Archives for May 2008

The Importance Of Reading Ernest

Stuart Bailie | 12:29 UK time, Saturday, 31 May 2008

Today was my last time with John Toal on the Saturday Magazine show. It's been a lovely three years with the firm, but life is getting busy in other places and there's always the danger that too long in the reviews seat can find you repeating yourself and getting complacent. Se we all parted on the best of terms and the ever-thoughtful Mr Toal presented me with a vintage version of 'The Old Man And The Sea'. Cheers, pal.

oldman.jpgI'm not sure how he knew it was my fave book, but the offer was appreciated. I've read many of the Hemingway works, starting with 'A Farewell To Arms' and working my way through the bullfights, the hunting trips, the suicide scenes and the extra-pithy short stories. I also love his memoirs of Paris in 'A Moveable Feast', which makes you want to haul a Royal typewriter over there and get busy around Boulevard Saint-Germain. His instruction to budding writers, to start with a declarative statement, has echoed in my head over several decades now.

Some of the guy's macho elements do become tiresome after a while, but by the time he'd reached 'The Old Man and The Sea', Ernest had cut out the posturing and settled into a more profound rhythm. Hem always denied that the book was some kind of metaphor, that it was simply about marlin fishing, others disagree. It's about a search for the big idea, the life work, the defining quest.

In February 2001, I was in Cuba with the Manic Street Preachers and I took the afternoon off to visit Cojimar, setting for the novel. It's no longer a secluded fishing village, and the writer's local, La Terraza, is only too happy to take the tourist dollar. But still I got an enormous thrill out of being there and knowing the actual Old Man, Gregorio Fuentes was still on the island, an actual legend. He's gone now, and so I'm gonna read the book, once more, with feeling.

Coyne of The Realm

Stuart Bailie | 19:02 UK time, Tuesday, 27 May 2008

In photographic terms, this is probably my Greatest Hit. It was taken on July 13, 2003, while Wayne Coyne was hanging out backstage at the Witnness Festival, Punchestown. About an hour later, he would take to the stage with The Flaming Lips, deputising for The White Stripes, who were recuperating back home.

wayne300.jpgCoyne had the demeanour of a trainee cult leader, with the inscrutable smile, the crisp jacket and the ecliptic sentences. He was also rather keen to sample the pint of stout in the bottom left of the frame. But he patiently held on until some media people got their moment and this amateur snapper stole an off-duty shot.

It was an almighty show, dosed with wonder and magic and impeccable tunes. Wayne pumped up the huge balloons, bombed us with confetti and poured fake blood over his head. He sang 'Seven Nation Army' and a barmy song about a fibre optic Jesus. Some media pals and even Neil Hannon were dancing on stage, dressed in furry costumes. It was a perfect ceremony.

Three years later when Rigsy was interviewing Wayne for ATL, I got him to autograph my photo. He looked at it for a moment, announced that his wife would really like it, and put his name beside a drawing of a grinning sun. I was elated, and I will be equally joyous when he headlines Belsonic, Custom House Square, August 11.

Playlist 23.05.08

Stuart Bailie | 23:02 UK time, Sunday, 25 May 2008

The current single from The Hold Steady is energetic, all-pummeling and it makes you smile. The new Zutons album is the closest that this generation will get to Slade. I've been a great admirer of the Watson Twins since they made that lovely Jenny Lewis album a few years ago, but their own album is a little tame. The Jape record has plenty to recommend it, including a fond tribute to Phil Lynott, which sadly, I didn't have time to play on Friday.

PLAYLIST 23.05.08
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM, 1341 MW

Fridays, ten - midnight

Stevie Wonder - He's Mistra Know It All (Motown)
The Hold Steady - Sequestered In Memphis (RoughTrade)
Tom Rush - Something In The Way She Moves (Rhino)
The Zutons -You Could Make The Four Walls Cry (Deltasonic)
watson180.jpgThe Watson Twins - Dig A Little Deeper (Vanguard)
Vampire Weekend - Oxford Comma (XL)
Nils Lofgren - Long May You Run (Hypertension)
Pete Molinari - It Came Out Of The Wilderness (Loose)
Wallias Band - Muziqawi Silt (Manteca)
Rachel Austin - Love Won't Fall (white)
Gene Vincent - Who's Pushing Your Swing (EMI)
Bonnie Prince Billy - I'll Be Glad (Domino)
The Stanley Brothers - Meet Me In The Moonlight (Rounder)
Pivot - In The Blood (Warp)

Echo and The Bunnymen - Silver (WEA)
Republic Of Loose - I Like Music (Loaded Dice)
The Zutons -Don't Get Caught (Deltasonic)
Tom Rush - No Regrets (Rhino)
Robert Forster - Don't Touch Anything (Tag5)
Devon Sproule - Keep Your Silver Shined (Tin Angel)
Staple Singers, Marty Stewart - The Weight (MCA)
Burning Codes - For All Time (Only Gone)
Bon Iver - Creature Fear (4AD)
Radiohead - High And Dry (Parlophone)
Kate Rusby - Who Knows Where The Time Goes (Too Pure)
T Bone Burnett - Swizzle Stick (Nonesuch)
Jape - I Was A Man (V2)

Austin Power

Stuart Bailie | 12:45 UK time, Friday, 23 May 2008

Rachel Austin is singing about 'Dear Love' as opposed to 'Deer Love'. She wants us to appreciate the difference, because you wouldn't want any confusion, kind listeners. We all smirk at the possibilities of the latter, but pretty soon the crowd in McHugh's basement, Belfast is enjoying a song about personal rapture.

rachel420.jpgSome of her music is proudly eccentric. She doesn't really sound like Regina Spektor, but they both borrow from classical music and folk traditions to create bold tunes and wiggy statements. A few times, Rachel almost steers us into a power ballad, but revs off to somewhere more exalted.

'Did You Notice' is a fierce dismissal to an unwanted male. She coos like Billie Holiday, but sings about violence and disgust and the sanctity of marriage. Her musician pals are playing the violin, the cello, the mandolin and more, clearly enjoying the mission.

On the wall nearby, there's a slide show of pictures. Graham Smith the photographer has been following the artist for a year or more, and his shots reveal Austin in many stages of gaiety, creative focus and interesting attire. Tonight, she's wearing an ante-bellum ballgown that might have been cast aside by Scarlet O'Hara around 1861.

Altogether then, a top occasion and we all exit with our freshly purchased copies of the new album, 'Hello, My Uglies'.

Gallagher Blues

Stuart Bailie | 10:02 UK time, Wednesday, 21 May 2008

It was all kicking off at the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast yesterday. Charles and Camilla were doing lunch at Nick's Warehouse on Hill Street, and the tiny thoroughfares were lined with outriders and police cars and some tension. Guys with serious faces were patting their guns and looking alert. It was almost like the old days.

paul.jpgA few yards away, Paul Gallagher was ambling around. The older brother of Liam and Noel, he's in town to DJ with another veteran Manc, Phil Smith, who has served with the Stone Roses and Oasis and worked at the legendary Hacienda. They both have a bit of rock and roll swagger about them, but it goes with the territory.


Paul grew up in an abusive household, watched his two brothers go supernova, co-wrote a slender book about his part in the story and landed a job at Creation Records, just as the company was going collectively mad with the excesses of Britpop. I met Paul a few times at the Chalk Farm offices where few people were making any sense. Rather, they were all gasping about how 18 Wheeler, Heavy Stereo and One Lady Owner were going to go mega. And of course, they didn't.

He's survived, but looks a little battered by the times. Paul's not been as fortunate as Liam with the genetic material, but he's got the blue eyes, glinting with arrogance and soul and hurt. He's not got much of the extra charisma but then again that's a very rare thing. If Liam and Noel were the Emily and Charlotte Bronte of their day, then Paul is the wayward sibling Branwell.

The Badminton Trials

Stuart Bailie | 18:03 UK time, Monday, 19 May 2008

It's a simple transaction really. They want the old fella to take part in a sporting tournament in the back garden. He wants to be humoured in his quest to take photos of the family members, acting daft. A victory for shuttlecock diplomacy.


Playlist 16.05.08

Stuart Bailie | 22:50 UK time, Sunday, 18 May 2008

I reckon 2008 will go down as a remarkable vintage for Ulster music. It will include champion debuts from In Case Of Fire plus Fighting With Wire and The Jane Bradfords. There's a hurtling release from Panama Kings, due soon. The second Oppenheimer album will be an ongoing thrill, and in honour of that fact, I played three tracks on Friday. 'Take The Whole Midrange And Boost It' is released on June 2, but why wait for the starting pistol?

I also had a conversation in the studio with Gerry from Boathouse. Last year, they put out a rather pedestrian CD. This time, they're playing with real intent, loading up the ferocity on 'What I Remember'. They're launching the EP on May 29 at the Empire, Belfast, so you can personally investigate.

PLAYLIST 16.05.08

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM, 1341 MW
Fridays, ten - midnight

Camper Van Beethovern - Take The Skinheads Bowling (CV)
Oppenheimer - Look Up (Fantastic Plastic)
Dr John - Promises Promises (CV) oppenheimercover.jpg
Boathouse - What I Remember (Tiny Tuba )
Boathouse - The Johnny And Ruth Story (Tiny Tuba)
Dennis Brown - Wolves And Leopards (Magnum)
Glasvegas - Geraldine (Columbia)
Elvis Costello - Drum And Bone (Lost Highway)
Joan As Policewoman - To Be Loved (Reveal)
Bessie Jones - See Aunt Dinah (Rounder)
Aimee Mann - Freeway (Superego)
Oppenheimer - Support Our Truths (Fantastic {Plastic)
Port O' Brien - I Woke Up Today (City Slang)
The Who - Pure and Easy (Polydor)

Steve Earle - Johnny Come Lately (Geffen)
Delays - Girl's On Fire (Polydor)
Rico - Sea Cruise (2 Tone)
Manu Chao - Politik (Radio Bemba)
Sonny J - Handsfree (EMI)
The National - Fake Empire (Beggars Banqyet)
Gillian Welch - Caleb Meyer (Almo)
John And Jehn - 20L07 (Faculty)
Neil Diamond - Pretty Amazing Grace (Columbia)
We Are Scientists- Chic Lit (Virgin)
Oppenheimer - Cate Blanchett (Fantastic {Plastic)
The Ting Tings - Shut Up And Let Me Go (Columbia)
Alexander Tucker - Poltergeists Grazing (ATP)

Tat's Entertainment

Stuart Bailie | 22:14 UK time, Thursday, 15 May 2008

Everybody should get a stupid tattoo at some stage. It's the mark of youthful vanity, the feckless kid who lives in the ever-present rush, but later sees his aspirations smudging under the skin. Which is why I have a little laugh to myself when I see my initials inked on my upper arm. It really does look absurd.


Back in the day, it was fashionable to deface your parts with Indian ink. You simply fixed up a needle with a piece of thread wrapped along the side to act as a reservoir. Then you jabbed away until the mark was in. There was an outside chance of gangrene and septicaemia, but hey, we were hard.

I think it was in the summer of 1977 that we got our tattoos. It was a gang thing, but I was sufficiently middle class to put mine above the line of a T-shirt sleeve. Some of the other lads were filling up their forearms with the names of football teams and unsavoury organisations. The stickman outline of 'The Saint' from the TV show was another crap favourite.

Then again, tattoos were in the family line. My uncle Hammy had a massive eagle on his arm while his father had a lady in a flowing skirt, made from the Union Jack. My grandad had travelled the world with the Eighth Army, and I suspect that the skirt had been added later, to safeguard the woman's modesty.

Around the same time as I was getting my initials done, my cousin was putting BCR on her arm. A few years later she was getting married in a short sleeve dress and so was obliged to cancel her affection for the Bay City Rollers. A series of acid burns did the trick.

Occasionally, I think of covering my adolescent error with something proper. I've entertained the notion of a black rose, like the Thin Lizzy album cover from 1978. But the missus reckons it will merely look like a large bruise. So I've held off. And every summer, my children look at my fading letters with unaffected scorn. I deserve it.

No Shine For Sinead

Stuart Bailie | 22:22 UK time, Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Why did Sinead O' Connor not move me last night? I normally care for the music, the voice, the style and the rage. She was excellent last year at Oxygen, and I've seen her in magisterial form at Glastonbury, the Dominion Theatre, the National Boxing Stadium and the Finsbury Park Fleadh. Even the legendary appearance at the Madison Square Garden in 1992, booed and barracked by intolerant Bob Dylan fans was equal to the legend. I've never seen a bad one.

sinead160.jpgBut at the Waterfront with the Ulster Orchestra, it didn't fizz. There were a few moments near the end of 'The Last Day Of Our Acquaintance' when she took the music soaring into the ether. But for such a rarefied event, there was a dreary 'Don't Cry For Me Argentina' and a shockingly drab 'Nothing Compares 2 U', minus all the high notes.

She seemed distanced while the orchestra also felt muted and at times, superfluous. The young Sinead often used a couple of chords with her music, and there's only so much pizzicato you an embellish that with. And oddly, her voice was down in the mix. Compare this to the recent show by Bjork in the same venue and there's a huge chasm between their audacity and commitment.

Last year's Orchestral Manoeuvres gig was thrilling because Foy Vance and Duke Special were working to a budget and an expansive palette that was previously denied to them. You felt their excitement. But Sinead has already been scored by Phil Ramone, Craig Armstrong, Fiacra Trench and more. This time, she didn't feel it, and neither did we.

PLAYLIST 09.05.08

Stuart Bailie | 10:24 UK time, Sunday, 11 May 2008

The Martha Wainwright album is eccentric all the way. Suicide and obsessive love, absent friends and infidelities. But that's not to say that it's all good, and her cover of 'See Emily Play' lacks the saucer-eyed vision of the Syd Barrett version. The new Costello album is all speen, barking directions and the wonderful focus of Steve Nieve and Pete Thomas. Bonus marks for including Jenny Lewis on backing vocals.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM, 1341 MW
Fridays, ten - midnight

martha.jpgRolling Stones -Tumbling Dice (EMI)
Eli Reed And the True Loves - Doin The Boom Boom (Q Division)
Jeremy Warmsley - Temptation (Transgressive)
Elvis Costello - No Hiding Place (Lost Highway)
New Pornographers - All For Swinging You Around (Rhino)
Rachel Austin - Love Won't Fall (white)
John Hiatt - Cherry Red (New West)
Stereolab - Three Women (Duphonic)
The Sleeping Years - Macosquin, Coleraine (Rocket Girl)
Elvis Presley - Working On The Building (RCA)
Barry Adamson -I Could Love You (Central Control)
Johnathan Richman - Miracles Will Start To Happen (Special Delivery)
Martha Wainwright - You Cheated Me (Drowned In Sound)
Van Morrison - Behind The Ritual (Polydor)

Sharon Jones And The Dap Kings - Something's Changed (Worlds Fair)
costello.jpgElvis Costello - Song With Rose (Lost Highway)
Jens Lekman - Friday Night at The Drive In Bingo (Secretly Canadian)
Hayman Watkins Trout & Lee - Dirty Tube Train (Fortuna Pop)
Josh Ritter - Empty Hearts (V2)
The Tex Mex Experience -Lemme Kiss Ya (Evangeline)
Sons And Daughters - This Gift (Domino)
REM - Hollow Man (Warner)
Tom McShane - Promise Me (white)
Martha Wainwright - See Emily Play (Drowned In Sound)
Martin Stephenson- Cherryade & Rock n Roll (Baracudaville)
Leo Abrahams - Devil's Mouth (Canderblinks)
Carlene Carter - Stronger (Yep Rock)
Miracle Fortress - Have You Seen In Your Dreams (Rough Trade)
Black Affair - It's Real (V2)

The Axeman Cometh

Stuart Bailie | 19:23 UK time, Saturday, 10 May 2008

Last night in Belfast, Andy White played his first album in entirety. The return to 'Rave On...' was a strangely moving experience, a return to 1986 and all that. He was supported by the old firm of sister Cathy on vocals and Rod McVey on the Hammond organ, gurgling and riffing, the Al Kooper to Andy's Bob Dylan.

Andy-White.jpgIt was achievement enough to remember all the words that young Andy had committed to vinyl, a splurge of poetry, self-consciousness and beat whimsy. But he delivered it well, and chose not to comment on his own juvenilia. Which was just as well, as the music has survived the times. Actually, I remember feeling uneasy back in 1986 about the many references to Belfast and the intense situation. But hearing it 22 years on, and that body of work summons up plenty of the tension, the dread and the absurdity of it all.

Many other people in the audience were affected by the flashbacks. Not so much the big tunes like 'Religious Persuasion' and 'Reality Row'. More so the desperate rush of 'The Rain Dance' and the word bombs of 'The Walking Wounded'. There's a scene in a latter lyric, where one of our psychotic exports is waylaid in the Heathrow Departure Lounge. The axeman is on a guaranteed standby ticket, and suddenly I remember the appalling tone of the age, when a visit to England was a brutal operation, harassed and herded to a holding pen out of harm's way. I could taste the stress and the petty havoc of such scenes.

In terms of the Troubles legacy, it's not a critical detail, and there were thousands of more demeaning acts. But that vision opened up a whole layer of memories for us last night. It shook us up. I thank the young Andy for noticing it, and to the mature artist for bringing it home again.

Sweat Sweat Sweat

Stuart Bailie | 09:44 UK time, Wednesday, 7 May 2008

If you look hard enough you can find plenty of moral instruction in rock and roll. And I'm not talking about Cliff Richard, daddy-o. Actually, I'm urging you to listen again to The Sex Pistols and their fourth single 'Holidays In The Sun'. It's a song that was inspired by the band's visit to Berlin and the creepy realisation that some day, tourists would be flocking to concentration camps to witness a bit of history.

holidays.jpgThat idea is commonplace now, and the holiday industry has a unique term for it. They call it "dark tourism" and while they don't talk about it much in public, Belfast is quietly gearing up for a bit of that. So there's an intention to keep some of our nasty old murals intact, and to preserve a range of the appalling artefacts from The Troubles. Pretty soon, you'll be able to buy the Ulster Conflict bumper sticker and the matching T shirt.

The Sex Pistols went further when Johnny Rotten wailed about "a cheap holiday in other people's misery". He was talking about the responsibility that comes from having a better economy than some other earth dweller. Historically, it's a licence to plunder and exploit, and I was thinking again of these lyrics when I watched the latest episode of the BBC3 series, Blood Sweat And T Shirts.

blood2.jpgThe show takes six young fashion muppets from England and delivers them into the Indian garment industry. Each layer gets them closer to pure deprivation, from manufacture to cotton preparation. Some of the visitors are merely horrified, but ad executive Richard originally claimed that the Indians just weren't trying hard enough to better themselves. That was last week, and now the chastened fellow seems to have accepted that poverty is often an accident of birth.

This week, the Brits visitors staggered under mountains of cotton, and gawped at a sweat shop in a slum district that might have been designed by Satan himself. This was an odd kind of entertainment. It was instructive in a way that many BBC3 programmes are not. It wasn't a cheap holiday.

He Is The Booley Boy

Stuart Bailie | 10:01 UK time, Tuesday, 6 May 2008

As an old school journalist, I still hoard bits of paper, press releases, photos and interesting newspaper clippings. All of the aforementioned are gathered into piles and then stashed away in two large filing cabinets in the home office. There's one cabinet for Irish music and culture and the other for the rest of the known world.

These days, a few computer clicks and much of this information can be accessed online. Thanks to Wikipedia, we can all bluff it in any major subject, so my old trove of information is in question. My family think I'm a mad old duffer. But still I persist, believing that my esoteric collection gives me the edge over the amateur. That's why I have many reams of Van Morrison musings, or the utterances of Radiohead from their very first fanzine articles.

But space is finite and over the weekend, a cull took place. I dispensed with files full of redundant information on The Stunning, The Sawdoctors and Cactus World News. It was time to forget the soggy old festivals, the failed record labels and the yapping contenders who never did contend with much.

booley200.jpgIn the middle of all this was my Booley collection. This was the actions of Peter Wilson, sometime between DBA and Benzine Headset, before he morphed ultimately into Duke Special. Around 1997 he released a fine single called 'Bathroom Floor' and I interviewed the spikey-headed fellow for Hot Press. Interestingly, I also filed the transcript, which was worth re-reading.

Peter was talking about his travels from High School in Downpatrick, to a spell in Bristol and Swindon and his time on a record label belonging to Howard Jones. He was enthusing about Sparklehorse and Aimee Mann and claiming the rights to be abrasive as well as melodic.

"I want to be beautiful at some times, despairing at other time and kicking at other times," he claimed, rather defiantly. And you know, he was essentially true to his word.

Playlist 02.04.08

Stuart Bailie | 12:11 UK time, Saturday, 3 May 2008

The week started with Bjork live and unfettered in Belfast and it tailed off last night with Yachts from Portland, Oregon, stomping around in a rather preppy manner. In the middle of this tumult was the chance to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Rock Against Racism rally at Victoria Park London.

To mark the occasion, the Equality Commission in Belfast had delivered a day of music and workshops, involving the Motion Project, some original old punks (Shame Academy) and myself, talking about songs with social commentary. That took us from Civil War slavery tunes via Curtis Mayfield and then Billy Bragg and Wilco bellowing out 'You Fascists Are Bound To Lose'. I enjoyed it.

Best bit was a chance to see the 1978 documentary film, 'Who Shot The Sherriff?'. It put the anti-Nazi movement into context and plotted the rise of the National Front in England. In response, the reggae acts and the punks united, and at Victoria Park, more than 50 000 people got the message. It was a marvel to remember Steel Pulse, rastas from Handsworth, singing Ku Klux Klan with their white hoods on. And there were a few shots of The Clash, hurtling through 'White Riot' with Jimmy Pursey from Sham 69, mugging along gamely.

The nostalgia is good enough, but the ultimate point is that as Northern Ireland should never trade sectarianism to racism, and that we've seen too many rivers of blood to start scaremongering about that kind of a future.

Back in the day, there was a short-lived attempt to establish Rock Against Sectarianism over here. It didn't catch on, but in memory of those years, I played a Stiff Little Fingers recording on my show last night. 'Johnny Was' was the work of Bob and Rita Marley, the story of a stray bullet that left a dead boy and a grieving mother. SLF transplanted the song from Trenchtown to Belfast and launched it on their debut album. Back in 1978 I thought that it sounded forced, a bad copy of The Clash and 'Police and Thieves'. But actually, it's all heart.

PLAYLIST 02.05.08

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM, 1341 MW
Fridays, ten - midnight

The Aces Of Spade - The Honeydripper Lounge (Rhino)
Elbow - One Day Like This (Fiction)
Fleet Foxes - Ragged Wood (Bella Union)
Foy Vance - Shed A Little Light (Wurdamouth)
Otis Redding - I'm Depending On You (Rhino/Atco)
Joan As Police Woman - To Be Loved (Reveal)
Lord Large and Dean Parrish - Left Right And Centre (Acid Jazz)
Paul Weller - Have You Made Up Your Mind (Island)
Sarabeth - Nobody Cares (Echo)
Robert Forster - Let Your Light In, Babe (Tag5)
CSS - Rat Is Dead (Warner)
Iron & Wine - Lovesong Of The Buzzard (Sub Pop)
Stiff Little Fingers - Johnny Was (Rough Trade)

Bjork - Joga (One Little Indian)
Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal (Bella Union)
The Charlatans - Oh Vanity (CV)
Joseph Arthur - In The Sun (Real World)
Noah and The Wall - Shape Of My Heart (Vertigo)
T Bone Burnett - Kill Zone (Nonesuch)
Lemonheads -Confetti (Atlantic/Rhino)
The Henry Girls - Mean Old Wind (white)
Bon Iver - For Emma (4ad)
Ruth Brown - Things About Coming My Way (Rhino)
Portishead - Deep Water (Island)
Robert Forster - The Evangelist (Tag5)

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