Archives for October 2012

Playlist 29.10.12

Stuart Bailie | 13:29 UK time, Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Wanda Jackson is 75. She is the Empress of rockabilly, an extant growler and shaker, an embodiment of popular music's vigorous charm. A native of Maud, Oklahoma, she was recording in 1954, shortly before she consorted with Elvis and shocked the old-time country set by dressing like a bad girl. With the voice to back it up. When she sang 'Let's Have A Party', it was a threat, not an invitation.

Wanda was back with us last year, produced by Jack White on the ever-rumbling 'Party Ain't Over' album, and happily there's a new record on the racks called 'Unfinished Business'. This one is produced by Justin Townes Earle who also sings a perfect duet with his charge. You might say that Wanda plays havoc with conventional phrasing, but she means it, man.

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

Wanda Jackson - Tore Down (Sugar Hill)
Charlie Boyer And The Voyeurs - Be Nice (Heavenly)
Rolling Stones - The Last Time (live 1965) (Universal)
Rachel Austin - Appletree (white)
Rachel Austin - Don't Go (white)
Terry Callier - Be A Believer (Elektra)
Paul Rowan - Radio On (Time To Be Proud)
Old Crow Medicine Show - Mississippi Saturday Nights (Decca)
Dead Fingers - Another Planet (Affairs Of The Heart )
Soak - Sea Creatures (Ryan Vail / Unknown remix) (white)

Rolling Stones - Doom And Gloom (Promotone)
Wanda Jackson - Two Hands (Sugar Hill)
Bobby Womack - Stupid (XL)
Benjamin Gibbard - Something's Rattling (City Slan)
Rufus Wainwright - Perfect Man (Decca)
Terry Callier - It's About Time (Ace)
Bettye Lavette - The More I Search (Anti)
Patrick Watson - Black Wind (Domino)
Terry Callier - No Ordinary Joe (Cadet)
Wanda Jackson - Am I Even A Memory (Sugar Hill)
Grizzly Bear - A Simple Answer (Warp)
Beth Orton, Terri Callier - Pass In Time (Heavenly)

Ghouls Out

Stuart Bailie | 17:11 UK time, Monday, 29 October 2012

If you're looking for a seasonal alternative to 'The Monster Mash' and 'Thriller', why not try a haunting track by the Rocking Humdingers? 'Dracula's Daughter' was another excuse for Terri Hooley to affront a Belfast recording studio. As ever, he showed nil respect for the fineries of melody or rhythm and the result is a lumbering half-laugh of a semi-concept. Still, a few of the entourage must have cackled and bought in another round at the Rotterdam.

This was Hooley in the Nineties, when he maxed up the clown role, throwing his annual 40th birthday parties and taking to the stage in a coffin. He was clearly a fan of Screaming Lord Sutch and Jay Hawkins. Apparently 'Dracula's Daughter' was never released, and that may leave me in possession of a collector's item. Or possibly not.

Some of you observant readers may see that there's a major typographical error on the cover. The 'n' is missing, so the band are merely Humdigers. That said, the graphics are so awful that you might easily mistake the combo as The Rocking Bumdigers. I'll bet they were the butt of many jokes.

Terry Callier, 1945-2012

Stuart Bailie | 09:36 UK time, Monday, 29 October 2012

I came across the music of Terry Callier in 1997. Beth Orton had released the 'Best Bit' EP and when I met her to discuss, she talked warmly about the man and his sweet contribution to her music. He was from Chicago and he had released a series of beautiful recordings, blending jazz and folk and soul. His voice was the greatest thing, imbued with intelligence, heart and a kind of dignity that was hard to define.

His career was a mangle of unfortunate business deals and personal pain. By the time Beth got in touch, he was virtually out of the business, getting his family life together and retraining in computers. But the story would not lie. Paul Weller was also an evangelist while the acid jazz set, led by Eddie Piller was also intent on bringing the man across the Atlantic for reverential gigs at venues like the Jazz Café. So he became a kind of secret hero in Hoxton, a friend of 4Hero and Massive Attack, a totem of pure music rather than the venal mess of the music biz. I'll play a few of his tunes, with feeling, tonight.

Fair Exchange

Stuart Bailie | 09:33 UK time, Thursday, 25 October 2012

Back in 1965, the film director Jean-Luc Godard hauled a twisted story out of the chill streets of Paris. It was about a detective called Lemmy Caution, ever-smoking and sharply handsome like a noir hero. The city of Alphaville confounded him with bad directions and unfaithful ciphers. He escaped with the girl Natasha, but only with the help of poetry and a deal of love. One critic, I can't remember whom, called it the flight from a "semiological underworld".

This comes to mind when I read Exchange Place by Ciaran Carson. Again, there are strange journeys around Paris, into arcades, back alleys and cul de sacs. Identities are smudged and articles are misplaced. The characters take solace in gentleman's tailoring, vintage watches and elegantly bound books. Then at frequent intervals, the narrative flits to Belfast.

Exchange Place is a funky little conduit in the Cathedral Quarter. It runs parallel to Commercial Court, a patch of the old city that sustains texture, history and intrigue. The author is drawn here in search of old ghosts and ambiguous steers. Even without the author's direction, you can sense that this location is a potential wormhole.

Readers of Ciaran Carson will be familiar with his labyrinthine method. He favours the historical aside, the arcane quote and meanings that get lost in translation. The central figure in Exchange Place is a writer whose words start to merge in the plot in a reflexive way. Flann O'Brien is the daddy of this method, but here's another interesting meander.

Playlist 22.10.12

Stuart Bailie | 09:00 UK time, Tuesday, 23 October 2012

It's been twenty years since the Manic Street Preachers released their debut, 'Generation Terrorists'. It was a double album, busy with guitar riffola, intense polemic and magnificent words. They said they would sell 16 million copies of the record and then quit. They promised to set fire to themselves on Top Of The Pops. They maintained that they would always hate indie losers Slowdive more than Adolf Hitler.

They wrote about the perils of the international banking system, about pornography and the royal family. There was self-loathing and imperious pride. Musically, it was about The Clash, Public Enemy, Guns N' Roses and yes, Hanoi Rocks. I was a fan.

The anniversary edition remembers the big tunes, the existential roar of 'Motorcycle Emptiness' and the ache of 'Little Baby Nothing'. There are bonus CDs with baby versions of the anthems, plus a mascara-smeared video history. That's me happy, then.

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

Bobby Bland - These Hands (Ace)
The Lost Brothers - Now That The Night Has Come (Bird Dog)
Heart Attack Alley - Cryin (Voodoo Rhythm)
David Browne-Murray - King Henry (live session)
David Browne-Murray - Vending Machine Lottery (live session)
Manic Street Preachers - You Love Us (Heavenly)
Paul Banks - Over My Shoulder (Matador)
Beth Orton - Last Leaves Of Autumn (Anti)
Darkstar - Timeaway (Warp)
Rachel Austin - Appletree (white)

Part 2
Manic Street Preachers - Motorcycle Emptiness (Sony)
David C Clements - Not Sleeping (white)
Beans On Toast - Left My Heart On The M25 (Xtra Mile)
Karen Dalton - It Hurts Me Too (Megaphone)
Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes (4ad)
Glen Hansard - High Hope (Anti)
Martin Rossiter - Drop Anchor (Drop Anchor)
Emmylou Harris - I Didn't Know It Was You (Mercyland)
Paul Banks - Arise, Awake (Matador)
Bill Fay - Be At Peace With Yourself (Deep Oceans)
Rickie Lee Jones - Seems Like A Long Time (Concord)
M83 - Steve McQueen (Naïve)

Excitations, London Style

Stuart Bailie | 00:20 UK time, Monday, 22 October 2012

It's a proper London premiere. A red carpet in Leicester Square, illuminated by lights and surrounded by TV cameras, snappers and celebrity hunters. No spare seats in the Odeon tonight, but many familiar faces, like Bobby Gillespie and the Scream Team, Jonny Quinn out of Snow Patrol, Undertone Damian O' Neill, Greg Cowan from The Outcasts, a couple of My Bloody Valentine survivors, a Rudi drummer, an Idiot and a score of reconstituted Belfast punks. London, it's your time to get acquainted with Good Vibrations, the movie.

Richard Dormer and Adrian Dunbar are on the carpet, taking their dues for some quality acting. Likewise with Jodie Whittaker. But hey, there's Terri Hooley himself, striding though the rain, benign with this bonus act in his life and a film that remembers his service to Alternative Ulster. Some of the English media are concerned that the script has been harsh on him, but we know that he's even less cute in real life.

This is apparent when Terri takes to the stage at the start of the screening, accompanied by directors Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D'sa, by writer Glenn Patterson, instigator David Holmes plus producers, actors and all. A few quotes are permitted, but it's Hooley who hogs the microphone, causes a bit of consternation with the London Film Festival guy and says a welcome to Sheila, wife of John Peel and her family. And when they finally get him into his seat and the film starts to roll, it's Terri who commences to heckle his own narrative.

It's a joy to see the film here, in a city that cold-shouldered Terri in 1978 when he carried a bag full of 'Teenage Kicks' pressings around a specious music industry. This evening, the city appreciates the rock and roll mission that the guy endured. The audience laughs in the right places, it gets the sudden horror and the creeping pathos. That said, they've been getting Good Vibrations in South Korea and Galway, in Belfast and Brittany. London is on the list, then.

The celebrations roll up to the St Moritz Club on Wardour Street, a place I last visited in 1991 with the Manic Street Preachers. I don't believe they've had the decorators in since. That's no great bother to Iain McCready and Noel Watson and to the many active members of the diaspora. The mood will not be diminished and some folks won't be going to bed for a while. There's still a core of them at Seven Dials, near Covent Garden as the sun rises and the tradesmen start their working day. Moderation is optional when you've gone though an experience like this. Easily one of the best, you've ever had.

Playlist 15.10.12

Stuart Bailie | 08:09 UK time, Wednesday, 17 October 2012

It's all going terribly well for Jake Bugg. Endorsements from Noel Gallagher and Snow Patrol. A streak of savvy releases plus the imprimatur of Jools Holland and Later. Number one in the iTunes chart. An able songwriting coach and partner with Iain Archer. And an album that reveals the teenager to be sharp with his words and his style. He has the tumbling insouciance of Bob Dylan circa 'Highway 61 Revisited' and a powerful sense of the local. Like Alex Turner, he sings with the surety of a villager, enjoying his own vernacular and the vision of someone well to the north of Main Street.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight
Dexys Midnight Runners - Let's Get This Straight (Mercury)
Jake Bugg - Lightning Bolt (Mercury)
Our Krypton Son - Gargantuan (Small Towm America)
Betteye Lavette - Time Will Do The Talking (Anti)
Al Scorch - Working Dream (white)
David Byrne, St Vincent - I Should Watch TV (4ad)
David Browne-Murray - Toxic (Old Flattop)
Jake Bugg - Trouble Town (Mercury)
Dylan - Duquesne Whistle (Columbia)
Our Krypton Son - When I First Lay Dreaming (Small Town America)
Charlie Boyer - I Watch You (Heavenly)
Travis Wammack - Rock And Roll Blues (Oxford American)
Two Door Cinema Club - Sun (Kitsune)
Jake Bugg - Taste It (Mercury)
Amanda Shires - I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass (Fiesta Red)
Nick Lowe - Hope For Us All (Proper)
Efterklang - Apples (4ad)
Malojian - Watch The Rain (white)
The Flatlanders - Stars In My Life (New West)
The XX - Chained (XL)
St Germain - Rose Rouge (Blue Note)
Sean Rowe - Bring Back The Night (Anti)
Kate Rusby, Paul Weller - Sun Grazers (Island)
Anima, Lee Hazlewood - Hill (!k7)

It's Life, Jim

Stuart Bailie | 22:47 UK time, Sunday, 14 October 2012

Some of the most dramatic photographic prints I've seen have taken the image right to the boundaries of the frame. A thick, black margin around the picture usually suggests that there's been special alchemy in the darkroom - that the negative carrier that holds the film has been filed away, allowing the light to strike those far edges. In the most extreme cases, you can even see the spocket holes that wind the film through the camera. I love it.

This tradition goes back to Henri Cartier-Bresson, the most magical photographer ever. He was all about quick reflexes, humanity and amazing moments that fleetingly compose themselves in the street. But he had also trained as a painter and so he took pride in the ace compositions that came directly out of his little Leica camera.

Henri insisted that the borders of his pictures were always printed. It showed that his eye was true, that there was no need to crop afterwards. Only one shot from his early days escaped this discipline - a remarkable picture of a man leaping across a puddle behind St Lazare Station, and that was because he had to shoot through a narrow gap between some planks, and the lens was wider than the space.

I was thinking about all this when I walked into a new exhibition at the Red Barn Gallery in Belfast. I've seen Jim Maginn's work online before, while his iconic shot of Ewan McColl has graced a record sleeve and a biography. But his work that's collected as 'The Light Of Other Days' is even more impressive. His evident affection for traditional music has taken him to parlours and cottages, to dressing rooms and back lanes. He's been taken into the confidence of these people, many of whom seem shy and undemonstrative.

But still their souls are revealed, in the landscape, in the rise of the music and the flickering interiors. Some of the tight portraits have been taken on medium format cameras, showing every grain of age and experience in the face. Tommy Keenan with his fiddle and the chiaroscuro lighting is masterly. But I prefer the 35mm shots that are looser, more spontaneous and edged in that signature black surround. There's Derek Bell, impish behind his harps. And flute maker Sam Murray deep in the workshop. Or Micho Russell by the winding road.

Jim says that one educational department in Belfast had reported him for vandalism. When he was teaching there, he had filed the negative carrier to get those edgy prints, and the killjoys were outraged. He laughs about it now. Because McGinn has the method and the style and his photography really sings.

The Light Of Other Days is on show at the Red Barn Gallery until November 28.

Playlist 08.10.12

Stuart Bailie | 13:09 UK time, Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Judee Sill (1944-1979) listed her great inspirations as Bach, Pythagoras and Ray Charles. And she wasn't messing either. She wrote counterpoint of the most beautiful order. Her songs were elegantly structured. She often sang country and soul, with feeling. She was spiritual in a very unique way, borrowing from the Bible and mystical traditions, a bit of Rosicrucianism and many tough lessons from the street. Her life was marred by car crashes, drugs, a fraught family life and hippy misdemeanours. But that small body of music remains, rarefied, blissful and strange. It was a pleasure to have our cultural attaché Reggie Chamberlain King come in and to sketch out her life and music.

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

The Who - Substitute (Polydor)
Jason Lyttle - Get Up And Go (Anti)
Wonder Villains - TV (Third Bar)
Judee Sill - profile
Van She - Jamaica (Modular)
Beth Orton - Dawn Chorus (Anti)
Carolina Chocolate Drops - Lights In The Valley (Mercyland)
Jon De Rosa - Birds Of Brooklyn (Rocket Girl)
Tracy Thorn - In The Cold Cold Night (Strange Feeling)
The Bonnevilles - Machine Born To Think (Twenty Stone Blatt)

Buddy Holly - Rave On (Universal)
Beth Orton - See Through Blue (Anti)
Ian Hunter - When I'm President (Proper)
Houndmouth - Penitentiary (Rough Trade)
Boothill Foot Tappers - Get Your Feet Out Of My Shoes (Go Discs)
Bettye Lavette - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (Anti)
PF Sloan - Simple Sing Of Freedom (Demon)
Tindersticks - This Fire Of Autumn (Lucky Dog)
Beth Orton - Call Me The Breeze (Anti)
The Bonnevilles - We're Just The Right Distance From The Sun (Twenty Stone Blatt)
Serafina Steer - Night Before Mutiny (Stolen)
Bettye Lavette - The More I Search (Anti)
Daughter - Smother (4ad)
Reptar - House Boat Babies (Lucky Numbers)

Would I Fly To You?

Stuart Bailie | 16:38 UK time, Friday, 5 October 2012

The invitation came in the form of a Filofax insert. Well, it was 1989 and I was a recognised media chancer, installed in London, working for an ace music paper, influential in my own domain. And sure, I was pleased to be invited to a party in the south of France, a guest of RCA Records and the largesse of one of their most popular acts, The Eurythmics.

The band had taken a couple of years off, their sales were slackening and so it was important to get people back on their side. Which is why around 50 journalists, radio people, liggers, freeloaders, Jackeens, toadies and lickspittles had gathered at the record company office on Bedford Avenue on the morning of Wednesday August 23.

They took us to the International Ballroom at the Gatwick Hilton and then on to Nice Airport. Champagne flutes were clinked and conspiratorial winks were exchanged. The music industry was still flush and many of those present had impressive air miles accounts. Veteran writers felt there was much bravado in the trip - a "jolly" in music biz parlance. If anything went wrong, the entire mob would turn vicious and the band's relaunch would be spiked.

This had famously happened on a Brinsley Schwartz junket to New York in 1970, when their Fillmore East show had been attended by a bunch of journos who had been lost in the air and overloaded with booze. The hype had been misdirected and so Brinsley bombed. There was another absurd jape in 1984 when Frank Zappa's publicist messed up on a trip to Brussels and tried to placate the Brit pack by taking them to a brothel. Frank was appalled and launched a nasty attack at the guy from the stage. Legend!

Anyway, onwards to the Hotel Majestic in Cannes with a swell view over the Côte d'Azur, prior to our destination on the beach front at Juan Les Pins. A stage had been hammered up and the enclosure was full of Eurotrash hacks with mullets and linen jackets with the sleeves rolled up. To our cynical eyes, this was a generic character. Every week, the funny pages of Melody Maker featured an absurd foreign writer called Pepe le Punk who lacked any critical facilities. And voilà, we were in the spiritual homeland of the guy, surrounded by hundreds of grinning, irony-free Pepes.

I don't remember much of the gig. There was a surplus of saxophone solos and a backing singer bloke who was clearly auditioning for the big time. The stage clothes were expensively cut and Annie Lennox warbled around the melodies in an excessive manner. By the time all the fireworks had finished lighting up the Riviera, the Brit posse had collectively agreed that the deal was off. The Eurythmics and their new album weren't great.

Over to our left, we noticed Siobhan Fahey playing with the kids. She had once charmed us with Bananarama and was currently in the charts with Shakespears Sister. Also, she was partner to Eurythmic Dave Stewart, we noted, enviously. She was joined by Annie Lennox, looking relaxed after her exertions. I had interviewed her a few months before at the Concorde la Fayette in Paris so she came over and was gracious about the feature.

"I'm not sure about Dave though. He was a bit hurt about what you wrote about him."

Oh well. I had made a few cheap remarks about Dave Stewart and his beard. But nothing that severe. Maybe I had damned him with indifference or missed out on the nuances of the new album, 'We Too Are One'. Perhaps he thought that he had let me into his confidence - all his most entertaining stories had been off the record - and that I had not returned the kindness.

We writers had a few more refreshments, warmed our feet in the sand and idled away until the 2am drive back to the Majestic. The beach was getting empty when out stepped Dave Stewart. He wore a white suit and a matching shirt with a gull wing collar, open for take off. His bare shirt was smeared in a glitter paste and the beard was dyed raven black. He was a glam rock Jay Gatsby.

It was hard to figure out Dave's expression behind the large sunglasses but I said hello, and we chatted quietly. Then he got to the point.

"You know Stuart," he muttered in his soft, Sunderland tones, "I read your article and I'm not sure if you like me or not."

He had the sumptuous party, the handsome wife and children, the record company support, the fine villa along the coast and famously gilded friends in Los Angeles. Still, there was a vacancy in his manner. A sadness, even. I was reminded of a lyric from one of his old songs:

"There's a lifestyle, with painted lips,
Everybody wants it, but it don't exist."

I couldn't assure Dave that I liked him. There was no point faking it. We shook hands and then he wandered away, disappearing behind the fronds of an exotic plant.

Playlist 01.10.12

Stuart Bailie | 09:13 UK time, Thursday, 4 October 2012

Best regards to the Hard Chargers, who supported the Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band at the Empire in Belfast last Saturday night. They play amped-out blues music with attitude. Chris Todd is hollering and chasing the bottleneck along the frets. Dave Thompson plays stand-up bass and sometimes he worries the electric alternative. Richard J Hodgen brings the rumble-thump dynamic with his washboard and his drums. Sometimes they remind you of errant combos like the North Mississippi Allstars, but there's also a fierce residue of Rory Gallagher when the tunes get heated. Top value and an incentive, if needed, to get their music on the playlist.

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

Sugarchile Robinson - Numbers Boogie (Signature)
The Bootleggers - White Light White Heat (Sony)
Alabama Shakes - I Found You (Rough Trade)
Belly - Feed The Tree (4ad)
The Hard Chargers - Bumpin' And Grindin' (white)
Gaslight Anthem - Here Comes My Man (Side One Dummy)
The Beat - Can't Get Used To Losing You (Edsel)
Mayer Hawthorne - A Long Time (Universal)
Bobby Womack - Dayglo Reflection (XL)
Cat Power - Manhattan (Matador)
Lost Brothers - Bird In A Cage (Bird Dog)
Phil Kieran, White Noise Sound - Never Believed (Maya Jane Coles mix) (white)

The Supremes - Stoned Love (Motown)
Ha Ha Tonka - Usual Suspects (Bloodshot)
The Wooden Sky - Take me Out (Loose)
Van Morrison - Pagan Heart (Blue Note)
Rickie Lee Jones - Comfort You (Decca)
Efterklang - Sedna (4ad)
The Drifters - There Goes My Baby (Rhino)
Duke Special - Condition (Adventures In Gramophone)
George Jones - I Can't Help It If I'm Still In Love With You (Righteous)
Van Morrison - Born To Sing (Blue Note)
Jesse Aycock - Love Is Life (Horton)

A Loveable Brogue (Slight Return)

Stuart Bailie | 00:26 UK time, Monday, 1 October 2012

Back in 1983, Kevin Rowland was wearing dungarees and neckerchiefs and a feather in his hat. It fitted with Dexys Midnight Runners and their 'Too Rye Aye' era, but a change was due. He found it in New York, in the discrete detail of Brooks Brothers tailoring and in a pair of Florsheim Imperial shoes. Made of shell cordovan. Plain caps, or GI style. "I would sit in my hotel room at night looking at them," he told The Look. "I was dreaming about them. I felt so inspired again."

This informed the cover of the next Dexy's album, 'Don't Stand Me Down'. And while Kevin wore loafers for the cover shoot, Billy Adams looked tidy in his Florsheim wingtips.

The Florsheim company has changed hands several times since then and many aficionados claim that the older, American-made versions were the utmost. And thanks to the wonders of online shopping, I now have myself a previously unworn, vintage pair of Imperial brogues, with the metal V cleats in the heels and the double-sole Budapester with the storm welt. Whatever that is. The cordovan, a derivative of horse hide, is tough and shiny and a challenge to wear in. But hey, it was cool enough for Dexys and man enough for Lee Marvin in Point Blank. We got to have it, sole power.

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