Archives for August 2007

Gotta Hear This, #1

Stuart Bailie | 12:42 UK time, Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgThe plan is to run an occasional series on lesser-known records that I like. So here’s a wonderful example to start with. Feel free to suggest other albums, and I’ll try to find them into my Friday show, whenever possible. Here goes:

Shakin’ The Rafters (Columbia)

Who’s gonna ride that glory train and where’s it gonna take them? Why, it’s headed straight to heaven and the people who will sing us out there are the Abyssinian Baptist Choir with their jubilant voices, their flowing robes and their unbeatable faith in the hereafter.

That’s the message in this 1960 recording, live in a church in Newark, New Jersey. Tom Waits calls this album “astonishing” and “awesome” in a list of his faves on Amazon. Tony Bennett also calls it the greatest rock and roll record ever recorded. And y’know he’s possibly right.

abysinnian.jpgThis is a record that soars and then drops, reprises and rallies for some thunderous moments. The 120 strong choir is clapping, stomping and syncopating while leader Alex Bradford is holding the delerium in shape. We catch little glints of the Promised Land. We hear words of comfort for the darkest times, and hear expressions of resolve and awe.

This experience was kept for posterity by John Hammond, a visionary record man who signed Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and worked with Billie Holiday and many other quality acts of the last century. He had tremendous ears, as they say in the trade, and here’s extra proof if you want it.

I’m listening to the record again and thinking oft Bono’s line about the church and dreary dogma. "Religion, to me, is almost like when God leaves and people devise a set of rules to fill the space." Well this is the sound of pure spirit, unharmed by the petty stuff. Before soul music had even been invented, its formative heart was beating steady.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

He Bangs The Drums

Stuart Bailie | 12:41 UK time, Monday, 27 August 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgAs a young, music-obsessed fella, I used to spend my music holidays fretting about the new tunes I was missing back home. I remember getting back from Spain in 1981 to hear 'Tainted Love' buzzing out of car radios and bedrooms, a sweltering marker of the age. Next year and I returned from two months away to learn that the western world had gone collectively mad for 'Come On Eileen'. My best ever summer tune would be the Balearic ideal of 'Barefoot In The Head' by A Man Called Adam.

ianbrown.jpgIt's not such a massive deal anymore, but some old instinct still finds me looking around for the song that defines the season. And right now, I can't hear anything more pertinent than Ian Brown and 'Illegal Attacks'. You may know this guy as the former voice of the Stone Roses, the born-again King Monkey who fixed up a decent solo career in defiance of a wonky voice and a scattershot attention span. Since then he's been jailed for air rage, has said some objectionable things about gay culture and has delivered a few Manc-minded classics. Without Ian Brown there would be no Liam Gallagher, but hey, we can't blame him for everything.

His new single is a sustained rebuke to the war-mongers in the Middle East. The tune is reminiscent of earlier tunes like 'F.E.A.R.' and 'So Many Solidiers' and the self-righteous skank is what you might expect from a long-time reggae fan. I'm not sure that his analysis of Al-Qaeda is terribly profound, but at the the end of this tune, as Sinead O' Connor takes up the refrain and the body count rises, you feel satisfied that at least somebody wants to say something with a pop song. Give that man a banana.

Anyway the holiday was quite restful and I avoided a computer monitor for almost two weeks. The eyes were confused and then pleased, while the head achieved a nearly-forgotten state of clarity. The greatest indulgence was to read, hungrily. So I finished the last volume of the Dark Materials trilogy before taking on the elegant murk of Gore Vidal and Palimpsest. The last challenge was to tackle Underworld by Don DeLillo, a gig that's defeated me in the past. Well, I'm 700 pages in, and just 100 to go. People, I think I'm gonna make it.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

Manics In The Streets Of Belfast

Stuart Bailie | 17:52 UK time, Thursday, 23 August 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgSo I´m finishing off the Spanish holiday when a pal rings on the mobile from Reading, Berkshire. He´s been watching the Vital festival - relayed from Ormeau Park, Belfast, and the Manic Street Preachers have just lashed out a succession of the hits. Next thing they´re dedicating a tune to "esteemed journalist Stuart Bailie". This information makes me laugh and feel rather pleased. A series of text messages from other people confirms the fact.

What makes the story a little bit better is the the song they dedicated to moi is ´Faster´, one of the killer tracks from ´The Holy Bible´, back in the perilous days of 1994. It´s a song about mental disorder and physical abasement - a theme song from writer Richey Edwards, who checked into The Priory before the album was released and who would literally walk off the set into pure mythology a few months later. I think it´s a monumental song. And I feel honoured to be mentioned in such close proximity.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

Bap 'Til You Drop

Stuart Bailie | 09:17 UK time, Friday, 10 August 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgTonight I’ll be joined on my radio show by Bap Kennedy, a singer and songwriter of this parish. I’ve known the fella since the days of Energy Orchard and he’s always had a fine taste in music and a good supply of one-liners. Some of the records he’s promising to bring in include Commander Cody, Billy Fury, Eddie Vedder and The Chi Lites, so the proceeds should be fascinating. And when he plays the Everly Brothers, will he mention his own interesting relationship with brother Brian?

bap_biog.jpgIn the second hour, I’ll be playing tribute to the late Lee Hazlewood, author of ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’, ‘Some Velvet Morning’ and many other wonderful tunes. Lee songs remind me of a trip to Gracelands in Memphis and the pervading smell of Seventies plastic. The artificiality is hard to escape, but the soul of man is deep within. And the man’s final album ‘Cake Or Death’ is a giant statement in itself, regarding death, life and Baghdad with a steely eye. Legend.

I’ve decided to do a series of co-presents during August. Next Friday is Paul Charles, major music agent in London, crime writer and son of Magherafelt. He’s talking about The Kinks, Mary Margaret O’ Hara and The Blue Nile, so we’re elected there. And on August 24, we’ll be invaded by Terri Hooley, punk legend and folk devil, who’s threatening to play Gene Vincent, Gregory Isaacs and The Ruts. How can this not be awesome?

I’m having a short break from my blog duties, but hang fire, and we’ll resume the discourse presently.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

Rockers And Holy Rollers

Stuart Bailie | 12:05 UK time, Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgThanks to William Crawley and his ever-questing blog for drawing my attention to an article about American music, its churches and its politics. The author is Camille Paglia, who knows her culture and if you have five minutes for a good old read, check it out here.

She concludes that without some kind of spiritual crackle in the arts, there is no soul. She prepares the way by name-checking Calvin, Luther, Little Richard and Elvis Presley. There’s a coherent thread, she argues. Most of America’s music forms reach back to the holy rollers, getting restless in the woods, back in the day:

“A principal influence was the ecstatic, prophesying, body-shaking style of congregational singing in the camp meetings of religious revivalists from the late eighteenth century on. All gospel music, including Negro spirituals, descends from those extravaganzas, which drew thousands of people to open-air worship services in woods and groves.”

Paglia reckons this gave rock and roll its backbone, and why the Americans had the vigour that mattered. But while she’s drawing us pictures of the southern soul stirrers, I’m thinking that this is still at large in Northern Ireland. We still have our street preachers, our rocking non-conformists, our Pentecostals and charismatics. And of course, it’s deep in the bones of our most famous artist, Van Morrison.

Van says that he took his inspiration from American artists such as Mahalia Jackson, but a similar thing was also happening in the mission halls of east Belfast, and he evidently soaked it up. Likewise with Duke Special’s Peter Wilson, who uses old hymnals and celestial choruses and elevates the heart on a regular basis.

You find it in the more unusual places, like Therapy, who welcome us to the ‘Church Of Noise’, a heretical branch of the same order. More conventionally, it’s all over the music of Foy Vance, the son of an evangelical preacher, who fills his new album, ‘Hope’ with grace and faith and an undented sense of deliverance. Likewise with Iain and Paul Archer, who routinely open up channels to the mystic.

Many of the Ulster acts who are now coming of age were strongly connected to churches such as the CFC on Belfast’s Hollywood Road. A dozen years ago, they took their music to venues such as the Warehouse on Pilot Street and they literally played like missionaries.

I witnessed some of this and I was a little dismayed. The music was flimsy and the art was secondary to the message. The audience was almost cult-like, and I felt this was essentially bad for rock and roll. But several things have happened since then. Many of those acts have persevered. They have become much better writers and players.

And they’ve taken the lead from acts like U2, who express their spiritual views by stealth. If you know the story of Noah’s ark, or about Jewish traditions of renewal, then ‘Beautiful Day’ makes extra sense. If not, then the songs still works. And so the music from Northern Ireland is also littered with clues and ciphers.

So you can hear Peter Wilson making calls to the “born agains” on ‘Low’, which swings like some tent show classic. Or there’s ‘Quiet Revolutionaries’, which is almost a manifesto for the believers, patiently working for “a quiet shift of power”, believing that something all-powerful will come out of the woods and get the healing done.

The plan seems to be working. There is power in the blood. And the circle is unbroken.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

The Numbers Racket

Stuart Bailie | 17:33 UK time, Monday, 6 August 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgIn the coming weeks I'm planning some themed radio shows. Brace yourselves for a clatter of songs about painters, a solid hour of cult troubadors and something about space travel. I'm also working at a two hour programme full of songs that feature numerals in the title.

Here's the shorlist, but I could do with some better suggestions, especially for 9 and 13. Whaddya reckon?

1. One – U2
2. It Takes Two – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
3. Three Is The Magic Number – Jack Johnson
4. Four To The Floor – Starsailor
5. Five Years- David Bowie
6. Six Underground – Sneaker Pimps
7. The Magnificent Seven – The Clash / 7 Nation Army – White Stripes
8. Eight Days A Week – The Beatles / Dinner At 8 – Rufus Wainwright
9. Nine2Five – Ordinary Boys / Adam Ant – Apollo 9
10. Ten Commandments Of Love – Neville Brothers
11. Eleven O’ Clock Tick Tock – U2
12. Twelve – Forward Russia / 12XU – Wire
13. Thirteen – Cold
14. Fourteen Years – Guns ‘N’ Roses
15. Little 15 – Depeche Mode
16. Sixteen Tons – Ernie Ford
17. At Seventeen – Janis Ian
18. Eighteen With A Bullet – Pete Wingfield
19. 19th Nervous Breakdown – Rolling Stones
20. 20th Century Boy – T Rex
21. No Time To Be 21 – The Adverts / 21 Seconds To Go – So Solid
22. 22 Grand Job – Rakes
23. 23 – Jimmy Eat World / 23 – Blonde Redhead
24. Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa – Gene Pitney
25. Twenty Five Miles –Edwin Starr

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

Winkle Picker Blues

Stuart Bailie | 14:14 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgBack in 1994 I spent an amusing night with Noel and Liam Gallagher as they argued about Primal Scream. The boys from Oasis had recently signed to Creation Records, home of the Scream, and they weren’t sure if this was a bonus or not. Noel was positive, but Liam wasn’t having it.

The singer was fresh out of Burnage, still at war with the universe, scowling like Albert Steptoe. He hated the Primal Scream front man, almost as much as he despised those southern chancers from Blur. What it boiled down to was that Bobby Gillespie wore winkle pickers boots. This, Liam claimed, was conclusive proof that the guy wasn’t rock and roll.

And if he wasn’t rock and roll, then the Oasis rules dictated that you were indie. Or indie schmindie, as Noel called it with an exquisite sneer. The bothers didn’t have to spell it out much further. Indie kids, the Gallaghers believed, were fey, middle class boys with guitars and floppy fringes. They were musical snobs and underachievers, slumming it in music before taking up a position in father’s estate agent offices. Indie kids, according to Oasis, were the ultimate moral cowards.

Yesterday, the argument began all over again in Belfast. This time, the opponents had come from the local scene to debate the perennial issue: ‘What Is Indie’. The discussion had been set up by the Trans festival in conjunction with the Bruised Fruit agency. And so we heard about industry ethics, about DIY marketing and the heavily fetishised joy of a pristine, limited edition, seven inch single.

The essential problem is that independent record companies in the ’70s and ’80s were brave enterprises, trying to nurture new music and alternative practices. These days, the process has been utterly infiltrated by the major record companies. Indie is now a lifestyle, a demographic on a marketing plan. The revolution has been auctioned off, leaving behind the fabled “indie bedwetters” with their damp ballads.

I used to care about such stuff myself. But these days, it seems like an inevitable process. Capitalism will always find ways to make money out of the counter culture. The trick is to move a bit faster and to look for new challenges in different places. Hence the only important question left: whither the next revolution?

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

Don't Stop The Rocco

Stuart Bailie | 13:22 UK time, Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgOn Friday evenings, I’m mostly watching Costa Chaos on Channel 4. It’s a weirdly amusing series that follows the progress of Rocco and Dawn as they move from London to Barcelona in search of a new life. Rocco Barker is a musician who looks like a composite of Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Johnny Thunders. He’s a classic stumblebum and wastrel. He drinks plenty, he falls over, he messes up the most basic plans. Dawn tries to bring order to the scheme, but the Canadian girl is also essentially daft.

rocco170.jpgRocco wants to live in Barcelona because they still tolerate chain smokers there. He has limited funds but some charm, and the sight of this fella trying to sort out the gas cylinder with a ciggy hanging from his lip prompts the cameraman to intervene on the grounds of terrifying danger. And so the action staggers on each week, so funny it might be scripted, so silly it can’t possibly be.

I have an additional fondness for Rocco as he’s the first person I ever interviewed. Back in 1985 I was a cub journalist for Record Mirror and he was the guitarist in Flesh For Lulu, a band that briefly found glory in a venue called The Batcave. I met them at their record company offices in Hammersmith and I was rather nervous. But Rocco and his singer pal Nick Marsh treated me well and regaled me with many tall stories.

Costa Chaos is like Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen without the appalling drugs. It’s could be a new fangled version of Vanity Fair, with all the hilarity, the blagging, the tantrums and misunderstandings that make for excellent social drama. Long may it rock.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight. See his playlist here.

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