Archives for April 2010

Playlist 26.04.10

Stuart Bailie | 22:50 UK time, Thursday, 29 April 2010

How come Sigue Sigue Sputnik sound better now than they did in 1986? Were they really so ahead of their time? Or was their much-vaunted Sex Bomb Boogie simply lost in a morass of fishnet, PVC, hairspray and record company flannel?

sputnik.jpgPartially, I suppose. The band talked themselves up so well that a mere album was never going to justify the mission. Still it was enough for me to merit a late night drive from London to Birmingham, where I watched Martin Degville, Tony James and the rest of those thrusting contenders. They didn't have too many songs, and so they cranked up the sequencers and preened themselves with little shame. I rather liked it.

But I was never so fond of the album. Sure, they had sold advertisements between the songs and the L'Oreal transmission is a hoot. The cultural references were also pleasing to fans of Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Suicide, Jane Mansfield and the Pistols. Perhaps we hoped that producer Georgio Moroder might have stoked up the computers more brashly, instead of the movie dialogue and the sublimated techno throb.

Now I listen to those songs and I sense a kind of melancholia - that here was a bunch of chancers who thought they could shoot the moon and believed that the music biz and the tabloid headline shunters were ready to connive with them. I think they secretly knew that it was a doomed exercise, but that it was still worth the ride. I might be wrong, but I don't think such an absurd ambition will ever be tolerated again.


BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM


Mondays, ten midnight

Playlist 26.04.10

Brian Wilson - Love And Mercy (Sire)
Gaslight Anthem - American Slang (Side One Dummy)
Avett Brothers - Slight Figure Of Speech (American)
The Dickies - Banana Splits (Polydor)
Paul Rowan - Radio On (Immortal)
Katie And The Carnival - I Can Only Dream (Immortal)
Ari Buffalo - Truth Sets In (Sub Pop)
Stornaway - Zorbing (4ad)
Avett Brothers - January Wedding (American)
Magic Numbers - Pulse (Heavenly)
Willie Colon - Set Fire To Me (A&M)

The Daintees - Roll On Summertime (Kitchenware)
Doves Andalucia (Heavenly)
Grace Jones - I've Seen That Face Before (Island)
Sly and Robbie - Boops (Island)
Avi Buffalo - What's In It For (Sub Pop)
Willie Nelson - Satan Your Kingdom Will Come Down (Decca)
Hot Club de Paris - Are You (Moshi Moshi)
Avett Brothers - I And Love And You (American)
Ali Farka Toura - Sabu Yerkey (World Circuit)
Blitzen Trapper - Heaven and Earth (Sub Pop)
This Mortal Coil - Song To The Siren (4AD)
Harper Simon - Shooting Star (Tulsi)
Sigue Sigue Sputnik - Sex Bomb Boogie (EMI)

Un-Licensed To Ill

Stuart Bailie | 09:44 UK time, Tuesday, 27 April 2010

My children thought it was weird when I said that musicians die earlier than most people. I had to explain that they tend to live intense lives and that they don't often look to the future. They work bad hours, eat rubbish food and one of their few constants is insecurity. There's a culture for drinking and the abuse of other substances. Their home lives are strained and exercise is not generally a priority. Altogether, I don't think I sold the creative life to them so well.

Hey, you could be an American. The recent deaths of Alex Chilton, Jim Dickinson and Vic Chestnutt have all been overshadowed by the issue of health insurance. Apparently Chilton had been feeling ill for some days, but the cost of medical help may have been a factor. This thought has prompted some very extreme reactions with the American public, which you can follow here.

The reactions have been quite shocking. One of the last posts on the site purports to come from Alex's family, a claim that he wouldn't use health insurance "as a matter of principle". If that's the case, then it's also regrettable.

I attended a recent seminar in America about building great music cities. One of the themes was creating a place where musicians feel welcome and where their personal welfare is a matter of civic concern.I thought this was an odd thing to discuss, but now I understand more.

This will become a recurring issue as the baby boomer generation is smitten by many health problems. I would tend to take the romantic line: that bringing great music into the world is a contribution in itself, and that such people should be cherished instead of castigated. You, of course, are welcome to differ.

Doc Days Not Over...

Stuart Bailie | 15:22 UK time, Sunday, 25 April 2010

Fair play to the makers of the BBC2 doc on Malcolm McLaren. Two weeks to make it and therefore little time to get deeper into the nuances of a productive life. My favourite thought came from Paul Morley and the idea that we've yet to understand McLaren's story as an complete entity, rather than mere episodes.

The grandmother dimension of his life is looming larger, just as the art school side is being underplayed. And as I said before, Malcolm was also swayed by the Tin Pan Alley guys and their endless hustle. The complexity of all these factors was mostly overlooked by the would-be impresarios who followed after punk. A bit of tabloid lather and a nasty slogan was often the front for middling talent. you just had to see Malcolm on film, voice pitching, arms akimbo, to adore the sell.

The doc was a bit loose with chronologies and image research, especially with Sid and his era. Poor Richard Hell wasn't credited and I think the wrong New York Doll was captioned. It was also rather noble to see Julian Temple being so generous with his words and his film footage, when you suspect that he will eventually make a much more resonant version of the guy's life. After his trilogy of films on the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer and Dr Feelgood, Julian had intimated that his music doc days were all over. Now here's another significant job of work.

Playlist 19.04.10

Stuart Bailie | 09:55 UK time, Thursday, 22 April 2010

Ursula Burns was on the radio show on Monday night, talking up her new record and alluding to the long wait that has preceded it. She's been absorbed in life, essentially, while working on theatrical productions and many other interesting threads. But she says the music and the songs have been a constant, allowing her to chip out this project when resources have allowed.

We should be glad. Ursula has a unique voice and a most singular way of combining the harp, the voice, the piano and the guest appearances. 'Deep In The Dreaming' has been produced by Rod McVeigh, a long-standing cohort of Andy White and he has also done a good job. The songs are literally entrancing, circling around each other, not especially literal, making a case for the illogical world. She's been rhapsodising about the Floral Hall, name-checking Hildegard of Bingen and saying it loud for the fairy crowd. All good, then.

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

Playlist 19.04.10

The Psychedelic Furs - Pretty In Pink (CBS)
The Divine Comedy - At The Indie Disco (Divine Comedy)
Pete Molinari - Streetcar Named Desire (Clarksville)
Ursula Burns - Fields Of Dream (white)
Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around (American)
Ursula Burns - Like Feathers (white)
Slow Club - Growing Up On Love (Moshi Moshi)
John Grant - Where Dreams Go To Die (Bella Union)
Mulatu Astatke - Cha Cha (Strut)

Side two

Rolling Stones - Tumbling Dice (Rolling Stones)
Pearly Gate Music - Big Escape (Bella Union)
The Triffids - The Seabirds (Domino)
Bonnie Prince Billy - The Sounds Are Always Begging (Domino)
Blind Willie Johnson - Trouble Will Soon Be Over (Snapper)
Ash - Tracers (Atom Heart)
Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper - Heartaches Don't Lie (Righteous)
Wild Palms - Deep Dive (One Little Indian)
SOS Band - Just Be Good To Me (Tabu)
Mulatu Astatke - Dewel (Strut )
Thin Lizzy - Me And The Boys (Vertigo)
Phoenix - Lasso (V2)
Nick Drake -At The Chime Of A City Clock (Island)

Carrie On Shooting

Stuart Bailie | 10:45 UK time, Tuesday, 20 April 2010

carrie4.jpgLast night was Holywood and the Alternative Ink tattoo parlour for the launch of a photo exhibition. Carrie Davenport has been a vibrant part of the Belfast music scene for many years now and her collection catches local bands on the fly, plus passing rock legends, throwing shapes at the Odyssey, the Limelight and more.

Carrie likes her unreconstituted rock and the dynamics of artists like Karen O, Marilyn Manson and Lady Gaga. There is a rollicking Morrissey and a defiant Fred Durst. My fave would be a video shoot from And so I Watch You From Afar which shows the band looking self-reliant and almost heroic. It's a testament to the band's ongoing poise and also to Carrie who was able to recognize that potential.
The exhibition runs until May 22.

Racks In The City

Stuart Bailie | 16:14 UK time, Monday, 19 April 2010

hooley2.jpgRecord Store Day last Saturday was the chance for Terri Hooley to throw a party in Belfast. To remind us that he's been in this caper for over 30 years and that in April 2004 he lost Cathedral Records to arsonists who torched the North Street Arcade. Add this to a series of beatings, bombings and bankruptcies and it's not a convincing story for the joys of running a record shop.

But this is Terri's life, his rationale and his community. The new location for Good Vibes on Winetavern Street still hankers after that old ideal - that you can browse, purchase and shoot the breeze in a location that cares for that old-fangled physical dimension.

At the party, Terri had gathered musicians, traders and ne'r-do-wells from many decades. The going was surprisingly well ordered and a feeling of good-will was certainly in the house. I knew many of the people there and in truth I did my best to avoid a few of these. Terri has a habit of collecting strays and even his tolerance has been stretched by the needy, the delusional and the pathologically boring.

Every now and again, I spied a half-familiar face. Terri would oblige with their life story, the reason they'd been out of circulation for a while and a short list of their psychic troubles. It became clear that this was about more than a record shop. For many people, Terri has been a strangely dependable feature in the city, a connection and a solace for the lost tribes and their mashed-up aspirations.

I was reminded of the closing scenes to Goodbye Mr Chips, when the legendary old schoolmaster has a vision of his lost 'sons' - the many schoolchildren who have found value in his company. Terri would probably find this kind of thought embarrassing, but it's basically true. He has been the touchstone, the confidante and the godfather. Love your record shop and the social dimension that revolves around it.

Plaque And Blue

Stuart Bailie | 16:37 UK time, Sunday, 18 April 2010

On April 17, 1964, Them made their first official appearance at the Maritime Hotel on College Square North, Belfast. The venue was an old seaman's mission, originally a police station. There was no alcohol, the stage was spartan, but this is where music with attitude was birthed in the city. Them's singer was Van Morrison, and along with his colleagues, he fostered a healthy disregard for the discipline of the showband regime. Therefore band members smoked on stage, backs were turned to the audience and the music was essentially fierce.

maritime1_200.jpgWitnesses talk about maracas and even shoes flying through the air as Them made their case for native rhythm and blues. Apparently there was only one lightbulb above the stage, but there was a dimmer facility, and so the light was allowed to rise and fall during their version of the Bobby Bland stomper, 'Turn On Your Love Light'. Van said that the band lived and died at this joint and I've not heard anyone who has contradicted this notion.

On April 17, 2010, a plaque was unveiled at the site of the Maritime. These days it's a brick wall belonging to RBAI, but at least there's now a sign to remember the space. Rab Braniff from the Belfast Blues Society created the essential energy to make this happen and the ceremony was attended by Billy Harrison, former Them guitarist. Load of other veterans were in attendance, and the celebrations rolled over to the Crown Bar where old friendships were shored up, glasses were raised and the blues were voiced once more.

Return Of The Natives

Stuart Bailie | 21:55 UK time, Thursday, 15 April 2010

RobbieRobertson.jpgA lot of kids have served their time on summer camps, but Robbie Robertson, sometime guitarist with The Band, used to spend his August days on a Mohawk reservation. That was part of his mother's roots and he once told me how shocking it was on his first visit, when a young local ran past him and literally sprinted up the perpendicular trunk of a tree.

Robbie didn't make a huge deal of his heritage back in the Sixites, but in recent decades, he's been exploring his native background on a series of rather emotional records. Other acts, such as Buffy Sainte Marie, John Trudell and even Jimi Hendrix have been more upfront about their lineage. Now, thanks to my old colleague Gavin Martin, I've just discovered a website that details a lot more of this.

It seems that the Cherokee bloodline pulses most strongly in rock and roll, with claims on Elvis, Jimi, Cher, Tori Amos, Donna Summer and even LL Cool J. Meanwhile, Tina Turner is associated with the Navaho, Anthony Keidis has a Mohican connnection and Ritchie Valens was a Yaqui. Many of the above artists had their problems fitting in with mainstream America, but the real intensity is best expressed in the music of John Trudell, a revolutionary spirit and Santee Sioux who has routinely fought the law.

Playlist 12.04.10

Stuart Bailie | 13:13 UK time, Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Back in the day, Kitchenware was one of those sharp-minded indie labels that delivered records from Prefab Sprout, The Daintees, Hurrah! and The Kane Gang. While the inspiration was punk rock, the bands on this roster were defiant after their own fashion while Keith Armstrong, who fronted the label gave them leeway to move into many fascinating places. Their first gold record was 'Steve McQueen' by Prefab Sprout, and thereafter, they cut licensing deals with big labels, which helped the process but eventually blunted the ethos. Lessons were learnt, and part two of the story has involved acts like Editors and Kate Walsh.

I was especially fond of the Kane Gang. They played soul music with a deal of irony but considerable intent. And 'Small Town Creed' was a rolling groove that borrowed from George Clinton and was informed by life in Durham. The tune was also used as a jingle for Radio 1 DJ Gary Davies, which meant that some of us could not listen to the song for many years. Thankfully, time has erased the aforementioned and essentially,'Creed' is good.

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

Playlist 12.04.10

T. Rex - Light Of Love (EMI)
Band Of Horses - Compliments (Columbia)
Irma Thomas - River Is Waiting (Rounder)
She And Him - In The Sun (Double Six)
Gil Scott Heron I'll Take Care Of You (XL)
Laura Marling - Alpha Shallows (session track)
Kevin Rowland - The Greatest Love Of All (Creation)
Midlake - Children Of The Grounds (Bella Union)
Little Hooks - Little Birds (Caleob)
Tracey Thorne - Why Does The Wind (Strange Feeling)
Nick Cave - The Ship Song (Mute)

Second Hour

Chris Farlowe - Don't Just Look At Me (Immediate)
Two Door Cinema Club - Something Good Can Work (Kitsune)
She And Him - Gonna Get Along Without You Now (Double Six)
Laura Veirs - Carole Kaye (Bella Union)
Captain Kennedy - Stretch That Penny (Vinnie Lovelace)
The Kane Gang - Small Town Creed (Kitchenware)
Laura Marling - I Speak Because I Can (acoustic session)
MGMT - Someone's Missing (Sony)
Tracey Thorne - Hormones (Strange Feeling)
Levon Helm- Growing Trade (Vanguard)
Cathy Davey - Little Red (Hammer Toe)
Broken Social Scene - Water In Hell (City Slang)
La Dusseldorf - Rheinita (Soul Jazz)

No More Big Wheels...

Stuart Bailie | 22:18 UK time, Sunday, 11 April 2010

Bruce Springsteen was impressed. "Hey, you got yourselves a ferris wheel!" he barked as the Seeger Sessions Band careered across the Odyssey stage in Belfast. Indeed, we had a large wheel, strapped on to the side of the City Hall and it felt rather frivolous and city-like. Alas, on Sunday, it made a final swirl for the public and soon it will be be no more. And while a few people made sour noises, I think we will miss that moment when gravity was challenged and the cityscape was offered a bit of perspective. Seamus Heaney is doubtless already writing the big metaphorical poem about it.

Still, when your children ask you what it was like, you should remember to fetch up this charming video by Colenso Parade and the Bandwidth video people. It has everything you need to know really: laughs, music, high spirits and a rather too much condensation....

Les Fleurs de Malc

Stuart Bailie | 10:59 UK time, Friday, 9 April 2010

Malcolm McLaren combined the vim of old-fashioned music biz shysters like Larry Parnes with the intellectual uproar of Guy Debord and those spikey thinkers from a century back. You would never accuse him of sleepwalking. He was schooled by his fierce grandmother and by a questing, art college ethos. He wasn't strong on finishing a project, but Malcolm was a proper firestarter.

He was such a vibrant and contrary soul that you can only find bits of the shrapnel in books like England's Dreaming, Up They Rise and England's Dreaming. Alternately, there's a Sex Pistols book by Fred and Judy Vermorel that relates the day-to-day stress, inspiration and unintentional havoc from the days of Johnny Rotten. When McLaren revised the story with The Great Rock And Roll Swindle, he sounded smug. Actually, those Jubilee antics had been really alarming.

Even if he hadn't given punk a deal of bravado, you would still have to give Malcolm some credit for fusing attitude to early hip hop and Burundi beats, to waltzes, samplers and Puccini. At his best, he could sell any number of frisky ideas, and alongside Vivienne Westwood and Jamie Reid, it was indeed a supreme team. He showed us the pretty vacancy of 1977, but he also prompted so many other adventures. We owe him.

Playlist 05.04.10

Stuart Bailie | 12:47 UK time, Wednesday, 7 April 2010

villagers.jpgI've been playing that Villagers single with intent for a month now. No apologies there - 'Becoming A Jackal' is an entrancing tune that meanders and aches and gives you a bonus hit every time you return to it. You may know that Villagers is essentially Conor J O' Brien, who used to play in a fine band called The Immediate and that he's apparently the first Irish act to sign for Domino Records. I saw him in a couple of locations at the SXSW festival and he lived up to all expectations. Ive also been listening to a sampler from the upcoming album and it's stunning. See him at Auntie Annie's, Belfast on June 9 and be prepared for some astonishment.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM

Mondays, ten midnight

Playlist 05.04.10
The Byrds - She Don't Care About Time (CBS)
The National - Blood Buzz Ohio (4AD)
General Fiasco - I'm Not Made of Eyes (Infectious)
Van Dyke Parks - On The Rolling Sea Where Jesus Speaks To Me (Reprise)
Beach Boys - Cabinessence.(Capitol)
Donovan Colours (Epic)
Joanna Newsom - Monkey & Bear (Drag City)
Laura Marling - Goodbye England (Virgin)
The Arret Brothers - I And Love And You (Sony)
Flight Of The Conchords -Carol Brown (Sub Pop)
Coco Rosie - Grey Oceans (PIAS)
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - Lil Liza Jane (Retroworld)Beach House Zebra (Bella Union)

Doves -Pounding (Heavenly)
The New Pornographers - Crash Years (Matador)
Steely Dan - Bodhisattva (MCA)
Josh Rouse Don't Act Tough (Bedroom Classics)
Emuva - African Swingsters (Strut)
Laura Marling ' Devil's Spoke (Virgin)
James - Crazy (Mercury)
Gorillaz - Some Kind Of Nature (Parlophone)
Yacht - The Afterlife (DFA)
Mose Dillard I've Got To Find a Way (Charly)
Holly Miranda - Waves (4AD)
Jeff Buckley - Morning Theft (Columbia)
Villagers - Becoming A Jackal (Domino)
Rickie Lee Jones - On His Jewelled Floor (Fantasy)

The Easter Parade

Stuart Bailie | 11:43 UK time, Wednesday, 7 April 2010

barcelona1.jpgWe hadn't made the connection between Barcelona and Holy Week, but when we swung into the Gothic Quarter on the Friday night, scenes were going off like it was 1499. The smell of the incense, the pipes, the rhythms and the iconography - senses were comprehensively overloaded in those little streets. Bono once reckoned that the old church has the utmost in stage gear and here was an endorsement of that.

Apparently Seville is where the Semana Santa gets its full expression, but quirky old Barcelona had a run at the pageantry also. There was a degree of penitence in the air and some solemnity within the famous pointed capirotes. A few minutes later and they had shuffled their chains over to the cathedral for an even more intense assignation.

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