Top 5 Songs – Sex Pistols

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sex PistolsTop 5 Songs

5. EMI

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

4. Holidays in the Sun

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

3. Pretty Vacant

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

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

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

Honourable Mention – Silly Thing

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

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

Posted in Sex Pistols, Top 5 Songs | 16 Comments

Duderama – No I In Dream

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

PurchaseBandcamp / Amazon

StreamSpotify Soundcloud  / YouTube

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

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

© 2022 Surface to Air Records Inc.

Posted in Bandcamp, Downloads, Duderama | 4 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

The cinematic composition that would grace U2’s classic was funnily enough not taken at California’s Joshua Tree National Park, but some 250 miles north at Zabriskie Point. 

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Many fans assume that the cover for the U2 landmark The Joshua Tree was shot in the Californian National Park, but the band’s fifth album that catapulted them once and for all into permanent superstardom, ironically featured a shot of the band in the barren desert on the edge of Death Valley, a good four hour drive from Joshua Tree.

The idea of desert meets civilization was the loose theme when photographer Anton Corbijn, using a panoramic camera, captured the band in November 1986 for an album under the working title The Two Americas.

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

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

Bono was reading the Bible and had thought The Joshua Tree may be a good album title. Legend has it that pioneers named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding travellers westward.

Off they went speeding down Route 190, and it was near Darwin, California, just west of Death Valley, when they found what they were looking for. Usually grown in large numbers, there was a Joshua Tree standing all on its own.

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U2 pulled over and spent 20 minutes posing with the lone tree before the winter chill drove them back into the bus. The iconic Joshua Tree itself appears to the right of the band on the back cover and also directly between them in the middle of the inside gatefold shot. If you look closely you can see a mirror in the bottom left of the photograph, so everybody could check out how they looked. Bono explained:

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

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

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

Posted in Album Covers, Images, U2 | 8 Comments

Frank Zappa – Läther 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References: 

♥   The Official Frank Zappa Messageboards 

♥   Frank Zappa on Allmusic

♥   Frank Zappa: The Central Instrumentalizer Vol I 

♥  Frank Zappa: The Central Instrumentalizer Vol II

♥   Jazz Rock Fusion Guitar

Frank Zappa – Läther (1996) [2012] mp3

2 Back

Disc one

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

Disc two

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

Disc three

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

All tracks written by Frank Zappa.

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

Queen – News of the World (1977)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading:

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

♥  Queen – Deep Cuts Pt.1

Posted in Album Covers, Images, Queen | 11 Comments

Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Tubeway ArmyReplicas (1979)

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

2. Simple MindsReal to Real Cacophony (1979)

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

3. JapanQuiet Life (1979)

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

4. John Foxx – Metamatic (1980)

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

5. Human LeagueTravelogue (1980)

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

6. UltravoxVienna (1980)

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

7. VisageVisage (1980)

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

8. Depeche ModeSpeak & Spell (1981)

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

9. Thomas DolbyThe Golden Age of Wireless (1982)

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

10. New OrderPower, Corruption & Lies (1983)

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

Further Listening:

Throbbing Gristle – 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979)

Cabaret Voltaire – Red Mecca (1981)

Heaven 17 – Penthouse and Pavement (1981)

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

Soft Cell – Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret (1981)

Yazoo – Upstairs at Eric’s (1982)

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

Listen in Spotify:

Posted in Simple Minds, Japan, Top 10 British Synth-Pop Albums | 8 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

Kiss – The solo albums (1978)

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

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

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Kiss – Dressed to Kill (1975)

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

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

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

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Pink Floyd – Obscured By Clouds (1972)

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

Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night (1975)

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

The Human League – Dare (1981)

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

Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska (1982)

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

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

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

New Order – Power, Corruption and Lies (1983)

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

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

Pavement – Crooked Rain Crooked Rain (1994)

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

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

Paul McCartney – Flaming Pie (1997)

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

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

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

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Posted in Album Covers, Bruce Springsteen, Frank Zappa, Images, Kiss, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Pavement | 11 Comments

Talking Heads | Lifetime Piling Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading:

   Talking Heads – Remain in Light

  Adrian Belew Meets David Bowie

   Eno: Masterworks 1974 – 1977

   This Must Be Talking Heads Podcast

Posted in Talking Heads | 5 Comments

Eno: Masterworks 1974 – 1977

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Listening:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Brian Eno, David Bowie, Downloads, Mixtapes, Robert Fripp, Talking Heads | 18 Comments

The Unstable Boys | Nick Kent

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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy Nick Kent’s Books:

♥    The Unstable Boys

♥   Apathy for the Devil

♥   The Dark Stuff 

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

Greg Oakes – Her Listless Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

released January 16, 2022

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

License: Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)

♥   ListenSoundcloudYoutube

♥   Follow: Facebook

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

Beeswing | Richard Thompson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

N.B: Thanks Jus!

Further Reading:

♥   Carnival As Life

Posted in Now Reading, Richard Thompson | 7 Comments

Forward Fox – Ravestar

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

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

Forward Fox – Ravestar (2022)

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released February 4, 2022

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

♥   Purchase: Bandcamp

♥   Listen:  Youtube / Spotify

♥   Follow: Instagram / Facebook / Forward Fox

Posted in Bandcamp, Performance of the Day | 4 Comments

Top 5 Songs – Robert Quine

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Quine – Top 5 Songs

5. Tom Waits – Downtown Train

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

4. Brian Eno – Juju Space Jazz

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

3. Matthew Sweet – Girlfriend

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

2. Lou Reed – Women

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

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

1. Richard Hell & the Voidoids – Blank Generation

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

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Further Listening:

♥   Lloyd Cole – No Blue Skies

♥   Lou Reed – Waves of Fear

♥   Richard Hell & the Voidoids – Betrayal Takes Two

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

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

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

More Album Cover Outtakes

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

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

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

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

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

References:

  Examining Eurythmics art design with Laurence Stevens

Posted in Album Covers, Images | 10 Comments

The Fall – It’s On Forever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would life be like without music and comedy?

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

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

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

References & Further Reading:

♥  You Must Get Them All

  The Fall Online

♥  Fall Tracks A-Z

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

  Top 50 Songs by The Fall

 The Fall in Fives

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Posted in Fall, The | 47 Comments

The Beatles – 1969 Photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Paul, George Martin, engineer Phil McDonald and John

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John & Paul

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Pattie, Mal Evans, Linda & Yoko

References:

♥   Robert Rodriguez – Something About The Beatles

♥   Beatles Archive

♥   found @ Feelnumb.com

♥   BBC News

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

More Album Cover Outtakes

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

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

Inane mini-controversy ensued when US censors blocked the album until the statues’ genitalia was airbrushed out prior to its release stateside, to defuse any potentially alarming negative reactions in rock consumers. Retailers also refused to stock the album until its cover was altered ensuring removal of the offending protrusions. The U.S. version of Tin Machine II would arrive in 1991 sans genitals and Bowie made a statement about censorship at the time and its effects on art: the revised cover shows the same statues, 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 | 10 Comments

More Album Cover Outtakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Further Reading:

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

♥   Lou Reed – Top 50 Solo Songs

♥   Average Guy – Lou Reed in the 80s

♥   Photos by Waring Abbott

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

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.

I'm So Free_ The 1971 RCA Demos

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 | 25 Comments

Iggy Pop / David Bowie Collaborations in 16 Tracks

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Bowie & Iggy Pop16 Collaborations mp3

TRACKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bowie – Deep Cuts Pt.2

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

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David Bowie – Deep Cuts Pt.2 mp3

TRACKS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Album Cover Outtakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Album Covers, Fall, The, Images | 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.

The Lemon TwigsGreatest Hits mp3

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TRACKS

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

Total running time: 47:38

 

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

 

SETLIST

1:53 – Hell on Wheels

6:05No One Holds You

9:44 – Fight

14:32 – Small Victories

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

24:10 – The One

26:45 – Queen of My School

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

36:40 – These Words

40:26 – What You Were Doing (unreleased)

45:18 – Live in Favor of Tomorrow

49:13 – Hog

53:44 – Only a Fool

57:10 – Ashamed

1:02:55 – Leather Together

Acoustic Set

1:07:39 – Joanne (Mike Nesmith cover)

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

1:16:00 – Some Love? (unreleased)

1:19:25 – If You Give Enough

Encore

1:23:40 – As Long as We’re Together

Untitled

 

BUY THE LEMON TWIGS RECORDS:

Do Hollywood (2016)

Go to School (2018)

Songs for the General Public (2020)

 

PHOTO CREDITS:

 @goldfish.gwen on Instagram

George Faulkner

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

David Bowie – Hunky Dory

David Bowie’s first ready-made classic finds the supreme shape-shifter eagerly anticipating the raunchy camp swagger of the impending Ziggy Stardust phenomenon. Released on this day in 1971.

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The transitional Hunky Dory was recorded at Soho’s Trident Studios in London with a newly assembled backing band consisting of Mick Ronson (guitar), Trevor Bolder (bass) and Mick Woodmansey (drums), as the yet unnamed Spiders From Mars, and embellished by future Yes keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman. To celebrate the occasion, The Press is ranking the songs from one of Bowie’s greatest and most enduring albums.

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

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

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

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 | 19 Comments

Queen – Deep Cuts Pt.1

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

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

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

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

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Queen – Deep Cuts Pt.1 mp3

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 | 9 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 Album Covers, Images, Mick Rock, On This Day, Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett | 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

Didn’t Know It Was A Cover | 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.

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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 | 6 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! | 17 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.

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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.

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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 POB-era Lennon-esque 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”. Stunning.

15. I Can’t Explain – Tucked away on Pin Ups, this is a cover of The Who’s second ever singles from 1964, one of Bowie early favourite bands of the London 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 of this track 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 of the same name, 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. Remade for Let’s Dance, and had a ninth 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

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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 | 9 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 | 20 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 wrote 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 | 16 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.