Archives for October 2007

Aces High

Stuart Bailie | 10:48 UK time, Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgI’ve got a song in my head about a guy trapped in a collapsed cave in Albuquerque. His name is Leo Minosa, and he’d been searching for loot in an Indian burial site, deep in the hills. His rescue operation has become a rolling news story, lashed on by an immoral journalist, and the area has been turned into a carnival site, complete with a cheap song that promises deliverance.

ace200.jpegThis is the gist of a magnificent 1951 film called Ace In The Hole. It’s been in my imagination for a quarter of a century, and I’ve recalled snatches of the song since then. Finally, it’s been released on a double DVD set, smartly restored by Criterion. Kirk Douglas plays Chuck Tatum, the pitiless hack who stokes up the drama in the cave to enhance his own profile. His muscles are flexing, the eyes are pinballing and that Douglas jaw line is clenched with heroic regularity.

Billy Wilder is the director, and he gets deep into the moral disease. Like proper film noir, there’s a double-timing wife (Jan Sterling) who also wants to escape this hick life. The final scene in the newspaper office is awesomely over-cooked, and we would have been disappointed with less. It’s amazing how many of the scenes have stayed intact in my head since the first and only time I viewed this, in the days of black and white.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight

Funky, Chilled Medina

Stuart Bailie | 09:49 UK time, Monday, 29 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgMy Monday morning anxieties have been eased by a fine album called ‘Medina’. The author is Paul McMordie, a guitarist from east Belfast who specialises in acoustic jazz with audacious spaces, beautiful meditations and Arabic tones. This is his third album that I know of, and I can happily vouch for the salve of ‘Uncharted Territories’ and ‘A Season Of Rainbows’.

mcmordie.jpgIn the real world, I might be concerned about the tax returns, the politics of a family Xmas or the mind-bending complications of working from three different office spaces each day. But for now, McMordie is stretching time, never sweating the petty stuff and searching for the sublime. For someone who knows little about jazz, his record sounds like a North African ‘Sketches Of Spain’. He’s looking for a tone, a motif and a connection. The legendary Davey Graham was one of the first to explore the potential between Arabic scales and acoustic guitar, and Paul seems keen to further the story.

Accompanied by Alan Niblock on double bass, Paul recorded the ‘Medina’ project at Rainbow Studio is Oslo. In this spacey environment, the pair are riffing and conversing, setting their creative compass for the road to Marrakech.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight

Kind Of Blue

Stuart Bailie | 17:39 UK time, Friday, 26 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgOn the show tonight: Paul Buchanan from the Blue Nile. Talking about the band’s small but beautiful legacy - four albums in a quarter of a century, and modestly noting the way that his art has gotten into the fabric of people’s lives.

bluenile.jpgHe’ll never win any awards at assertiveness training conferences, but Paul has kept his individual style intact for a long time, while others have buckled and co-opted. He’s also big into his Walt Whitman and his Mahler and other such references that have given the Blue Nile a singular note.

I’m also gonna be delving in the new Neil Young album, playing local music from Cara Robinson and getting intoxicated with the latest Gallon Drunk.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight

Uke Special

Stuart Bailie | 10:37 UK time, Thursday, 25 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgSo I finally bought myself a ukulele. I’ve been harbouring desires for a few months now, and finally I just walked in and bought an economy model with a hard case and an autographed postcard from Malika Dudley, Miss Hawaii 2006. I’m looking at the gal’s fingernails and they seem impossibly long to play chords on that miniature fretboard, but hey, my Mahalo model was actually made in China, so let's not be too picky.

Anyway, I’m glad I don’t have to skulk around music shops any longer. The real musos are always in there, holding massive guitars and playing augmented minor chords that require six fingers. When I asked to see their ukuleles, they would often snort dismissively. One shop kept talking about a mythical shipment that was coming in from Honolulu, but after several months, I suspected he was having a joke at my expense. Yet I kept my cool, and now I’m part of that amusing club.

uke200.jpgIt’s hard to take life seriously when you’ve got a little uke in your hand. The great stresses are diminished and the hilarity that comes with mastering another chord is hard to equal. My ultimate ambition is to play ‘Frankly Mr Shankley’ and perhaps ‘Honolulu Baby’, but for now I’m leafing through a standard song book, checking out ‘Careless Love’, ‘Home On The Range’ and ‘Dixie’.

The internet is a trove, and when I dug out the chords to ‘Fisherman’s Blues’ my wife was astonished to recognise an actual tune. And of course the auction sites are full of rare instruments, some of them beautifully inlaid and accessorised. I’m getting especially excited about the models made of genuine Hawaiian koa wood. Am I losing perspective already? I’m only just started on the YouTube archive, but that’s a life’s work in itself.

There will be a ukulele special on my radio show rather soon. Stay tuned for further details.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight

Facebook Works For Me

Stuart Bailie | 09:38 UK time, Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgMy first Facebook commission is on the newsstands this week. A guy called Andrew from Word magazine tracked me down through that famous social networking site and used their webmail facility to ask me would I like to write something for the magazine. I used the same channel to tell him yes, I’d be happy to and then he delivered the editorial brief down the lines. So now you can read the results in their issue with the Springsteen cover.

My piece sits in a section called ‘My Record Company Hell’. You see, I was once a press officer for Warner Records in London and had the misfortune to work for the likes of Motley Crue, Robert Plant and Brigitte Nielsen. So I dredged up all of the unhappy memories and hurled them at the Word team. Perhaps wisely, they took out a few of the names and the dodgy storylines, but I think it’s still an interesting read. On some other occasion, I promise I’ll write about the SS uniforms, the appalling farewell message and the day that Madonna’s sister took me to lunch.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight

A Legend Awaits

Stuart Bailie | 12:50 UK time, Monday, 22 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgTonight I’ll be at the Rotterdam Bar in Belfast, in conversation with Henry McCullough. The idea is that we shoot the breeze for an hour, covering Henry’s amazing career, including his stints with Paul McCartney and Joe Cocker, his appearance at Woodstock, his time with Hendrix, Marianne Faithfull and Janis Joplin.

We may not dwell on the heavy moments, the lifestyle and the career dips, but we’ll surely cover his resurrection as an elemental Guitar Man, wreathed in knowledge, danger and on nodding terms with mortality. After this introduction, Henry will play a gig. Judging by his performance at Glasgowbury this Summer, it will be a deadly affair.

Stu Bailie presents The Late show on Radio Ulster, every Friday from 10pm until midnight

Them 'Tones, Them 'Tones...

Stuart Bailie | 22:41 UK time, Sunday, 21 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgWell, I never did present the Friday radio show standing up. My BBC consultant had proposed the deal but I was fatigued, it didn’t feel right and hey, it was close to midnight. But I did try to get the links a bit more tidy, and I enthused more precisely, instead of wittering without an actual point. That’s the best we can hope for just now.

undertones.jpgAnyway, the playlist made me happy, and it was only fair to plug the new Undertones album, a couple of weeks in a row. Most of the songs are less than two minutes long, the O’ Neill brothers play like circus knife-throwers and a song called ‘Fight My Corner’ is possibly the best thing I’ve heard this year. I’ve written a review for the Across The Line website. You can read it here.

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

Don't Touch That Dial!

Stuart Bailie | 10:00 UK time, Friday, 19 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgOn tonight’s broadcast I will mostly be presenting on my feet. That’s the advice given to me by a BBC radio consultant. He feels it may liven up my style, and he may be right. It works for Chris Moyles and I have memories of Hugo Duncan, bolt upright in Studio 8 Belfast, rocking his compact frame to ‘Horse It Into Ya, Cynthia’.

I’ve never had a face-to-face critique of my radio programme before, so it was a very interesting moment. A charming fella from London called Matt had flown over to meet with myself, Rigsy and some of the Radio Ulster crew. I guess the understanding was that we could all improve our game, and I was certainly under no illusions about my style.

I think there are two kinds of radio presenters – the personalities and the music fans. I would fit into the latter category. I just like to play the best tunes, and to impart some information between plays. I wouldn’t consciously try to be John Peel, but he’s certainly an influential model. The danger, Matt pointed out, is that you merely copy the legend, and sound like a bad tribute act.

We listened back to a couple of my shows. Without the music to support them, the links sounded terribly vulnerable. Like most presenters, I have some stock phrases that I use when I need a few seconds to think. These became glaring obvious when examined in this way. There’s also a deadpan tone that creeps in. It’s pure Peel, and again I blush when I hear it.

On the plus side, there are moments of genuine rapture when I’m loving a song and explaining this feeling to my listeners. This is what people tend to pick up on my show. They hear something and then they buy it, and mostly they’re grateful for the service.

Matt wanted to know about my audience. I said that they’re essentially chilling out after a long week. Maybe they’re doing the dishes or they’ve just put the kids to bed. People I meet say that while Stu is playing the tunes, they might uncork a bottle of wine, take a bath or roll an aromatic cigarette. I told my coach that I had a composite picture in my head of all those things. But Matt said that I should keep the image of one person in my mind as I spoke.

So that’s it sorted then. Tonight, I’ll be thinking especially of you.

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

Gotta Hear This #3

Stuart Bailie | 00:17 UK time, Thursday, 18 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgWhen I hear this song, I’m suddenly back at the Town & Country Club, Kentish Town in 1985. I’m not long in London and there’s a new club opened, called after a Little Eva song, The Locomotion. In those pre-Kylie days, it’s a sign that proper soul music being served. The DJ is Wendy May Billingsley, and she’s playing some tremendous tunes from the Stax and Motown labels.

willietee2.jpgIn this fine old ballroom with a sprung wooden floor, I suddenly understand the value of soul. It’s not simply something that cheesey old radio jocks play. No, the method is to get you dancing, and it keeps you up there, so long as Steve Cropper is on the guitar, while Booker T is on the keys and especially if bassist James Jamerson and drummer Benny Benjamin are doing the business.

One of my personal anthems from that club is ‘Stoned Love’ by The Supremes. I’ll tell you the intense story about that some other time. The other tune that nails it is ‘Walking Up A One Way Street’ by Willie Tee.

Willie was a New Orleans guy, barely into his 20s, when he originally recorded the song as a B side for the Nola label. His background was in jazz, but he knew the money was in rhythm and blues. He had that Crescent City style about his, able to take great liberties with the pace and the melody.

‘Walkin...’ is about losing the girl and feeling bad. He’s pleading with her to requite some of that passion, but it’s a unilateral affair. He should be breaking our hearts, but somehow the record lifts you and the horn section carries the day. Recorded in 1965, the song isn’t as sweet as Motown or as flinty as Stax. But it sure is memorable.

I come back to Willie Tee every so often, and I’ve got a neat compilation, ‘’Teasin’ you’ that summarises his early days. It's nearly all good. A decade later and he would celebrate his home town by raising the profile of the Wild Magnolias and the Mardi Gras myth. He was lashed by Hurricane Katrina and just a month ago he succumbed to cancer. He didn’t live an especially long or famous life, but he impacted on my heart, big style.

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

Pistols Half Cocked

Stuart Bailie | 23:31 UK time, Sunday, 14 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgFor the best part of a week, those bold boys at the NME have been urging us to download a copy of the Sex Pistols tune, ‘God Save The Queen’. Their mission has been to give the old punk combo a number one record, something that was cruelly taken from them back in 1977 when Rod Stewart sat astride the charts like a satin-trousered titan. Many of us believed that The Establishment had fixed it in the year of Ma'm’s Jubilee, but do we care enough to rectify things after 30 years?

sexpistols.jpgMaybe not. While NME rounded up The Beastie Boys, The Kooks and Kate Nash into their rolling campaign, the record made a rather undignified arrival at number 42. Could it be that we all own the tune anyway, or simply that we don’t care enough for a self-regarding media story?

Mind you, I did enjoy the experience of Vivienne Westwood on The Sunday Edition this morning, regally ginger and spouting declarations about free speech, despotic regulations and the nation’s decline. Dame Viv roared about our bad reading habits and I half expected her to produce a wooden spoon, the better to beat some discipline into the fellow panellists. Tony Benn looked rather intimidated. Which was probably the point.

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

The Light Brigade

Stuart Bailie | 13:11 UK time, Friday, 12 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgThe new Heather Wilson exhibition is all about illumination. Unveiled at the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn on Wednesday night, ‘An Interruption In The Way Of Things’ is a challenge to look again at the interplay between light, water, glass, earth and air.

heatherwilson.jpgWe see lenses and spheres, vapour trails and refractions. Her work is mounted on thick Perspex and projected on curved surfaces. Children are wondering around the gallery space, their minds quietly blown. More discriminating art heads are nodding sagely, while family members are royally chuffed.

Beyond the science and the attractive patterns, Heather is aiming for a wider realisation – to see the little epiphanies, half hidden in the humdrum places. It this respect, she’s hurling us zen parables, looking for a satori to shine from the commonplace.

heather3.jpgHer husband, Peter is happily present. We normally see him on stage in his Duke Special role, where he too likes to advocate plenty of watchfulness and intensity. In this respect, his song ‘This Could Be My Last Day’ is almost a companion piece to Heather’s work. Another good result for Team Wilson.

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

Rainbow Worriers

Stuart Bailie | 10:06 UK time, Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgNormally I don’t get too excited about musical downloads, but when the new Radiohead album wibbled down my wires there was a feeling of fun and conspiracy. Many thousands of other people were doing the very same thing. There was no record label or a middleman to collect a slice of the money. In fact, you could literally dictate your own terms.

radiohead2.jpgI paid a decent amount, considering that these are unsampled goods. But it was nowhere near the fee they’d normally charge you at the online store. The new, exceptionally awful Annie Lennox album costs a tenner to download – more than the physical artefact costs in the supermarket. And they wonder why the industry is banjaxed?

So now I’m the owner of ‘In Rainbows’. I’ve burnt it onto CD and made a little paper sleeve. And I’m currently listening to the tunes. I’m recalling how we journalists were invited to a preview of ‘Kid A’ in a converted stable in Camden town, as computerised spotlights strafed the room, mournfully. Why schedule a mere record release when you can provoke an event?

‘In Rainbows’ isn’t an immediate sack of laughs. Thom has that neurotic halt in his voice as the tunes hurtle upwards and your ribcage stiffens. There are jazz excursions and moderne drum sequences. There’s a wash of dread over the proceedings that sends you back to ‘Amnesiac’ and ‘Kid A’, which I personally wasn’t hoping to hear.

radiohead.pngOn tracks like ‘House Of Cards’ you suspect that there’s a critique of the age in the surprisingly balmy grooves. It’s only fair. The tune is actually reminiscent of ‘Going Back’ by The Byrds, and Yorke lilts the phrase “infrastructure will collapse” like a despairing Jeremiah.

‘All I Need’ is a love song with a tragic warp. The author says he feels like an insect and you’re immediately thinking about Kafka. And so we crawl off to the record’s closing statement, a meditation on death, the afterlife and analogue recording platforms. Let’s hear it for ‘Videotape’. It’s most definitely art and the band play to the extremes of their ability. But does it actually mean something to me? Not yet, it doesn’t.

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

Man The Lifeboat

Stuart Bailie | 13:48 UK time, Monday, 8 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgAnother top event at The Lifeboat in Belfast last Saturday. It’s not exactly a club but a great deal more than a bar with excellent tunes. Do they have a word for something like this? Whatever, we had much fun and the unseasonably fine weather meant that everyone stood outside and socialised with gusto.

As ever, the music was delivered with care from David Holmes and Stuart Watson. I especially loved ‘Cheree’ by Suicide, plus Bowie’s wondrous ‘A New Career, A New Town’. And there was a special poignancy to hear ‘Decades’ from Joy Division, a lament for the young men and their weighty lives. Many of the people at this session have outlived the intensity of youth, but that doesn’t mean the music fails to touch them. Oh and that new Panda Bear album is awesome.

Terri Hooley was there, bear-hugging and sentimental with the brandy. Gary Lightbody was enthusing about the Burning Codes performance earlier in the night, one of the many Oxjam gigs in town. David Holmes and a core of Sugar Sweet veterans were keeping the faith while Ciaran McMenamin and Ciaran Gribben were making new pals.

shadows.jpgInside, the big screen was showing the 1959 movie from John Cassavetes, Shadows. Without the dialogue, the improvisations were even stranger. By the end of the night, Performance was spinning its garbled route and Belfast’s more discerning barflies were grinning relentlessly.

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

Marshall Law

Stuart Bailie | 12:37 UK time, Saturday, 6 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgThese days, you can get a mid-range digital camera that packs more technology than the original Apollo moon landing. The megapixels are immense, the automation is total and it’s only a matter of time before one of these creations can order you a pizza with a side order of garlic bread.

Some of these features may be useful if you’re a news photographer, wanting to fire of a 50 frame burst of a celebrity leaving the wrong house at an inopportune time. But for most of us, the gizmos are bewildering, and the process leaves you feeling distant. That’s one of the reasons why I keep looking at this image of Jim Marshall’s camera.

leica2.jpgAs far as I know, it’s a Leica M4, all battered and brassed. In its day, it was probably quite expensive, and yet it has none of the fancy stuff like autofocus, metering or even automatic winding. But it does offer a near-silent shutter, an all-seeing viewfinder and impeccable quality lenses. Leica obsessives can bore endlessly about old-school German engineering. Annoyingly, they are often correct, as some of the greatest images of the last century were taken with this kit.

proof.jpgAnyway, Jim Marshall took some amazing photos of jazz musicians before falling in with the west coast rock and roll set. He pictured Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead. He gave is the unforgettable image of Johnny Cash with his finger raised. He shot Jimi Hendrix at rehearsals for the Monterey Festival in 1967 and Jimi was tickled because his middle name was Marshall, and this was also the name of his amplifiers, man.

I’ve just picked up a second hand copy of Jim Marshall’s ‘Proof’ and it’s a wonderful book. To the left of each image there’s a contact sheet, showing 36 shots from the roll of film that delivered the classic frame. Almost every picture on the roll is a keeper. While today’s snappers will fill their memory cards with mediocre pixels, Jim had the eye, the rhythm and was purely decisive.

Anyone got a Leica, going cheap?

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

Beirut, Babyshambles, Balderdash

Stuart Bailie | 20:17 UK time, Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgIf the new Babyshambles album was a piece of household furniture, it would be an ashtray. Piled high with butts and party detritus, barely functional, unclean and sorry. Of course, Pete Doherty still wants us to believe that there’s a kind of beauty in this disorder, that he’s Baudelaire in Ben Sherman.

His new record really is irksome. I’m tired of the junky vernacular, the lack of consonants and the shrugging distain. Significantly, he’s got a picture of Chatterton on the cover, another lousy poet who copped a bit of fame after dying young and troubled. Unfortunately, Docherty is leaving behind a trail of increasingly drab records. His legacy can no longer be a couple of fascinating excursions with the Libertines.

beirut.jpgOn the contrary, I’m getting a real bang out of the latest Beirut album, ‘The Flying Club Cup’. Like its predecessor, Gulag Orkestar’, it’s a soundtrack to an imaginary film, with Zach Condon cranking up the strings, the accordions, horns and the obligatory ukulele. He’s sings about impossible love, powerful liasions and glowering vistas.

So to return to the original metaphor, what kind of furniture would this record be? Oh, a malacca rocking chair, elegantly frayed. With a hint of frankincense and draped with a brocade antimacassar. Or something. You gotta have it.

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

At Home With The Broken Social Scene

Stuart Bailie | 05:34 UK time, Monday, 1 October 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgBack from Toronto, fuzzy-headed but inspired. On the last night, I saw Broken Social Scene play two shows at Lee’s Palace. Ordinarily, a single gig would have sufficed, but this is the most important act in town and there’s no point passing on that extra chance. In rock and roll terms, it’s like seeing the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore, or Happy Mondays at The Hacienda. It’s a band completely of its time, in its natural habitat.

broken200.jpgI sent back a review for the ATL website, which conveys some of the excitement of the night. Kevin Drew has masses of charisma, and he managed to keep the old scenesters happy without turning it into a self-serving clique. This is important because the BSS’s extended family is currently invigorating the mainstream. Kevin’s girlfriend is Leslie Feist, high in the UK and American charts with ‘1234’ and a feature of the new iPod commercial. The song’s co-author is Sally Seltmann, aka, New Buffalo, another signing to the mighty Arts & Crafts label, and her new album is also class. Other ongoing A&C acts include Stars from Montreal and The Most Serene Republic from Wilton, Ontario.

My last day in town was bookended by a trip to the Little Italy district to meet MC Abdominal, followed by a tour of the Harris Institute, a music academy that has schooled Kevin Drew and some of the other BSS crew. The project is 18 years old and the boss, John Harris is a charming and passionate figure, another factor in the city’s good musical health.

I'm planning a Toronto special on my radio show, this Friday, October 5. I think it's gonna be a memorable one.

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

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