Don't forget, Boxing Night on Radio Ulster, a chance to hear a recording of the Urban Hymns event at May Street Church. Starting at 10pm, the event features Foy Vance singing 'Hallelujah' and Duke Special delivering a powerful 'Why Does Anybody Love'. You can witness Bronagh Gallagher turning into Aretha Franklin and pulling the entire audience to its feet, while there's a stunning rendition of the Nick Cave song, 'Into My Arms' by Rea Curran.
At the core of it is the Inishowen Gospel Choir, who truly rocked the house. I can also commend Joe Echo, Ken Haddock, Gabriel Makamanzi and Burning Codes. All wonderful ingredients for this two hour bonus. Have a top Xmas, good people.
I didn't sweat the list, to be honest. Many of the big songs essentially selected themselves. There was illness and pressing deadlines, but still the selection has the main ingredients of an annual Friday Late Show round-up. I'm promised myself to spend more time listening to good tunes in 2008, and hope to nuzzle up to more Primal Scream, Amadou & Miriam and Peter Broderick over the hols. Oh, and I must find the Randy Newman album, which was splendid but now AWOL.
The monthlies have gone a bit mad on the Portishead album. I didn't get it. A major oversight?
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Fridays, ten - midnight
Eli Paperboy Reed -Take My Love With You (Q Division)
The Hold Steady - Stay Positive (Rough Trade)
Paul Weller - All I Wanna Do Is Be With You (Island)
Vampire Weekend - M79 (XL)
Glasvegas- Geraldine (Columbia)
Jenny Lewis - Carpetbaggers (Rough Trade)
Primal Scream - Uptown (Sony BMG)
Oppenheimer - Kate Blanchett (Fantastic Plastic)
Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal (Bella Union)
Dengue Fever - Tiger Phone Card (Proper)
Teddy Thompson - In My Arms (Verve)
Neon Neon - I Told Her On Alderaan (Lex)
Elbow - Grounds For Divorce (Fiction)
Amadou & Miriam - Mastedeladi (Because)
The Gaslight Anthem - Meet Me By The River's Edge (Side One Dummy)
Nick Cave - Dig Lazarus Dig (Mute)
Henry McCullough - The Burial Ground (There Wolf)
Bon Iver - Creature Fear (4ad)
Duke Special - What Does Anybody Love (Universal)
TV On The Radio - Halfway Home (4ad)
Martha Wainwright - Comin Tonight (Drowned In Sound)
Panama Kings - Young Blood (We Collect Records)
Billy Bragg - Sing Their Souls Back Home (cv)
David Holmes I Heard Wonders (Mercury)
Peter Broderick - With The Notes In My Ears (Bella Union)
I first saw John Shuttleworth around 1988 at the King's Head in Crouch End. The singer and many of the people in the crowd - including a young Reeves and Mortimer - were dressed as Seventies dads.There were flared trousers and sideburns, synthetic materials and an excess of beige, tan and burgundy.
John was all innocent delight, tapping the automatic settings of his Yamaha keyboard and musing about his chances of writing a Eurovision hit. We heard 'Pigeons In Flight, 'Up And Down Like A Bride's Nightie' and several other classics. It was hard to tell where the irony ended and the actual joy began, but maybe that was unimportant. Shortly after the gig, the creator of John appeared without the make-up. It was a fresh-faced Graham Fellowes, who had previously invented the punk rock loser, Jilted John.
It's the Black Box, Belfast, almost 20 years on and John Shuttleworth may require less time in make-up now. Graham and John are approaching a similar age (assuming that the latter has not grown older) and the observations about middle age are more poignant now. Likewise with the mostly male audience, who are also in that zone. Some of them may even own sheds, or at least covet after one. And they probably all understand the little fussy ceremonies that men do when they're trying to have control over a life that's forever evading them. It's a short hop from 'Two Margarines On The Go' to Thoreau's famous line that men lead lives of quiet desperation. Tonight, we felt that chill realisation. And we laughed, uproariously.
Every Saturday afternoon, my aunts would all gather down at their mother's house to get social and to watch the afternoon matinee on TV. Often these monocrome films would feature pouting divas like Betty Davis, Greta Garbo or Gloria Graham - lit to perfection and glowing through the tragic stories. And sure enough at the closing reel, it would turn heroically wrong and my aunts would weep in unison.
I've long forgotten most of the films, although I believe 'Madame X' was one of the most reliable tear-jerkers. But the one that still haunts me was about a family who lose their father and then their mother. The oldest child has to honour a deathbed promise to walk through the snow on Christmas Eve, knocking on doors, giving away her siblings to old matrons with a spot of kindness. At the very end, it's just the one kid, trying to hand herself over. Let me tell you, there were torrents on Hornby Street. Even I cried. Anyone remember the name of the film?
We had a comedy sweepstake last night. Myself and the two youngest girls picked an X Factor contestant at random. Then we had to root for our chosen star. If our wannabe should triumph, one of us in turn would win a plastic trophy that I'd found in the attic. Plus some bonus Quality Streets. I had picked out JLS, which made me a kind of de facto Louis Walsh. Betsy was Alexandra while Rosie was working Eoghan Quigg with gusto. We hollered, we threw popcorn at the screen and I said things about the boy from Dungiven that I woudn't repeat in public.
We were so caught up in the absurd drama of it all that we stayed on the channel, enduring that specious Girls Aloud programme. I think we all knew the game was up for X Factor when Beyonce had declared an interest, and the fate of JLS was not a tremendous surprise. Once again, it was a victory for overwraught warbling, vibrato turned to the max and gushing sentiment.
And the public gets what the public wants...
A little hyprocritical of me perhaps, to warn the Lowly Knights about overexposure and premature attention and then encourage them to hang out on the radio show for an hour. Oh well, they were charming and brought in class records and their ATL session was a pleasure to play. These new tracks are faster and sharper than the 'Rifles' EP, and shows how their style is evolving. The stories about busking in Dun Laoghaire were also amusing.
A new compilation from Factory Records gave me the chance to salute Tony Wilson and to remember the impeccable 'Shack Up' by A Certain Ratio. Many years ago, my band tried a cover of this but ACR could not be bettered.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Fridays, ten - midnight
Bobby Bland - Turn On Your Love Light (Ace)
Robert Forster - Let Your Light In Babe (Tag5)
Lowly Knights - Baby Don't Leave Me (session track)
Radiohead - Everything In Its Right Place (Parlophone)
Lowly Knights - Devotion (session track)
Bon Iver - Skinny Love (4ad)
Dennis Wilson - Farewell My Friend (Capitol)
Sufjan Stevens - Casmir Pulaski Day (Rough Trade)
Abyssinian Gospel Choir - Ride That Glory Train (CBS)
Lowly Knights - Weight On My Mind (session track)
Iggy Pop - Real Wild Child (Universal)
Lucinda Williams - Real love (Lost Highway)
Florence And The Machine - Dog Days Are Over (Moshi Moshi)
Pete Molinari - Sweet Louise (Damaged Goods)
Solomon Burke - The Other Side Of The Coin (Anti)
Devokchka - How It Ends (Anti)
Sea Sick Steve - St Louis Slim (Warner)
Heliopause - Dead Ends (Furious Tradesmen)
A Certain Ratio - Shack Up (Factory)
Ry Cooder - Little Trona Girl (Nonesuch)
Bob B Soxx - The Bells Of St Mary (Phil Spector)
Tony Christie - Coles Corner (Decca)
Tonight on the Late Show, 10pm, Radio Ulster. Myself and The Lowly Knights will be playing tunes, getting enthused and gassing about popular music. This is what we do well, this is the entire point of the Friday show. We're looking forward to hearing about the band's tremendous year, about the intense logistics of getting 12 individuals together to rehearse and perform and bring joy to the populace.
A couple of weeks ago, I took a phone call from a bloke working for a major record label. He'd discovered the band online, he'd booked a flight and there he was, wandering around Belfast, intent on seeing the Knights during their festival spot with A Little Solidarity. That's the kind of odd energy that's at loose in the city in general and surrounding the LKs in particular.
Too much attention at this stage could be perilous, and might invade the delicate magic that's in bloom in the music at the moment. Next year, they need to save a little of themselves from the mayhem. Occasionally, they must be the Knights who say 'nope'.
The recent issues about Irish pork have got me thinking about the 1993 burger catastrophe in America when a major chain was found guity of having "unacceptable" levels of fecal matter in their meat. It begged the question: at what point does acceptable become unacceptable? Well, it later emerged that inspectors in the food plants would tolerate "some fecal matter on a carcass so long as it is smaller than one-eighth inch square". Yum
Oh well, now that pork is now semi-acceptable again, it seems likely that the band Ham Sandwich can be reintroduced onto our shelves. I acknowledge the work of Jim Carroll in the making of that gag.
It is June 1988 and I've been invited to Boy George's birthday party. The location is an old railway arch, south of the Thames and everyone must wear a special, luminous T-shirt to get in. Since this is the early days of acid house and most of the singer's friends are mad for the scene, this does not present a problem. But I do feel sorry for George's parents, Gerry and Dinah, who look out of place in their smiley gear.
Two years before, the tabloids had told us that 'Junkie George' had six weeks to live. Certainly he had been damaged by the excesses of the era, but I wrote a sympathetic story at Xmas 1986, detailing his plight. I received a message of thanks and when he returned with a solo effort the following year, I was granted a special audience with the guy.
He was still getting over rehab, and I later found out that there was a problem with prescription drugs. But it was a resonant interview, full of pathos and dark stories and accounts of dead friends. It was the closest I'll ever get to a Judy Garland moment.
'Everything I Own' was a big hit, and he seemed comfortable in the pop firmament again. But his instinct for underground culture took him into the mushrooming dance world, inspiring at least one classic, 'Generations Of Love'.
I met him a bunch of times afterwards and he was always good value. I last saw him at Oxford University, addressing the Union at the invitation of Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. There was wit, intelligence and glamour. I hope that it's not all dissipated.
I've been sparing with the Xmas songs on a Friday night, but you have to acknowledge the Glasvegas effort, a bold response to the Phil Spector legacy. Apparently it was part of the record company deal, thought they would put this out. And if you don't already have the debut album, then this tasty re-package (nice box, separate Xmas album) is reason enough. The only other bit of playlisting that would make December rock better is the glorious Grandaddy tune 'Alan Parsons In A Winter Wonderland'. It's silly, but a delight. I play it mst years and I'm rather upset because the CD has gone missing.
I know virtually nothing about Frida Hyvonen. She's Swedish, and her music walks that line between kitsch and beauty, not unlike the venerable Jens Lekman.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Fridays, ten - midnight
Eli Paperboy Reed - Take My Love With You (Q Division)
Glasvegas - Please Come Back Home (Columbia)
Dusty Springfield -Little By Little (Mercury)
Josh Ritter - Empty Hearts (Independent)
Bettye Lavette - Down To Zero (Anti)
Josh Tillman - James Blue (Bella Union)
Ohio Players - I Want To Be Free (Spectrum)
Duke Special - I Feel For You (V2)
Frida Hyvonen - Dirty Dancing (Secretly Canadian)
Ten Gallon Hat - Never Used To Drink Alone (white)
Johnny Cash - Blue Christmas (Sony)
Laura Cantrell - No Place For Me (Shoeshine)
Eli Paperboy Reed - She Walks(Q Division)
Rachel Sage - Moonlight and Fireflies (M Press)
The Hold Steady - Magazines (Rough Trade)
Herman Dune - Baby Baby You're My Baby (City Slang)
Nitin Sawney - My Soul (cv)
Terry Callier - It's A Bout Time (Ace)
Josh Tillman - No Occasion (Bella Union)
OMD - Electricity (Factory)
Franz Ferdinand - Ulysses (Domino)
Jim moray -All You Pretty Girls (NIAG)
Glasvegas - A Snowflake Fell (Columbia)
Dr John - Quitters Never Win (Rhino)
John Shuttleworth - One Foot In The Gravy (Chic Ken)
The Joy Formidable - Cradle (Try Harder)
Royksopp - Tristesse Globale (We Love You)
It was in The Algarve in 1990 when I met Mike Batt. We exchanged smiles in a little beach pub while the barman gave me a potted history of songwriter's career. Chiefly his time as the musical imprimatur for The Wombles, and 'Bright Eyes', as I recall. Mike winked and the barman poured him another.
I should have been rather excited, as my first record deck had come accessorised by 'Wombling Merry Christmas'. I can still remember the B-side, 'Madame Cholet' (which rhymed with 'Cafe Au Lait'). But something about my meeting didn't quite fit. Mike Batt, as I remembered, was a small man, slightly podgy, with a bubble perm. This guy was tall, slim and had a side parting.
When I got home after the holiday, I went to the photo files at work and checked him out. Sure enough, I had been talking to a Mike Batt impersonator, and a very poor one at that. I wonder how long he carried off the pretence for. History will note that the real composer then hooked up with Katie Melua for a rather prosperous spell, and as a result, we all know the bicycle population of Beijing. Thanks for that, Mike.
Duke Special and several thousand people at St George's Market in Belfast: what was all that about? To be truthful, I'm not really digested the idea yet. But somewhere in the memory dept, the brain cells are trying to figure out the following...
* How you felt like you knew everyone there. And if you weren't personally acquainted, then you were familiar with their best pal.
* Being able to buy paella at a gig.
* The Lowly Knights busking in the audience.
* The Duke Special piano book at the merch stall. The Bailie juniors are already tinkling away.
* Yon mad comedian.
* The two stages. Kinda like Live Aid.
*Cashier No. 9 Giving It Socks.
* A low key reunion of The Amazing Pilots.
*The Duke Special keyboard player who dressed like The Invisible Man.
* The stomper version of 'Ghost Town'.
* Duke and Tim Minchin singing 'My Love Goes Deeper Than This', like they had just beamed in from Planet Surreal And Then Some.
* He did 'Orangefield' by Van Morrison. Just the job for a landmark gig.
* Chip Bailey back on the firm. Hitting things with intent.
*The audience singalong to 'Last Night I Nearly Died'. All crooning with the local accent. No apologies. No flam flam.
Monday night at the Speakeasy, Belfast and the audience is looking well pleased. There's not so many of them, but they must congratulate themselves on getting to see Eli 'Paperboy' Reed before his status rises sharply in 2009. Because judging by the records and the live show, he's the imperial soul-stirrer.
The voice is astounding. He gets the nuances, the pathos and the hurt of the classy crooners like Sam Cooke and Bobby Bland. He can do husky and abrupt like James Brown and he understands the theatre of Otis Redding. Behind him, there's a tremendous band, The True Loves and they work this Monday crowd with some style.
The cynics may say that he's merely retro, or slavishly hooked on the old Stax sound, and there's some grain of truth there. But you can't fake this kind of passionate immersion, this royally intense feeling. The Paperboy can deliver.