Archives for November 2007

Just William

Stuart Bailie | 13:39 UK time, Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgIf William Blake was alive today he’d be 250 years old, running barefoot through the streets of Shoreditch and communing with angels. Or maybe he’d be hanging out with The Klaxons, getting giddy with the glow sticks. Whatever, he’d be having fun and getting transcendent.

blake1.jpgAfter Rimbaud, Blake is probably the most rock and roll poet. Therefore I’m thinking of playing a few William-inspired recordings on this Friday’s show. Some of the contenders are:

1. Billy Bragg – ‘Upfield’ A fond tribute, from one Bill to another.
2. Patti Smith – ‘My Blakean Year’. Perfectly pretentious.
3. The Doors – ‘End Of The Night’. A steal from Auguries Of Innocence.
4. Jah Wobble – ‘The Inspiration Of William Blake’. A wide-boy homage.
blake2.jpg5. Van Morrison – ‘Veedon Fleece’. Name-checking Blake and The Eternals.
6. Test Dept – ‘Jerusalem’. Complete with Thatcher’s Falkland’s speech.
7. Bruce Dickinson – ‘The Chemical Wedding’. The rock chancer’s guide.
8. U2 – ‘Beautiful Ghost’. An outtake from ‘The Joshua Tree’.
9. Van Morrison – 'Let The Slave'. The mystic soul-brothers.
10. Rudi – 'Tigerland'. Ulster punks reference Tyger Tyger.

Any other suggestions?

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

Licenced To Eel

Stuart Bailie | 10:28 UK time, Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgMany of you will be aware of an intense act called Eels. A fair amount of you may know that the core figure Matt “E” Everett has used his music to document his sister’s suicide and his mother’s death from cancer.

eels2.jpgHis songs don’t prettify the family story, but when he does grasp a sliver of optimism, you’re cheering him all the way. Especially when you hear that his cousin was a flight attendant on a September 11 plane. Or that his bleak experiences had started with his father’s fatal heart attack when Mark was only 19.

This latter relationship was covered in a BBC4 documentary last night, Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives. Mark’s dad Hugh Everett III was a loner in the family home, forever lost in scientific thought. We learn that the guy was actually a visionary in quantum mechanics, promoting the idea of parallel worlds for his 1957 dissertation at Princeton. And so we follow E on the trail of the man, taking in linear algebra, “crazy laws” and double slit experiments.

eels1.jpgThere was much voyeurism as the boy unpacked Hugh’s old notes and listened to Dictaphone messages from another century. While the dad expounds on cosmic issues, you can hear the young Matt playing drums in the basement.

“There’s a little strain of crazy in the family”, he muses at one point. Near the close, when he’s absorbing the information and sucking on a cigar, an almighty thunderclap interrupts the filming. Matt smiles. You couldn’t have scripted any of this.

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

He's Making A List...

Stuart Bailie | 15:14 UK time, Monday, 26 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgWe’re getting close to the time when all self-respecting music journos and DJs will announce their end of year lists. It’s the season to pull out your obscure classics, to argue over the merits of the name acts and to haughtily change tack from last year’s interests. So who will come out well this year? MIA? Radiohead? The National? Modest Mouse?

mia.jpgBack in the day when I was Reviews Editor at NME, I would pull together the lists of 30 writers and tally them up in a Eurovision style. The outcome would be followed intently by press officers, marketing men and band managers. An NME Top Five endorsement might triple the sales figures for an upcoming band, while a low placing for an established group might signal their imminent decline.

It’s all terribly fickle. A block vote in 1988 by the Celtic faction took Van Morrison and The Chieftains to number two, just behind Public Enemy. The editor was absolutely livid. The following year and De La Soul were in a tense stand-off with the Stone Roses. My favourite year was 1991, when Primal Scream, Nirvana, Teenage Fanclub and My Bloody Valentine were all roaring contenders.

robertplant.jpgI’ve not gathered my ideas for this year, but I’ll probably include the Arcade Fire, Panda Bear, Jens Lekman, The Manics, Ry Cooder and Rilo Kiley. And while I feel ambivalent about his leering legacy with Led Zeppelin, the new album with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss is rather fine.

Anyway, before I show you mine, what about a look at yours?

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

The Secret Service

Stuart Bailie | 15:16 UK time, Friday, 23 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgAs an occasional treat, the Bailies get to check out the charity shops in a posh location. Holywood often reveals a bunch of quality schmutter, but the Lisburn Road is more classy again. The game is to look for quality labels and cool books and maybe do a bit of crate-digging for the musical treasures. Then you have a coffee and feel a rather contented with yourself. Any harm in this?

It’s been months since we tried it, but Wednesday morning provided an opportune time. And so I found myself in the Quaker shop, picking up a CS Lewis book, The Four Loves. It looked interesting, and since the final chapter was all about charity, it was like serendipity. Worth a quid, anyhow.

cslewis.jpgI’ve had mixed results with the non-Narnia part of the CS Lewis canon. I enjoyed The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce was good value. I’ve had less success with the Problem Of Pain, and it seems like my new purchase won’t reveal itself easily. But while skimming the last few pages, I noticed a couple of interesting lines about charitable deeds: “The real work must be the most secret. Even as far as possible secret from ourselves.”

That night, I watched The Secret Millionaire on Channel 4. You probably know the form by now. A rich person travels incognito through a poor neighbourhood, spots some worthy individuals and decides to gift them some money. This week a fresh-faced fellow called Ben Way was searching for exemplary souls on Murder Mile, Hackney.

Sure enough, there was positive work in the bleakest of circumstances. A guy named Ufu looks after the Pedro community club, even though his wages have long since stopped. A former boxing champ, James Cook, is working hard to sustain hope. And so at the end, Ben reveals himself as a young millionaire and writes a few cheques. Everyone is in tears and James celebrates with a joyous wedding.

The show doesn’t work the brain especially hard, and the sentimental aspect is sometimes overdone. But the programmes I’ve watched from the series also reveal much humility and kindness. The rich guys don’t really flaunt it, and the worthy people are the best. A show without cynicism, grand-standing and back-stabbing? How did that get commissioned?

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

Gotta Hear This, #5

Stuart Bailie | 09:53 UK time, Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgNew York in the Spring of 2001 is pure energy. The city is making remarkable music again, with The Strokes at their best, and a series of other acts such as The Moldy Peaches and We Are Weapons also bringing style and sass to Manhatttan. The rising heat is bringing people out to celebrate on pier parties while the Lower East Side is full of freshly liberated bohemians.

hamilton.jpgThe best club in town is Body & Soul, a Sunday afternoon session in a dry venue, where people relate passionately to their music. It’s not a fancy place, but it’s full of smiles and euphoria. And one of the big club anthems is ‘Let's Start The Dance’ by a celebrated drummer from the deep south, Hamilton Bohannon.

The record has been around for years, an original disco tune, and Belfast venues such as The Delta, The Plaza and The Cresent had been rocking it plenty. But this is Hamilton’s third version of the track, a personal journey into one groove that has changed to meet each decade. This in turn has been remixed by DJ Francois Kervorkian, a B&S legend. He’s taken out the vocals, made the track more supple and moderne, and so it fits perfectly with the age.

The FK mix of ‘Let's Start The Dance III’ is all over New York that spring – tumbling out of car systems, in clubs, shops and late night bars. The entire city seems to plug into that new optimism as we make plans for a media event later in the year, starting on September 13. Which never happens, of course.

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

Is Viv There?

Stuart Bailie | 15:15 UK time, Monday, 19 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgHere’s another rather strange photo from the archive. It was taken at The Borderline on London's Charing Cross Road, May 1, 1990. The occasion was the launch party of an NME album ‘The Last Temptation Of Elvis’, which found a bunch of name artists performing tracks from the Presley soundtracks.

viv.jpgThat’s me on the right. I had volunteered, after a few refreshing drinks, to sing ‘Return To Sender’ on the karaoke machine. After the first verse, the stage was invaded by a large bearded man in a paisley shirt, who started to bellow enthusiastically. His name was Vivian Stanshall, former member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, narrator of ‘Tubular Bells’ and author of Sir Henry at Rawlinson End. A legend.

And so he jumped and barked, as was his practice. Finally we were joined by NME’s News Editor Terry Staunton, who rightly sensed that there was something brilliantly silly going on. We took our applause, and regrettably, I never saw Vivian again. Five years later and he died in a house fire in Muswell Hill, caused by faulty wiring. The date was 6 March, 100 years after the death of the proper Sir Henry Rawlinson. Bless ’em both.

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

Ukuleles Are Go!

Stuart Bailie | 11:05 UK time, Friday, 16 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgTonight at 10pm, BBC Radio Ulster: ‘Nothing Compares 2 Uke’. A one hour special, celebrating the transcendent glory of the ukulele. With relevant music from Paul McCartney, The Who, Beirut and maybe even silly old George Formby. We’ll also be having some live music from Geoff Gatt, Reggie Chamberlain King and Campbell Archer. It should be swell.

I may be playing something myself, but I haven’t put in as much practice as I should. I’m worried about letting the firm down. Then again, if we can maintain a bit of levity in the studio, bum notes may not be too much of a liability. Catch you later.


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

It's a Snap

Stuart Bailie | 06:53 UK time, Thursday, 15 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgI’m really enjoying the BBC4 series, The Genius of Photography. Last Thursday’s show was easily the best, with Cartier Bresson, Capa and many other greats from photojournalism and the Magnum Agency.

dreamst.jpgHappily, they gave plenty of time to W Eugene Smith and his attempt to capture the spirit of Pittsburgh in a vast photo essay. By this stage, Gene was already badly damaged by war and a heinous family history, and his plan of being the James Joyce of his trade sent him properly over the edge.

eugene2.jpgBut his work was still wonderful. Some of the best bits have been set out in a handsome book, Dream Street. If you’re still intrigued, then track down an American biography, Shadow And Substance by Jim Hughes. It’s a huge and a rather painful read. Smith was perhaps the embodiment of the concerned photographer, but he treated his family really badly. Pure paradox.

Tonight’s instalment on BBC4 promises to cover Robert Frank, Gary Winogrand and William Eggleston. Yay!


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

Homage To Catatonia

Stuart Bailie | 20:22 UK time, Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgLast time I was with Cerys Matthews she was smoking a fat one, watching a Kevin McAleer video and squawking with mirth. It was the early days of Catatonia and we were driving from her crashpad in Cardiff to Holyhead and the ferry to Dublin.

The event was In The City, 1996 and we shared the Irish crossing with Feeder and some other bands I’ve long since forgotten about. My NME brief was to watch Catatonia on the rise, launching a top single called ‘You’ve Got A lot To Answer For’ and a peppy first album. The Cerys voice was fantastically out of time and context, so writers were vainly comparing her to Shirley Bassey or even Eartha Kitt. Whatever, it had drama and humour and more.

cerys.jpgThe band was terribly off-balance though, as Mark wrote the songs, used to date Cerys, and seemed to resent her acclaim. And so my interview was like a Relate session between frosty ex-lovers. You could see where the band would fracture and in the coming years, when the band hit the pop universe like a bug splatting on a windscreen, the singer’s distress was evident.

Since then she’s retreated to the wilds of America, made a couple of decent albums and re-approached fame with some trepidation. Now I see she’s on ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’, jumping out of a helicopter on a bungee rope.

Has she learnt nothing?


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

There Goes Norman

Stuart Bailie | 15:21 UK time, Sunday, 11 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgLloyd Cole once remarked that you should either read Norman Mailer or get a new tailor. I never did get measured up, but I did read plenty of Norman. While the guy was too old for rock and roll, he copped many of the poses, and his essay ‘The White Negro’ is required reading for anyone who wants to study the art of rebellion. He opened well with the Naked And the Dead and I can understand how a band called The Fuggs got their name from said text.

Yes, the guy wrote some boring stuff and he sometimes used words with all the delicacy of meat cleavers. Still, I always give him a thought when I’m in New York and I pick up a copy of the Village Voice, and when I have a routine watch of ‘When We Were Kings’ I salute Norman and George Plimpton, who clearly saw journalism as a heroic contest, worthy of the events that they covered.

feargal2.jpgFeargal Sharkey, who once bellowed ‘There Goes Norman’, was in Belfast last week. He made a passionate case for live music, backed the arts sector, collared a few politicians and he cussed like a merchant seaman. I commend the Irish News for their headline ‘A Good Art These Days Is Hard To Find’ and I note with satisfaction that Feargal still wears a pair of well scuffed Doc Martins.

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

Dylan's In The Basement

Stuart Bailie | 13:45 UK time, Friday, 9 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgMany music fans are aware of the Bob Dylan motorbike crash in 1966, but what kind of bike was he riding, what part of the road did he come off and how many vertebrae were fractured? These are the things that have been obsessing Sid Griffin, music writer, musician and archivist. It’s important to some of us because this was the moment that divided Dylan’s career, between rampaging speed freak and folksy resident of Woodstock. Either side was a collection of astounding music. At the centre is myth and hearsay.

sid.jpgYou can weigh up the evidence in Sid’s excellent new book, ‘Million Dollar Bash’. You can also hear the man on my show tonight, talking a blue streak and giving us many reasons to listen back to the music that Bob made after the crash. Some of that was officially released on ‘The Basement Tapes’, but the majority of it is in the hands of bootleggers and file-traders, a trove of strange and cool recordings. Bob was lashing out the songs at a tremendous rate. Some would appear on ‘John Wesley Harding’ and ‘Music From Big Pink’, but hundreds of others exist.

Sid has fronted The Long Ryders, The Coal Porters and more. He’s kept the legacy of Gram Parsons alive and he’s forever writing sleevenotes and books that satisfy a hunger.

Also on tonights’ show, some Sigur Ros, plenty of the new Jens Lekman album and lovely grumblings from The Handsome Family.


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

Gotta Hear This, #4

Stuart Bailie | 10:02 UK time, Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgLoads of artists have been drawn to the lyrics of Jacques Brel. His fierce words have attracted Scott Walker, David Bowie, Nina Simone, Alex Harvey and Marc Almond. But my favourite homage to the Belgian singer comes from Nicholas Currie, a Scottish guy who records under the name of Momus.

Momus200.jpgIn 1986 he released the ‘Nicky’ EP, cheaply recorded with voice and guitar. As a kid, Momus had watched a performance of ‘Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris and had become enchanted with the work. But when he came to record three of the songs, he reckoned that he could translate from the French better than anyone.

And thus he changed Brel’s ‘Jackie’, into ‘Nicky’, a discussion about fame’s cheap allure. He name-checked Bowie, the Dalai Lama and Barry Manilow. It was funny. There was a polar change for ‘Don’t Leave’, unrequited and desperate. But it was the third of the tracks that grabbed my heart. Brel had recorded ‘Voir Un Ami Pleurer’ in 1977, just a year before the cancer took him. So Momus added sinister electronic effects on his version, imagining the cancer cells dividing. 'See A Friend In Tears' is a song about the death of Europe and the rise of the American Empire, but it’s also about the loss of the body and the endurance of the soul. And Momus got it, completely.

momus2_200.jpgThe opening lyrics still intrigues:

“So men are still at war in Ireland
For certain songs and certain dates
The tender gave way to the firebrand
And Europe gave way to the States.”

I wasn’t the only one to be moved by this song. The Momus lyrics were revived by James Dean Bradfield during his sabbatical year out of the Manic Street Preachers. He had lost some dear friends to cancer and he was also able to articulate this sense of creeping agony on his album 'The Great Western'. You wouldn’t want to hear either version too often, but at the right time, it’s hugely pertinent.


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

Uke Cannot Be Serious

Stuart Bailie | 11:44 UK time, Monday, 5 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgSince my previous post about the joys of playing a ukulele, I’ve been getting encouraging messages from you all. Some clearly believe that a man of my age should have a hobby, and it’s either the uke or a shed. Well, a Harley Davidson is clearly beyond the budget.

Other mates are amused that I’m playing music again, after a 20 year sabbatical. My previous line of thinking was that it’s better to be a reasonably good journalist than being a bad musician. But now I’m strictly amateur in the literal sense of playing for love.

I’ve been checking out singular uke music, from the likes of Patrick Wolf, Viv Stanshall and of course The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. There’s a barely discernible line between fun and being silly, which is why I can’t be bothered with George Formby. Who played a banjolele, anyway...

geoff200.jpgI can play about half a dozen chords, though not quickly in sequence. The tips of my fingers are getting calloused with fret action. And plans for a radio special on Friday November 16, 10pm are now well advanced. We’re hoping the showcase the real skills of Geoff Gatt, who plays like a dream and writes a charming song. There will be a finale of massed uke players, some of whom have just outed themselves after reading this blog. And I’m planning to perform a song myself. It could be rather embarrassing. I need more practice.


(Geoff Gatt photo by Phil O' Kane)

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

Burke's Peerage

Stuart Bailie | 12:33 UK time, Friday, 2 November 2007

Stuart Bailie.jpgAnyone remember Noel Burke? He was a feature on the Belfast music scene in the mid ’80s, the singer with St Vitus Dance, who wrote fresh and amusing songs. I recall Noel in the Plaza Ballroom, talking passionately about Josef K, the Postcard label and the Go Betweens. He read his music papers and probably understood those post-modern diatribes from Paul Morley and Ian Penman.

StVitusDance250.jpgHere’s the band in a publicity photo from the time, taken by the reliably cool Alastair Graham. That’s Noel on the right in the moleskin jacket. The band left for Liverpool soon after, and put out an album on Probe Plus, the label that had birthed Half Man Half Biscuit. The world was briefly aware of ‘Love Me Love My Dogma’ in 1987, and then St. Vitus stopped shaking.

Weirdly though, Noel got the job as singer with Echo and The Bunnymen, replacing the errant Ian McCulloch on the ‘Reverberation’ album. I think the rest of us were rather jealous, even if it wasn’t classic Echo material. That done, he settled into civvy street in Merseyside.

stvituscd.jpgSt Vitus reformed for a gig in 2005, and are currently attending to a new release, ‘Glypotheque’. I’m enjoying the rough mixes, which find Noel crooning with gusto. He still writes a sweetly sprung line and the band chime and strum with obvious pleasure. If you like your Roddy Frame, your Smiths and your Orange Juice, then Noel’s got your number.


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

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