lyrics speak to me, his music enthrals me and his attitude to life fascinates me 

Before I write about Dylan directly it’s worth mentioning that as a child I had a fascination with popular music. At about the age of five I contracted meningitis, which meant spending a lengthy period of time in bed, much of it in a darkened room. To help pass the time my parents gave me a transistor radio, which became my constant companion. The stations I enjoyed the most were the ones that played popular music. I can’t remember exactly what music I listened to on those stations but being that it was 1961 I no doubt discovered the likes of Del Shannon, Ricky Nelson, Dion, Roy Orbison, The Everly Brothers, Neil Sedaka, Connie Francis, Bobby Darin and of course Elvis Presley.

However, my love of popular music really kicked in at the age of eight when I became aware of the Beatles phenomenon through listening to the radio, watching news reports on TV and then seeing their first performance on the Ed Sullivan Show. In fact it was from watching the Ed Sullivan Show on Sunday evenings that I came to fully appreciate many of the musical acts I had heard on the radio or knew through a friend’s older brother’s inspiring record collection. Dylan, as it turned out, wasn’t one of the performers I’d see on Ed Sullivan due to his refusal to perform on the show after he was told he couldn’t sing his song of choice, Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues. However, at this point in my musical journey Dylan wasn’t yet a feature. In fact the little I did know about folk music was based around seeing Burl Ives and Joan Baez on TV, two of my mom’s favourites.

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So when did I first discover Dylan? My earliest recollection of knowing he existed came about in 1966 when I was a 10-year-old in Grade 6. Our music teacher would have us sing popular folk songs of the day such as Puff The Magic Dragon and Where Have All The Flowers Gone along with Blowin’ In The Wind and Mr Tambourine Man. When the teacher introduced us to a new song she would give us a potted history of the artist, tell us why she thought the song was important, and then play the recorded version of the song on a portable record player. We would then sing off our song sheets as the teacher accompanied us on her guitar.

From this point on I developed an interest in Dylan’s music but really only in those songs that were played on the radio such as It Ain’t Me Babe, The Times They Are a-Changin’, Like A Rolling Stone, Positively 4th Street, It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, and Just Like A Woman.

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It wasn’t until 1969 when I was in Grade 9 that I first became familiar with an entire Dylan album, Nashville Skyline. A friend’s parents, who were country and western fans, bought the album when it was released, I suspect more because of its country feel than because they were Dylan fans. At that point in my life I had decided that C&W wasn’t my kind of music. So I was baffled by this artist, who I thought of as being about as far removed from this style of music as you could possibly get, releasing an album of country tunes. After repeated listens I became beguiled by the album and decided that this really wasn’t C&W but something else altogether. Looking back on it I think I needed a way to justify my enjoyment of the album so I could reconcile it with my dislike for C&W. I also realise now that it was my first inkling that Dylan was an artist who could explore different types of music and turn them into a style that was uniquely his own.

My first Dylan purchase was in 1971 when I bought the newly released Greatest Hits Volume 2 double album when I was in Grade 11, and soon followed that up with the purchase of the first Greatest Hits album. These two albums got a lot of spin time on my bedroom stereo unit and it was through repeated listens to these ‘greatest hits’ that I began to truly appreciate not only the music but also the poetic quality of Dylan’s lyrics. However, at this point those two albums were all the Dylan I needed in my collection. That was until 1973, at the end of Grade 12, when a good friend and devoted Dylan fan lent me a copy of Anthony Scaduto’s Dylan. Reading this biography was my Dylan Damascus moment. Everything I read about Dylan in the biography enthralled and captivated me and sent me off to the record store to start buying his back catalogue. Soon Highway 61 Revisited (the album that would become my favourite of all time), Blonde On Blonde, and Bringing It All Back Home were part of my collection. I quickly followed this up by adding the earlier albums to my collection.

It was around this time that I decided I was a committed Bob fan and went on to purchase all his other albums up to that point, including Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid, purchased immediately after seeing the film, and Columbia’s revenge album Dylan, almost as disappointing to me at the time as was Self Portrait. For Christmas that year a family friend gave me a copy of Writings And Drawings, which had just been published and became my most prized book. This sat on my bookshelf beside Tarantula, Dylan’s misguided attempt at writing prose, and the paperback edition of D. A. Pennebaker’s documentary film Don’t Look Back about Dylan’s 1965 concert tour in England. I now have a collection of books by and about Dylan and a collection of DVDs featuring Dylan documentaries and concert films.

But something else happened at the end of 1973 that was incredibly exciting; Dylan and The Band announced a 40-concert North American tour, Dylan’s first in nearly eight years. When I discovered that the tour wasn’t coming to Vancouver, where I lived at the time, my disappointment was immeasurable. But then, as if by magic, a high school friend’s aunt, who had connections in the entertainment industry, was able to get four tickets for the Seattle show on February 9, 1974, and I was one of the chosen to attend what was to be perhaps the most important concert experience of my life. For me at the time it was akin to a religious experience sitting in the same room, well a large arena to be exact, watching my musical idol perform so many of the songs I had come to love and cherish. On top of that he was performing with his legendary backing band and a group I was a fan of in their own right.

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Since then I have seen Dylan perform another 18 times in Vancouver, Toronto, Kitchener, London, Sydney and Melbourne. Aside from The Band, I’ve seen him play with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers in Sydney and Vancouver, sing with Van Morrison at the Fleadh Festival in London, heard him preach the gospel according to Bob in Toronto during his ‘born again’ tour, and perform with many legendary musicians. But in all the times I’ve seen Dylan, I have never heard him perform the same song the same way twice, which to my mind is an amazing accomplishment and shows another side of his musical genius.

Planet Waves, released at the start of 1974, was the first Dylan album I purchased as a new release and since then have gone on to buy all of his albums as they’ve been released – good, bad or indifferent. My first bootleg album, Great White Wonder, was a cassette tape I bought by mail order from a company in New York in 1974. The second was Stealin, a gift from a friend who had found the album in a used-records store. Over the ensuing years I’ve built up my collection of Dylan bootlegs, seeking them out from wherever I could find them, a task that became much easier with the dawning of the internet.

My world has been made substantially more fulfilling because of Bob Dylan. Not only have I been rewarded time and again by the joy I experience listening to his music, but over the years I’ve also been enriched by the friendships I’ve made with other Dylan fans, some of whom have become lifelong friends. What we all share is a love for a man who speaks to us through his music and reaches us in places that no one else touches. And when you think about it, that’s quite something coming from a guy who, as David Bowie sang, has a voice like sand and glue.

Posted in Bob Dylan, On This Day | 23 Comments

Look Closely: Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti

Ever wondered why Led Zeppelin called their 1975 double album Physical Graffiti? Look closely at the fire escapes on the album cover and the subliminal message of L  Z can been seen – hence the album’s title. Allegedly.

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The album’s sleeve design features a photograph of a New York City tenement block, with interchanging window illustrations. The album designer, Peter Corriston, was looking for a building that was symmetrical with interesting details, that was not obstructed by other objects and would fit the square album cover.

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Did you notice a floor has been removed? As you can see from the image above the top floor has been cropped out of the five-storey buildings so they would fit onto the square sleeve. The two five-story buildings photographed for the album cover are located at 96 and 98 St. Mark’s Place in New York City.

More Album Cover Outtakes

 

Posted in Album Covers, Images, Led Zeppelin | 14 Comments

Stevie Wonder: 20 Deep Cuts

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

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

TRACKS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Downloads, Mixtapes, On This Day, Stevie Wonder | 11 Comments

Pink Floyd: Madison Square Garden, 1977

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TRACKS

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

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

Total Time: 2:05:54

Tour band

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

Additional musicians:

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

Posted in Downloads, Gigs, Performance of the Day, Pink Floyd | 8 Comments

David Bowie: Rotterdam 1976

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