I'm listening to a 1982 recording of the Clash playing 'Tommy Gun' at Shea Stadium. They're taking a mad tilt at the tune, hurling the music to the tens of thousands that have come to see headliners The Who. It's the chance for the band to make a proper breakthrough. And of course it's also a time for the band to question whether they have sold out their punk rock values for the Yankee Dollar.
The Clash were always fretting about such things, pinballing between grand ambition and precious ethics. It gave an extra dynamic to the band, and it furthered the legend. This part of the story is examined in detail in this month's Mojo magazine, as Joe Strummer reconnected with their rather mad manager, Bernie Rhodes, while Mick took the hissy fits and Topper Headon left in an opiated fog.
There's a rocking video of the band at Shea, playing 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go' in a stage of proper delerium. Now there's a chance to hear the full set, as the live CD is released on October 6. There's also a coffee table book scheduled for the Xmas market that should make many old dads happy on December 25.
I finally got my interview with Dale Grundle from The Sleeping Years. He was over in Belfast for a support slot with The Bower Birds and so he visited Studio 8 en route.
He's a chaming, literate chap from Coleraine who can't quite figure how his debut single with The Catchers, 'Cotton Dress' became a cult hit in Europe in 1994. But it did and it made a large impression on his life. That's the weird thing about rock and roll. Your intense juvenilia may cast an awesome shadow over the rest of your days.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Fridays, ten - midnight
Ronnie Spector - Here Today Gone Tomorrow (Green Spec)
Okkervil River - Lost Coastlines (Jagjaguar)
Ry Cooder - Let's Work Together (Ryko)
Kings Of Leon - Manhattan (RCA)
Seasick Steve - Started Out With Nothin' (Warner)
Mr Scruff - Music Takes Me Up (Ninja Tune)
The Four Tops - Do What You Gotta Do (Motown)
The Sleeping Years- Maquosquin Coleraine (Rocket Girl)
The Catchers - Cotton Dress (Setanta)
The Sleeping Years- Setting Fire To Sleepy Towns (Rocket Girl)
Jolie Holland - The Future (Anti)
The Waterboys- On My Way To Heaven (EMI)
Jenny Lewis - Carpetbaggers (Rough Trade)
The Kinks - Autumn Almanac (Sequel)
Jeremy Warmsley - Dancing With The Enemy (Transgressive)
Chrisie Hynde - My Father (Wildflower)
Peter Broderick - And It's Alright (Bella Union)
Southern Tenant Folk Union - Best Of Me (Ugly Nephew)
Fight Like Apes - Jake Summers (Model Citizen)
Jimmy Smith - Who's Afraid Of Virginia Wolf? (Verve)
Jim Jones Review - The Meat Man (Punk Rock Blues)
Ronnie Spector - You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory (Green Spec)
Penetration - Our World (Damaged Goods)
The Sundown Playboys - Saturday Nite Special (Ace)
Jape - Strike Me Down (V2)
I met my future wife 20 years ago in a rather unsavoury club called 'Son of Redneck'. It was in a basement bar close to Selfridges in London's West End and the playlist was full of cajun and honky tonk, western swing and bluegrass. The DJs were Joe Hagan from Nigeria and Steve England , a local fella. My missus was dressed as a saloon girl and was posing with her art college pals. I was rocking the trucker look with a favourite cap advertising the Milwaukee Brewers.
A few of the Pogues were there, and so was Elvis Costello. Several mates from Zodiac Mindwarp's Love Reaction were dancing the two step when they weren't dodging the bottles and fists. Alan McGee held court in the toilets and the following mornings were painful.
There's a fun playlist that takes me back there. Nathan Abshire's 'Hee Haw Breakdown' was a stomper, as was Johnny Allen's 'South To Louisiana'. You couldn't do wrong with 'All My Exes Live In Texas', even 'Orange Blossom Special' or some Los Lobos.
A got a Redneck flashback earlier this evening in the downstairs bar of McHugh's Bar in Belfast. The reliably great Open House Festival was revving up and The Samsonites were slapping the bass, screeching the fiddle and hollering plenty. And like I sometimes do, I gave my feet an involuntary shuffle, like an arthritic old boy from the Appalachians. Nobody ever taught me how to do this, but the music is somehow in the DNA, heel to heel and toe to toe.
I spent a lovely evening with Duke Special last night. We were pre-recording a radio show that will go out sometime in October, to promote his excellent new album, 'I Never Thought This Day Would Come'. Peter talked us through a clatter of new songs that range from rumbustious jazz to ballads and wibbling exotica. The stories are rich, the creative rush is ongoing and there is talk of some astonishing events before the year is out.
The friendship between Duke Special and The Divine Comedy is also gathering pace, and anyone who manages to catch the Amnesty gig on October 14 in Dublin is in for an amazing shoot-out between two grand pianos. Also expect some theatricals and while I can't go into the details, you might imagine Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone. With Steinways...
There's a scene in George Orwell's 1984 when Winston Smith looks out his window to view a hefty old lady, pegging out nappies on the washing line, singing a doleful, cheap tune:
"It was only an 'opeless fancy,
It passed like an Ipril dye,
But a look an' a word an' the dreams they stirred,
They 'ave stolen my 'eart awye."
The song is plainly trite, churned out by a machine called a versificator. The all-controlling State uses such lyrics, issued by the Music Department, to keep the proletariat distracted. In the novel, the central character thinks this is a drivelling piece of work. But Winston also concedes that it's actually a rare experience to hear a human singing with apparent spontaneity, soul, even.
I was thinking about this when I saw 'The Family' last Wednesday night. All that wailing and posturing and teenage bile. The apparent hopelessness of the Hughes parents as their carefully tended lives get stretched to the very ends. And then, in a near impossible turnaround, mother and daughter Emily are reconciled for a moment. And what do they do? They sing 'Foundations' by Kate Nash:
"And every time we fight I know it's not right,
every time that you're upset and I smile.
I know I should forget, but I can't."
It's another apparently charmless tune, a product of the music industry that's mainly configured by profit and venality. But the Hughes family understand that if you invest in the music with your heart, then the hopeless fancies become something way more profound.
As promised yesterday, the show highlighted some new Mercury Rev (which sounds like it was madly misdirected on the way to a Big Rave), plus TV On The Radio, which I mixed into 'Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence'. I don't mix as a rule, but instinct told me that the tunes would work together and I was in that rare but magical zone when you feel that cool things are possible.
Near the end, myself and Joe Lindsay enthused about The Charlatans, but reserved the right to critique Tim Burgess and his hairdo, which has gone a bit '20s flapper, a bit Louise Brooks. Maybe we're just jealous, but is that appropriate for a north country boy of a certain age? And is the new single an audacious steal from New Order, or what?
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Fridays, ten - midnight
Tom Waits- Come On Up The The House (Epitaph)
The Hold Steady - Stay Positive (Rough Trade)
Mercury Rev - Senses On Fire (V2)
Dennis Wilson - Time (Caribou)
Robert Holmes- I've Got This Feeling (Shanty Tramp)
Lucinda Williams - Circles And X's (Lost Highway)
TV On The Radio - DLZ (4AD)
Ry Cooder - Waiting For Some Girl (Nonesuch)
Vampire Weekend - A Punk ( XL)
O Death - Fire On Peshtigo (City Slang)
Damien Jurado - Gillian Was A Horse (Secretly Canadian)
Mercury Rev - Butterfly's Wing (V2)
Brian Houston - Feeling In The Morning (BHS)
Pete Molinari - Adelaine (Damaged Goods)
Orchestra Baobab - Foire Internationale (World Circuit)
Screaming J Hawkins - I Love You (Edsel)
The Charlatans - Oh Vanity (CV)
Jenny Lewis - Godspeed (Warner)
BB King - See That My Grave Is Kept Clean (Geffen)
The Spook Of The Thirteenth Lock - In Country Dark (Transduction)
TV On The Radio - Family Tree (4AD)
Ryuichi Sakamoto - Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence (Milan)
Port O Brien - Close The Lid (City Slang)
Nitin Sawhney - Distant Dreams (CV)
Johnny Cash - Where Did We Go Right (Columbia)
Kinnego Flux - Satsuma (white)
If Mercury Rev never make another decent record again, I'll still hold them dear. My guess is that many of you will feel likewise. Their 'Deserter's Songs' album is ten years old now, but it still has a monumental presence.
Those songs will always conjur up the fleeting rapture and the grinding anxiety of the late Nineties. As they tended to their own damaged lives in the Catskill Mountains, they created something that moved us all. Play 'Holes', 'Opus 40' or 'Goddess On A Highway' and you're instantly back there.
Tonight I'll be playing a few tracks from the new album, 'Snowflake Midnight'. Advance reviews have painted a confused impression of electronics, big rave tunes and strangeness. Which is pretty much how it is. But it's also lovely and individual
I'll also be sampling the new record by TV On The Radio, another stubborn idea that will light up the critics polls in December.
The other night I watched Outlawed: The Real Phil Lynott And the Story Of Thin Lizzy. Loads of the stories were familiar and many of the characters delivered with style. Robbo was royally strange and Philomena told the mother's story with undiminished pain. Some of the satellite characters were bigging themselves up but I'm always affected by the humility of original Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell.
However, the remarkable interview came from George Best. He was anticipating his own imminent death and struggling to get some of the thoughts out, but the guy was also thoughtful and kind. Rather than bragging about the legendary nights at Philomena's boarding house in Manchester, Bestie played it down, claiming that they were too soused to chase the ladies. And he revealed that 'the Boys Are Back In Town' was a kind of personal anthem as he battled his many problems.
Phil has saluted George in a couple of songs: 'For Those That Love To Live' and 'Black Rose'. In return, Best urged the public to love the art and the artist, and not be so prejudiced by the Lynott lifestyle. He was thinking about his own legacy also, and it broke your heart to hear him say it.
On October 10, I'll be doing a special radio show that celebrates the interface between poetry and rock and roll. It's a rich theme and it builds on the success of our William Blake special last year. But I could do with your help. Here are some early suggestions. Let's have your thoughts...
The Clash and Allen Ginsberg - Ghetto Defendant
Kurt Cobain, William Burroughs - The Priest They Called Him
Jackie Leven and Andy White -Come Back Early Or Never Come (Louise MacNeice) David Axelrod - Song of Innocence (William Blake)
The Divine Comedy - Lucy (Wordsworth)
Van Morrison - Crazy Jane On God (WB Yeats)
Van Morrison - Rave On John Donne
Van Morrison and Gerald Dawe - The Days Before Rock And Roll
The Waterboys - Stolen Child (WB Yeats)
The Waterboys - Room To Roam (George MacDonald)
Shane MacGowan - An Irish Airman Foresees His Death (WB Yeats)
Patti Smith -The Last Hotel (Jack Kerouac)
John Cale - The Moon (Jack Kerouac)
10 000 Maniacs - Hey Jack Kerouac
Any suggestions for how we might include Coleridge , Rimbaud, Bukowski, Larkin, Dickinson, Betjeman, Plath, Burns, Dylan? Got any McGonagall?
In 1966, The Shangri-Las missed the Top 40 with an astonishing record called 'Past Present And Future'. It features the voice of a broken soul reviewing the harm of a past affair, which leaves her unable to function romantically. She looks to the future but it doesn't seem too cheery either. Like all the great Shangri-Las records ('The Leader Of The Pack', 'Maybe', 'Give Him A Great Big Kiss') it has lashings of drama and it feels like the singer is a bona fide bad girl. Small wonder that Amy Winehouse is a fan.
Oh and another thing. The tune of the record is actually 'Moonlight Sonata' by Beethoven, which adds bonus heartbreak value. Such are the things that turn good records into peerless ones, and I think that Glasvegas understand this already.
Glasvegas, of course, are the designated indie champions of the moment. 'Daddy's Gone' was the glowering jewel in last year's critics polls and the self-titled album is finally matching some of the expectation. The drums thump in that colossal way that gave those old Ronnettes records so much authority. They see danger, romance and melodrama in the dark side of town. And while 'Stabbed' should be an absurd account of panic in the streets of Glasgow, I like it. And I bet Morrissey does also. The fact that Glasvegas also borrow from 'Moonlight Sonata' makes pure sense to me.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Fridays, ten - midnight
The Four Tops - I'm Grateful (Motown)
Glasvegas - Flowers And Football Tops (Sony/BMG)
Boozoo Chavis - Gilton (Elektra)
Fleet Foxes - He Doesn't Know Why (Bella Union)
ZZ Top - TV Dinners (Warner)
Amy LaVere - People Get Mad (Archer)
Seasick Steve - St Louis Slim (Warner)
Mercury Rev - Senses On Fire (V2)
Michelle Shocked - One Piece At A Time (Red)
Neon Neon - Raquel (Lex)
The Sleeping Years - Clocks and Clones (Rocket Girl)
Golden Gate Quartet - Rock My Soul (DejaVu)
Phil Wilson - Neon Lights (Slumberland)
MIA - Paper Planes (XL)
David Holmes - Theme IMC (Mercury)
The Smiths - Shakespeare's Sister (Rough Trade)
Glasvegas - Lonesome Swan (Sony/BMG)
The Deltones - Early Morning Rock (Castle)
Port O' Brien - The Roof Top Song (City Slang)
Bob Dylan - Dreaming Of You (Columbia)
Emily Jane White - Hole In The Middle (Talitres)
Seasick Steve - Started Out With Nothin (Warner)
Black Mountain - Wucan (Jagaguar)
Henry McCullough - Fix Me Up Jesus (There Wolf)
Amy LaVere - Cupid's Arrow (Archer)
Loudon Wainwright III - Motel Blues (Yep Roc)
Glasvegas - Stabbed (Sony/BMG)
Nick Freitas - Oh My God (Affairs Of The Heart)
My Brightest Diamond - Hymne A L'Amour (Asthmatic Kitty)
A friend has just send me this link to a rather amusing blog from the Guardian. It's about musical hack attacks, about a long tradition of rock stars abusing the writers who have the temerity to say something that threatens the PR consensus. In the middle of it, there's a rather distorted version of my 'incident' with Paul Weller. It seems that I'm in good company.
I think I may have riffed on this subject before, but it's a fertile area. Queen fans have threatened to kill me. A local band, essentially lacking in charm and talent, has written a song about yours truly. There was the unpleasant moment at the Odyssey when Noel and Liam shouted and threw stuff as I stood in the pit. And when it fell on myself to break the news to NME readers that Pop Will Eat Itself had released a particularly poor record, the band was outraged. It culminated in aggressive scenes in the toilets on the Underworld in Camden, when they accused me of only liking "spudpicker music".
My old editor knew the score. "You're not writing this to be mates with the bands," he would bellow. And he was right.
Back in 1988 it was Hurricane Gilbert that was doing all the damage. One in five of Jamaican homes were damaged and 45 died, It inspired a fund-raising concert at the Dominion Theatre on Tottenham Court Road, London and I was there with 2500 other people.
I've just found the ticket, hence the random nature of the post. It was October 16, and I honestly can't remember the performances by Robert Palmer, The Christians and Chris Rea. I guess they were all friends of Chris Blackwell, the boss of Island Records, a man that had made a tidy living from Jamaica's greatest artists. This event was Blackwell's payback.
Enter U2, still feverish from the 'Rattle And Hum' era, and dressed in their finest Killiney Cowboy duds. Their short set peaked with 'Love Comes To Town' as Keith Richards sauntered aroud the little stage, unwinding these serpentine guitar lines, deputising for the absent BB King. The posse was then supplemented by Ziggy Marley and they all chorused 'Love Rescue Me', with feeling. It was an odd little night but I'm glad the thought of it has just come back to me.
Saturday was busy in all the right ways. The early afternoon provided a chance to revisit Blick Shared Studios in Belfast, where good people are pulling together imaginative plans. The new instalment was a get-together called Creative Camp, a place where artistic heads, multi-media folk and various twitter-bugs were encouraged to confer.
A few hours later and we'd taken a steer to the Good Vibes record shop on Winetavern Street, where Terri Holey was celebrating the 30th anniversary of 'Teenage Kicks' and a vinyl re-pressing of that mighty Undertones single. Mickey Bradley was there to represent the band, while folks such as Glenn Patterson, Petesy Burns and the Panama Kings kept things interesting.
Next stop was The Menagerie, revived and re-opened for one night at least to launch the new David Holmes album. The decor is still fabulously dingy, reminding us of fearsome nights with The Make Up and The Gossip, while David had decorated the back wall with his own fragments and icons, a kind of pop art detritus that gave some physical shape to the record. Glasses were tilted in celebration, Cashier No. 9 played some tunes and the cheer was palpably great.
Nothing extraordinary to report about Friday's playlist, although I can confirm that the tunes were majestic. Lucinda Williams is revving plenty on her new album, and sounds more liberated with every new release. The voice and the guitar are pure grunge. The new Jenny Lewis album is also fearless while Austin's Okkerville River are set to release a choice companion piece to their 2007 classic, 'The Stage Names'.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Fridays, ten - midnight
The Isley Brothers- Listen To The Music (Epic)
Smokey Angle Shades - Don't Leave Me (white)
Okkerville River - Lost Coastlines (Jagaguar)
Lucinda Williams - Real Love (Lost Highway)
Sonny Boy Williamson, Memphis Slim - I Could Hear My Name Ringin' (Rounder)
Monkey - Heavenly Peach Banquet (XL)
Band Of Horses - The Funeral (Sub Pop)
Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue (Warner)
Ben Glover - No Direction Home (Mr Jones)
Jorge Ben - Oba La Vem Ela (Phillips)
Broken Social Scene Present Brendan Canning - Hit The Wall (Arts And Crafts)
U2 - Eleven O' Clock Tick Tock (Island)
The Clash - Hitsville UK (CBS)
Lucinda Williams - Well Well Well (Lost Highway)
Smokey Angle Shades - The Ha Ha Tree (white)
Curtis Mayfield - Back To Living Again (WEA)
Burning Codes - For All Time (Only Gone)
Okkerville River - Singer Songwriter (Jagaguar)
Chrissie Hynde - Morning Glory (Astor Place)
Jeremy Warmsley - How We Became ( Transgressive)
John Fahey - My Station Will Be Changed After While (Takoma)
The Lowly Knights -Devotion (white)
The Delphonics - I Don't Want to Make You Wait (Philly Groove)
The Faint - The Geeks Were Right (V2)
F+++ Buttons - Colours Move (ATP)
During my brief time in London this week, I stopped off with an old music journalist pal called Malu Halasa. She's a Jordanian-American who worked for Rolling Stone, was subsequently inspired by the 2 Tone era and wrote a book about The Beat that's now rather collectible. She was an early enthusiast of hip hop, getting to know the chief players and somewhere in the files, there a cover story on LL Cool J that was authored by the pair of us.
Some music writers stay on the job, rehashing, faking it, or merely minding the shop. Others break into the business side of things while a great many simply give up on the pretence and the posturing. But Malu is a proper writer now with an individual journey, drawn into lesser known aspects of Arabic culture. She has just launched two books. The first, Secret Life Of Syrian Lingerie is self-explanatory, and is probably more peculiar than you think it may be. Her other publication, Transit Tehran, is an overview of new talent, new subcultures, essays and images. She's not going quietly.
Paradise is a cool little place near Kensal Rise in west London. I'm there on a Wednesday night to see a band called Smokey Angle Shades. Originally they were called Pat And Nipsy, active in Belfast around 2006-07. Then they went to Liverpool to become The Fools before steering to London and rebranding.
I'm delighted to hear they are making effervescent music and that London is responding in kind. The upstairs room at Paradise is full of smiling individuals who have bought into the four part harmonies, the piano, the fiddle, the facial hair and the thumping tunes. Recent faves like 'Don't Leave Me' and 'Ha Ha Tree' are rudely received while newcomers Ned and Antonio are smartly integrated. Fred still wears the top hat and plays a clatter of instruments with gusto.
A sombre looking fellow in a grey jacket stands at the back. But even he's nodding and approving at the end. He is Geoff Travis, the man who signed Stiff Little Fingers, The Smiths, The Strokes and The Libertines. According to legend, he inspired the song 'Frankly Mr Shankly', so he knows an excellent bit of music hall when he hears it. Travis may be here to watch the headliners, the artfully peculiar Micachu (essence of The Slits, not averse to playing a vacuum cleaner onstage), but the music man is having some bonus value.
This is a warm-up for the Bestival festival in the Isle Of Wight, and while the weather forecast is gloomy, The Shades will be put to good use.
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