Archives for July 2008

All Yesterday's Parties

Stuart Bailie | 19:03 UK time, Thursday, 31 July 2008

The demands of the gig mean that I've read many books about music. It's hardly a chore, since rock and roll celebrates the outlaw, the miscreant and the car crash. I like stories about Hank Williams and Johnny Rotten, Dylan and Presley. The brain has been boggled by Nashville Babylon, Hellfire and Wouldn't It Be Nice.

nico2.jpgThe fashion these days is for hulking, forensic biographies that give you every molecule of a life story, regardless of the boredom threshold. As a result, I've let many of the recent ones pass by. Still, a random visit to a charity shop recently delivered a classy little yarn, Nico: Songs They Never Play On the Radio.

The book, written by James Young has a cult reputation. It's a story of heroin addiction and dormant celebrity, a sometime member of the Velvet Underground adrift in Manchester and eastern Europe. The gigs are mean and parlous, the singer is indifferent to everything that can't fit into a syringe and the backing band (including James Young on keyboards) is rickety and half conceived.

It's a book you can read in a couple of sittings. John Cale, Alan Ginsberg and John Cooper Clark all stumble past in the opiated afterburn. The tone is deceptively sry, but afterwards there are moral questions about Germany's war children, Andy Warhol's Factory and the lonesome death of a Chelsea girl.

The Generation Game

Stuart Bailie | 08:58 UK time, Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Back in the vintage years of Tom and Gerry, there was a hulking bulldog called Spike. He was kind of intimidating, didn't care for cats, but was oddly indulgent of mice.

spike.jpgAll of his menace would evaporate however when he saw his little pup doing something worthy. He would puff out his large chest and remark, in a voice not dissimilar to Jimmy Durante, the immortal phrase: "chip off the old block".

I'm thinking of Spike when I stand at the side of the stage during the Ash gig at Glasgowbury. I'm on the quiet side of the crash barriers, taking in the gig at my leisure. The crowd is excited, bawling and enthused.

glastolily.jpgAnd then I notice a familiar face in the front row. It's my eldest daughter. She has spent a lot of time working her way to the front of the stage and she's guarding her space well, pushing intruders away with her elbows. She's taking pictures of the gig and stopping for the occasional shot of herself in the tumult. And she's singing along with all the big choruses.

I point this out to some of the other people in my company. They also think it's a hoot. Finally, a friend walks over to me and nails it. "You look so proud Stu," she comments. Absolutely. Chip off the old block...

Glasgowbury Despatches

Stuart Bailie | 07:47 UK time, Monday, 28 July 2008

It's 7am, Sunday morning and a busker serenades the campsite with a feeble version of 'I Will Survive'. The refrain is taken up from a series of tents, and soon the far end of the field is bleating out those words about the unquenchable human soul.

We need all the comfort we can get. The Sperrin Mountains are covered in eerie mist, disguising the mounds of beer cans, traffic cones and party detritus. Sleep is a mere memory. Saturday has found the Glasgowbury festival in magnificent effect, followed by a noisy and relentless night under canvas. A young lady in the queue for the pungent mobile toilets makes a strange, grunting sound and then vomits politely into her hand. It's time to go home.

ashglasgow220.jpgThe festival was more expansive this year, without losing that famous bonhomie. Oppenheimer were amusing and General Fiasco went off at a generous tilt. Ash had come from Tokyo via Galway and played their numerous hits. The fella from Lotion wore a fetching purple dress while the crepe van was doing excellent work.

The Radio Ulster squad had descended on Draperstown on the Friday night, bringing live music from Panama Kings, Rachel Austin and Grainne Duffy. The BBC technicians lashed together an awesome sound at the Cellar Bar, the artists were all in stellar form and the audience was a delight. It's all compressed in the head: the smiles, the tunes, the beautiful energy, the vast scenery and the trials in the tent. We'll be back, natch.

(Tim Wheeler photo by Phil O' Kane)

Hey Ho, Glasgow

Stuart Bailie | 13:32 UK time, Friday, 25 July 2008

Tonight will be a live broadcast from the Cellar Bar, Draperstown. It's become an annual fixture - a rock and roll party on the eve of the Glasgowbury Festival, anticipating the tunes and the shenanigans that will enliven the Sperrin mountains. The Friday night venue is famously lively, and this year the live turns will include Stu faves The Panama Kings and Rachel Austin.

grainne220.jpgWe'll also be featuring chat from Paddy Glasgow and his heroic festival team. Last year they enlisted Duke Special and Henry McCullough and it revved up all expectations. This year the headliners Ash will haul another thousand or more towards Eagle's Rock. I'm also looking forward to a Friday night performance from Grainne Duffy, who plays the blues and wails with much style. She's from Monaghan, but spiritually she's doused in the Mississippi and schooled by BB King, Bonnie Raitt and Little Feat. Tune in at 10pm, y'all.

Blue Jay Way

Stuart Bailie | 02:06 UK time, Friday, 25 July 2008

I'm just back from Toronto - my second trip there in a year, and I admire the place even more. This time it was a family trip and we delighted in the streetcars, the smells, the tolerant citizens, the ferry ride to Centre Island and the dependable joy of the Tim Horton doughnut. Even a rather alarming take-off from the airport in the middle of a thunderstorm didn't damage the memory so much.

torontostu.jpgThe only time we saw the locals lose some composure is when we called them Americans. These guys are proud of their own style, and insist that when you cross the border, the mood changes for the worse. They believe their neighbours are uptight and aggressive and they may be correct. They are also wary of the roundabout as a system of traffic control and the girls play soccer with conviction.

Most days we bumped into ex-pats from Larne, Ballyclare, Portadown or beyond. It stopped being a surprise, and at the Black Creek Pioneer Village, a guide with Ulster provenance gave us the full story on how we apparently raised the place on ancestral sweat before quietly assimilating.

We met the relatives who had lit out from the Woodstock Road in 1968 and who were happily installed in Cambridge, Ontario. And while I didn't think too hard about music on vacation, it seems that the Canadians are getting to know the Ting Tings, but still prefer the power ballad. In all the amusement parks, the fun was accompanied by Bob Seeger, Steve Miller and the ever-bleating Pat Benatar. I have made a mental note to track down 'Roller' by April Wine, which sounded tremendous on the old radio station.

pi2.jpgMy cousin Steve told me to read Life Of Pi by Yann Martel, that it might ease my dislike of safari parks and zoos. With beautiful serendipity, it appeared on the shelf of a second hand bookstore two days later. And so it became my holiday read, consumed on Wasaga Beach as I marvelled about the shipwreck, the Bengal tiger, the cannibalism and the magic of a well-driven fable.

Playlist Catch-up

Stuart Bailie | 22:21 UK time, Wednesday, 23 July 2008

I've been getting positive thoughts from last Friday's show, which found me trawling the alphabet to deliver the A-Z of Americana. Which is essentially country music for people who are nervously disposed towards line-dancing and Philomena Begley. If you really want reassured, let's call it alt. country and use Uncle Tupelo as the gold standard.

the_band220.jpgMost of the tunes selected themselves, although there was some creative accounting to fill up the 'X' category. And we kinda cheated with the Victoria Williams selection, even though the tune in question was ace. Also, there were several Canadian artists in the mix, but if 'The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down' isn't pure Americana, what is?

Playlist 18.07.08

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM, 1341 MW
Fridays, ten - midnight

Ryan Adams - To Be Young Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High (Bloodshot)
The Band - The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (Capitol)
Johnny Cash - The Mercy Seat (American)
Iris DeMent - Let The Mystery Be (Rounder)
Steve Earle - Del McCoury Band - The mountain (Grapevine)
Flatt & Scruggs - I'll Go Stepping Too (Columbia)
Woody Guthrie - Pretty Boy Floyd (Proper)
Emmylou Harris - Bounder To Birmingham (Warner)
Catherine Irwin - The Only Hell My Momma Ever Raised (Thrill Jockey)
The Jayhawks - Nevada, California (Def American)
Kris Kristofferson - Sunday Morning coming Down (EMI)
Loretta Lynne - Family Tree (Interscope)
Bill Monroe - Uncle Pen (MCA)

doug_sahm.jpgWillie Nelson - Stardust (Columbia)
Will Oldham, Palace - New Partner (Domino)
Gram Parsons - Return Of The Grievous Angel (Reprise)
Monica Queen - I'm Sorry Darling (Creeping Bent)
Tom Russell - The Man From God Knows Where (Kirkleig)
Doug Sahm- Is Anybody Going To San Antone (Edsel)
Billy Bob Thornton - Starlight Lounge (Universal)
Uncle Tupelo - No Depression (Columbia)
Victoria Williams - Tarbelly and Featherfoot (Mammouth)
Hank Williams - My Bucket's Got a Hole In It (Polydor)
George Strait - All My Exes Live In Texas (MCA)
Neil Young - Cortez The Killer (Reprise)
Townes Van Zandt - Tower Song (Arista)

The previous week's playlist was a simple reminder of the decent tunes that have come our way in the first half of 2008. Did I miss anything significant?

Playlist 11.07.08

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Fridays, ten - midnight

Paul Weller - Have You Made Up Your Mind (Island)
Vampire Weekend - Oxford Comma (XL)
Elbow - Grounds For Divorce (Fiction)
Ben Glover - No Direction Home (Mr Jones)
Bon Iver - Skinny Love (4AD)
Rolling Stones - Shine a Light (Rolling Stones)
Oppenheimer - Cate Blanchett (Fantastic Plastic)
Dr John - Time for a Change (CV)
The Hold Steady - Sequestered In Memphis (Rough Trade)
Elvis Costello - No Hiding Place (Lost Highway)
Martha Wainwright - Bleeding All Over You (Drowned In Sound)
Sigur Ros -Gobbledigook (EMI)
Billy Bragg - I Keep Faith (CV)
Van Morrison - Behind the Ritual (Polydor)

REM - Supernatural Superserious (Warner)
Nick Cave - Dig Lazarus Dig (Mute)
Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal (Bella Union)
Zutons - Always Right Behind You (Deltasonic)
Boathouse - What I Remember (Tiny Tuba)
Felice Brothers - Whiskey In My Whiskey (Loose)
Beth Rowley - Beautiful Tomorrow (Universal)
Kowalski - Phil Kansus (white)
Emmylou Harris - All That You Have Is Your Soul (Nonesuch)
Robert Forster - Let Your Light In Babe (Tag5)
Cat Power - Song To Bobby (Matador)
Neil Diamond - Pretty Amazing Grace (Columbia)
Jape - Phil Lynott (V2)

The Unforgettable Ire

Stuart Bailie | 15:53 UK time, Monday, 21 July 2008

I had a virtual argument last week with Irish Times writer Hugh Linehan. We were greeting the re-release of the first three U2 albums by bickering over the merits of the band. I was on Bono's team while Hugh felt that Dublin's finest was overblown and underwhelming. You can follow the story here.

The Half Time Score

Stuart Bailie | 11:34 UK time, Friday, 11 July 2008

It's my regular time to fill a radio show with a six month musical report. So I've spent a few weeks looking back over the old playlists and playing some of the songs that have lit up the year thus far. And happily enough, there have been plenty. Like many critics, I'm fond of the new records from Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend and Fleet Foxes, which all hail the melody, the harmony and the belief that music can spin you out of the usual doldrums. Still loving that Hold Steady single.Tune in tonight at 10pm and I trust you will concur.

oppenheimercover.jpgIn terms of local music, it's another licence to hear tunes by the likes of Oppenheimer and Boathouse. Nick Cave is on the menu and perhaps unfashionably, I've gone with a track by REM, who didn't deliver a career best with the new album, but are still alive with smart nuances and much heart. Friends, I may even play some Neil Diamond.

I'm taking a little time away from the blog circuit, but we'll meet again soon enough to gas about music and stuff.

Mad About The Bowie

Stuart Bailie | 19:33 UK time, Thursday, 10 July 2008

My daughters dig Bowie. Previously they knew him as the geezer with the daft hair in Labyrinth. Now they listen to his orbiting excellence as a songwriter, grand dame and author of so many wondrous pop tunes.

bowie2.jpgAnd all because of a random song by that Kiwi combo, Flight Of The Conchords. 'Bowie' is an awesome pastiche of 'Let's Dance', 'John I'm Only Dancing', 'Fame', 'Changes', 'Life On Mars' and 'Space Oddity'. It holds together as a song in its own right. It makes you guffaw and it reminds you of how terribly slothful music has become.

In response to this interest, I've burnt a CD of the Bowie constituents, surrounding the Conchords piece. The daughters laugh because he sounds like Bret and Jermaine on the hilarious DVD, an irony that David would surely enjoy. You saw him in Extras, right? And actually, given that early Bowie was a bonkers appropriation of Anthony Newley, maybe this is musical karma at its most joyous.

I've filled up the rest of the CD with other Conchords references, including the Pet Shop Boys, Prince and Marvin Gaye. So it's actually a fine bunch of music. Just the job when your driving in your tin can, all around the Westlink.

Murphy's Lore

Stuart Bailie | 06:55 UK time, Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Come on down, blog of Peter Murphy, Hot Press writer sans pareil, sometime drummer and pal of JT Leroy. Peter likes his commentaries chewy, eliptic and learned, and he's manifestily a fan of the arch elipsis, Greil Marcus. Aren't we all?

Playlist 04.07.08

Stuart Bailie | 11:20 UK time, Sunday, 6 July 2008

Back in 1966 Dan Penn and Chips Moman took a break during a card school to write a classic record. A few minutes in a Memphis hotel and they fetched up 'The Dark End Of The Street', a fearsome story of a man and a woman, having an affair in the darkest shadows, nervous that the truth will ultimately out. James Carr sang the classic version and a recent Elvis Costello rendition (on the bonus edition of 'The Delivery Man') was also harrowing.

jamescarr.jpgI've seen Dan Penn playing it in a pub in Camden and it broke the place up. It was bludgeoned by The Commitments and caressed by Gram Parsons. I also believe that the lyric made a deep impression on Van Morrison, because two of his own songs seem to refer back to it.

The first is 'Bright Side Of The Road', which takes the song back to its gospel roots and makes it sanctified once again. The second is a peculiar little tune called 'Cul de Sac', which appears on the 'Veedon Fleece' album. He's singing about a long journey and the stresses of the highway, but importantly adds: "you can double back / to a cul de sac". It's not a familiar image to rock and roll, but he sings it with such compassion and soul (hinting at the famous James Carr recording) that you're entirely sold on the option.

'Veedon Fleece' is part of the current selection of Van Morrison remasters, and it contains two extra tracks, a more succinct 'Cul de Sac', minus the scatting and extemporising and a alternate take of 'Twilight Zone', previously collected on the 'Philosopher's Stone' set. A hugely important album is now mandatory.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Fridays, ten - midnight

The Treniers- Rocking is Our Bizness (Poppy Disc)
Mason Jennings - Fighter Girl (Bushfire)
Jimmy Cliff - Struggling Man (Island)
Ava - Mad About The Boy (Virgin)
Inner Circle - I've Got The Handle (Island)
Delays - Keep It Simple (Fiction)
Nick Drake, Gabrielle Drake - All My Trials (Island)
Prison Love - Parlez Nous A Boire (Crow Valley)
She & Him - Why Do You Let Me Stay Here ( Domino)
David Bowie - Life On Mars (EMI)
veedon3.jpgFlight Of The Conchords - Bowie (Sub Pop)
6 day Riot - Go! Canada (Tantrum)
Van Morrison - Twilight Zone (alternate take) (Polydor)
Gary McFarland and GaborSzabo - Sympatico (El)

Little Richard - She's Got It (Poppy Disc)
The Go! Team - Mike Crisis (mi)
She & Him - You Really Got A Hold On Me ( Domino)
Tedd y Thompson - a Piece Of What You Need (Verve)
Richard And Linda Thompson - Has He Got A Friend For Me (Island)
Ladyhawke - Paris S'Enflamme (Island)
Van Morrison - Cul de Sac (alternate take) (Polydor)
Jon Redfern - Play Of Fear (Reveal)
Patti Smith - Changing Of The Guards (Columbia)
Grinderman - When My Love Comes Down (Mute)
Mr Scruff - Kalimba (Ninjatune)
Philip Glass - Runaway Horses (Nonesuch)

Happy Birthday To Stu

Stuart Bailie | 00:32 UK time, Saturday, 5 July 2008

There's a scene in the Great Gatsby when the flappers, the jazz babies, the Aspirin poppers and the new money families all descend on the east coast for a fabulous party. Scott Fitzgerald gives us all the family titles and infers that since there are many Irish and other immigrant surnames in there, that they don't have the blue blood status of a proper event. The party date is July 5 1922, and I was rather pleased on reading the book to note that my birthday has some kind of cultural status.

Then again, chin-stroking critics say that the author chose July 5 to show just how low and how swiftly the American nation had declined from Independence Day. Oh well.

July birthdays are rubbish. As I kid, I was either on my holidays or all my mates were, so I rarely had a good knees-up with all the fixings. Not that my parents didn't try, y'understand. Meanwhile, every year I look in the horoscope section of the paper to see if I share my special day with a proper celebrity. The only one I remember is Huey Lewis. So here's looking at you, Huey, pal.

Distress To Impress

Stuart Bailie | 09:53 UK time, Thursday, 3 July 2008

Ah yes, the new shopping emporiums of Belfast. You navigate your way through the brushed aluminium and tinted glass to see clothing that's alarmingly over-priced. You are assailed by grinning staff with whitened teeth and the subtlety of gannets, swooping at some fresh morsel. Some of them start their attack before you're even through the door. It's clearly part of the training and basically, it makes me anxious.

Earlier this week I was looking for some regular jeans, in the classic style. There was a sale on, which still meant that the lines on offer were all above £50. Oh well, I was feeling extravagant. The problem was, every pair seemed to have been attacked by bleach and wire wool, fashionably distressed. Not what I was after.

The assistant charged over at regular intervals, offering to help me find my size and my fit. She wanted me in bootcut, but no, I wouldn't have it. So I declined her offers but finally peeved, I asked if the shop had any jeans that weren't expensively buffed and worn. She shook her head sadly and told me that it was normal these days to wear your jeans thus. The pitiful look in her eye suggested that I try the local camping shop for the more traditional denim.

hardtimes2.jpgI was outraged. Didn't she know that I was one of the first generations that hailed the retro joys of Levis 501s, honestly weathered by human activity? Was she not aware of the legendary Face magazine cover of September 1982, when Robert Elms urged us to greet the new austerity with faded pants and a soundtrack of 'Money's Too Tight To Mention'? Back then, we knew that details mattered, so we sourced the original jeans with the red selvage, which we bought at American Classics on the King's Road or Flip in Covent Garden.

It would be too much trouble explaining all this to my assailant in the shop. She doubtless sees an old duffer who doesn't get the new thing. She's not aware of a former style warrior, who sported his look the Wag Club and the Wapping warehouse parties, the turn-up of his ancient jeans fastidiously in tune with the times. Fashion, you surmise, is a cruel business.

The Bob Squad

Stuart Bailie | 19:28 UK time, Tuesday, 1 July 2008

There's a fascinating section in Bob Dylan's Chronicles where he describes a bookshelf in Greenwich Village, heaving with poetry, revolution, beauty and a million mind-bombs that would come hurtling back out of the Zimmerman imagination at sporadic intervals. Given that the author is the most pored-over bard in the western world, he must have known that this disclosure would keep the train spotters busy for the rest of time.

dylan.jpgAnd here's a DVD that manifests a lot of that. Down The Tracks: The Music That Inspired Bob Dylan is full of earnest Bobcats, stroking their goatees and talking about obtuse guitar tunings, French symbolist poets and banjo players from the deeps of the American imagination. I liked it.

The bonus part is the chance to see footage of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, the Reverend Gary Davis and various beat pretenders, all relating back to Bob's scheme. And if you want to hear cranky and intense commentary, then Sid Griffin and the Handsome Family are going to deliver something worthy.

Thematically, they cover religion, politics and the Sixties counter culture. They might have added the worlds of painting, drugs and the codes of camp behaviour. Hey, maybe that will emerge another time.

Copyright reasons have kept Bob's music out of the frame, and so Scorsese's No Direction Home is still an essential purchase for the self-regarding Dylanologist. But this enthusiastic little production is a handy bookend.

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