Archives for October 2010

Hooray For Hooleygan

Stuart Bailie | 22:17 UK time, Sunday, 31 October 2010

Congratulations to Terri Hooley, who has now sold more than 1000 copies of his biography, Hoolegan. It's a mark of the affection that the guy commands locally and also recognition that it's a roaring story - Sixties revolution, Seventies punk action, followed by the lost years and finally the comeback of a Belfast legend.

I've been savoring the book over the last few weeks, not wanting to blast it all at a sitting. Many of the stories I know well, but there are details that add value. And the early days of the story are very illuminating - the father into his socialism, the mother into her church and the city momentarily opening up like a rare flower, before events poisoned the bloom for 30 years.

We also have a champion of sorts in writer Richard Sullivan, who organised the story, taking the multitude of fractured anecdotes and providing a narrative. Every musician and budding entrepreneur should read this. It's no model for best business practice, but it demonstrates that you can support fierce art in terrible times, facing down the thugs, the defeatists and the blowhards. In 2011, we can all bleat about the economics, but surely it will never be as horrendous as it was, back in the day.

Sign Of The Tomes

Stuart Bailie | 12:27 UK time, Saturday, 30 October 2010

The previous blog about feeding your head with books has got me thinking. As Paul Morley explained, songwriters with well-used bookcases tend to deliver better stuff. For instance. where would 'OK Computer' be without Thom Yorke's preference for Chomsky, Will Hutton, JG Ballard and George Monbiot? And what about the Manics Street Preachers, who spat out Plath and Pinter and declared that "libraries gave us power". Meantime the most vivid part of Bob Dylan's Chronicles finds him at the home of a New York bohemian and he's devouring the French symbolist poetry and heavy thinkers, stacked on the wall, mind-bombs all.

Back at school, we kept our paperbacks in the blazer pocket like a loaded revolver. I'm trying hard to remember the exact titles and the timescale, but I'm sure many of you kind readers were into the same practice, and can remind me of the details.

Catch 22 was definitely there, and I even tried Joseph Hellers' Something Happened as a foretaste of middle aged dread. There was definitely a bit of Kafka, some Camus (L'Etranger for starters, natch), Sartre, and later a soupçon of Gide. The classic boy challenger was On The Road by Kerouac, coupled with The Hitchhiker's Guide To Europe. That also gave me some solace on a personally messy journey from Montauban to Grenoble, accompanied by ferocious sunburn, heartbreak and financial follies.

I also dug The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart and some Richard Brautigan. My friends were sniffy about Tolkein after first form but I had my sci fi moments, particularly John Wyndam. I think I read The Kraken Wakes ahead of The Day Of The Triffids, but it was The Chrysalids that slayed me. Later there was Hemingway and Tom Wolfe, Henry Miller, Salinger, Jim Carroll, Falkner, Elliot, Bukowski, Conrad, Plath, Grass and Roth.

In lighter moments there was John Irving, Henry Root and PJ O' Rourke, plus the lyrical steam of Ian Hunter and Diary Of A Rock And Roll Star. My eldest daughter has just started on the Great Gatsby and to my surprise, I can still remember chunks of the closing section about the green light and the boats against the current. Heady material. These are old pals that I've badly neglected and must get to know again.

Ode To Joy Division

Stuart Bailie | 10:09 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

Paul Morley was in Belfast last night to talk about Joy Division. For this Belfast Festival event, he was partnered by Kevin Cummins, another NME veteran. The music writer and the photographer helped to document the days of Ian Curtis, the enveloping gloom of his last moments and Manchester's unique musical print on the culture.

The talk was severe, flippant and funny by degrees. One of the mad revelations was that bassist Peter Hook was envious of a London band called The Men They Couldn't Hang. Hooky joked that it would have been a better name than New Order. Meantime, Kevin talked us through the mythical photo shoot of January 1979 when the snow was lying thick up north and the photographer lined the band across the Hulme Bridge, framed by the severe architecture.

Morley talked about Ian's reading material, particularly JG Ballard. There would be no 'Atrocity Exhibition' without the author, and it prompted Morley to talk about the lack of literary awareness in music these days. For his generation, it was a constant cross-reference. When David Bowie sang 'Jean Genie', it spurred many young people to read up on Jean Genet. But after the age of Oasis, when reading was scorned, the habit fell away. In Paul's mind, bands that simply reference other bands tend to be dull.

It reminded me of that time at school, when you carried a record bag for your albums, but also had a Penguin Modern Classic in your blazer pocket. It informed who you were and how your mind vibrated. I do miss that.

Playlist 25.10.10

Stuart Bailie | 18:20 UK time, Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Leon Russell does the male grooming rather well - a Kentucky colonel on a casual Friday. Only proper legends can work with such stuff and of course Leon has journeyed with Phil Spector, The Beach Boys, George Harrison, Glen Campbell and more. His new album with Elton John is being keenly presented as the return of 'real' music and indeed that's something defensible. Two troopers going at it on the grand pianos, with Bernie Taupin throwing in sheaves of images from his southern almanac. It's not dissimilar to those early Elton records, but at the same time there's a tenable difference. It often sounds like it's trying overly hard, wreathed in significance and the collective CVs of all the session guys. I think they ought to have booked in some spontaneity.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight

Playlist 25.10.10

Elvis Costello - I Lost You (Universal)
John D'Arcy - Get Over Yourself (Good Vibrations)
Ray Davies, Bruce Springsteen - Better Things (Universal)
Belle And Sebastian - I Can See Your Future (Rough Trade)
Lowly Knights - Burning Powder (We Collect Records)
The Unthanks - The Testimony Of Patience Kershaw (EMI)
Anthallo - John J Audobon (Anticon)
Lowly Knights - Even Keel (We Collect Records)
Ray Davies, Alex Chilton - Til The End Of The Day (Universal)
Gregory Isaacs - Sad To Know You're Leaving (Island)
ABC - Tears Are Not Enough (Mercury)
Captain Kennedy - Bring It All Home (white)
Jenny & Johnny - Big Wave (Warner)
Elton John, Leon Russell - Gone To Shiloh (Mercury)
Lightspeed Champion - Til I Die (Domino)
The Zombies - Care Of Cell 44 (Big Beat)
Caitlin Rose - Learning To Ride (Names)
Telegraph - Mammon (Quay)
Blitzen Trapper - The Tree (Sub Pop)
Neil Young - Sign Of Love (Reprise)
John Deery - Rain (white)
Ray Davies, Mumford And Sons - Days (Universal)

Tears For Piers

Stuart Bailie | 11:38 UK time, Monday, 25 October 2010

The Piers Morgan interview with Cheryl Cole was grimly fascinating. It was a case study in how to extract a tabloid interview from a pop star. No point in discussing the music or any of the creative stuff. It was all about the degrees of pain, the paranoia, the death of the dream. The tears were gushing, geyser-like, as the singer was asked to recall the humiliating details of her husband's betrayal. Piers wanted to know if she still loved him. She wept some more. Malaria was discussed and the torrents continued.

I'm sure the timing of this TV special was carefully scheduled into Cheryl's record release campaign, a week ahead of her X Factor appearance and a day before the Sunday press stories. But what was the point of it all - other than to reveal her emotional incontinence, her damaged neurology? I understand that there's a vacant gig in society, the new Queen Of Hearts, full of empathetic hurt and tragic experience. But who would want it? And how might you ever escape, intact?

Mind Games, Talking Heads

Stuart Bailie | 19:00 UK time, Saturday, 23 October 2010

Amnesty International asked me to chair a discussion earlier this week. The theme was 'John Lennon: Revolutionary Or Fool?' and the event was featured in the Belfast Festival programme. There were four quality speakers on the stage. Anne Devlin is a playwright and author. Johnny Rogan has written books about Lennon, Van Morrison, The Byrds, Neil Young and more. Gavin Martin is an old colleague from the NME who hosts regular events in London called Talking Musical Revolutions. Finally we had Eamonn McCann, writer and activist from Derry.

Everyone was riffing about the music, the politics and the incendiary times. Anne made a strong case for Yoko, her art and the fact that she was a strong Oriental role model at a time when the Vietnam war showed so many female victims. Eamonn was respectful of the singer's engagement with the world and tolerant of the sloganeering. Gavin spoke eloquently about songs such as 'I'm Only Sleeping' and his joyous 'Rock And Roll' album.

Meanwhile, Johnny Rogan supplied many of the known facts about Lennon's Irish dimension, especially the polemic of 1972 and the LP 'Sometime In New York City'. This collection included 'The Luck Of The Irish' and 'Sunday Bloody Sunday', and critics have mostly dismissed the work. But Rogan suggested that it deserved a more sympathetic listen. He even regarded the sneery line about "Anglo pigs and Scotties" as part of the black and white logic of agitprop.

McCann was scathing of Bono, who wrote 'God Part Two' as a reaction to the Goldman biography of Lennon. There was spontaneous applause in the hall and a consensus that few acts these days are political at all. Lennon was a bag of contradictions, but he sure left an interesting trail.

Playlist 18.10.10

Stuart Bailie | 22:10 UK time, Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Paul Shevlin - he's a bit handy. Young chap from Ballymena. Plays piano with swooping aplomb. He cites Duke Special and Ben Folds as influences, and this you can surmise by hearing the music. He also has a tight little band that slams and rolls and on his current release, 'Lift Up Your Head', all this is beautifully demonstrated. Given that Ram's Pocket Radio and Silhouette are also keyboard propelled, you can safely say that our local piano tutors have been put to excellent use in recent years.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight
Playlist 18.10.10

Ian Hunter - Once Bitten Twice Shy (Columbia)
Arcade Fire - Rococo (Mercury)
Bob Dylan - Girl From The North Country (Columbia)
Belle And Sebastian - I Didn't See It Coming (Rough Trade)
Paul Shevlin - Lift Up Your Head (white)
Manic Street Preachers - The Descent (Sony)
Phil Wilson - I Own It (yesboyicecream)
Tiger Cooke - Out Of Reach (IV)
Bob Dylan - Boots Of Spanish Leather (Columbia)
The Bees - Gaia (Fiction)

Solomon Burke - Keep A Diamond In Your Mind (Anti)
Belle And Sebastian - Write About Love (Rough Trade)
Orange Juice - What Presence (Domino)
Tiger Cooke - Your Green Lights (IV)
John Hiatt - Go Down Swinging (New West)
Laetitia Sadier - Un Soir, Un Chien (Drag City)
The Bees - No More Excuses (Fiction)
Sandy Denny - It Ain't Me Babe (Island)
Bob Dylan - Mr Tambourine Man (Columbia)
Darren Hayman - Winter Makes You Want Me More (Fortuna Pop)
Sandy Denny - Who Knows Where The Time Goes (Island)

A Gas, Gas, Gas

Stuart Bailie | 19:35 UK time, Sunday, 17 October 2010

How excellent are the Keith Richards memoirs? On Saturday, we got to read a few choice extracts from 'Life' in the papers. There were shenanigans at Redlands, his country pile, and a dramatic prison sentence in 1967. A trip to Tangiers with Brian Jones and Anita Pallenberg finds the loyalties, the drugs and the passions all getting royally confused. Later, there are star-crossed encounters between Mick and Anita, Keef and Marianne as the Aquarian age gets more feverish.

Richards has previously cut a heroic swathe in books by Marianne Faithful and Stanley Booth. He is totally up to expectations here, and the book sustains that unique voice - camp and bohemian, a kind of swaggering Chelsea palare.

The recent reissue of 'Exile On Main Street' revealed more of the band's musical fibre. And while the book serialisations have so far dealt with the intrigue and the lifestyle, there's an expectation that the riff-meister will have plenty more to deliver.

Protex Redux

Stuart Bailie | 10:02 UK time, Friday, 15 October 2010

Protex were one of the NI bands who grabbed a yard from the punk scene and rode it onwards for a mile or two. Their debut single was 'Don't Ring Me Up', on the Good Vibes label and it was perfect for the age. Schoolkids with guitars, Aidan Murtagh's fluttering vocals and some old Chuck Berry / Johnny Thunders licks, delivered briskly.

Pretty soon they had signed to Polydor Records and were managed by Mary Carol Canon. Apparently she had a connection to Mainman management, who looked after Bowie and Iggy. Given that Owen, Dave and Paul from the band were a year ahead of me at school, this was all quite inspirational. I remember being in the alleyway of the Pound music club in Belfast one night and their manager was talking about upcoming dates and how they needed to plan for the really big stuff. She was comparing Protex to The Beatles. Astounding.

Sadly, it didn't work out, as the band seemed to be lost between pop music and more credible places and were pushed just a little too energetically by the label. There was a series of neat singles, but their album, recorded over the winter of '79-80, was never officially released. Luckily, I had a third generation cassette of the tracks, and it sustained me well.

Now there is a physical release, via Sing Sing Records in New York. The packaging is great and while the music sounds rough in places, there's still a vital element there, particularly on 'Strange Obsessions', the track. It's the account of a midnight creeper and will be forever associated with the punk film, Shell Shock Rock, which used it to soundtrack the horrendous gloom of Royal Avenue on a winter day, during the Troubles. There's an eternal place in my heart for all this.

Playlist 11.10.10

Stuart Bailie | 20:31 UK time, Wednesday, 13 October 2010

John Peel hated 'Where Do You Go To My Lovely'. Much as I respect the old legend, I think that he got it wrong here. Sure, it got to number one in 1969 and it must have been tiresome to hear it often on the radio. At five minutes long, it was also quite an indulgence.

Still, what a top narrative. A girl from the back streets of Naples finds her introduction to the international jet trash and never looks back. Or does she? Her former soul mate watches the girl's social progress with quiet dismay. His only consolation is that in her quiet moments, Marie Claire may remember her past and the betrayal that got her out of there.

The Peter Sarsted original has much to recommend it, including the wibbling accordion, But in 1992, there was a different take, as delivered by Welfare Heroine. The singer was music journalist Dele Fadele, accompanied on guitar by ace Belgian photographer Stefan de Batselier and some personnel from This Mortal Coil. It's a bit turbulent and woozy, but that also fits with the song. The recording appeared on a record called 'Ruby Trax', which celebrated the 40th birthdays of both The Spastics Society and the NME. I must listen again for Suede and a vivacious try at 'Brass In Pocket'.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM

Mondays, ten - midnight

Playlist 11.10.10

Orange Juice - Rip It Up (Domino)
The Gaslight Anthem - Spirit Of Jazz (Side One Dummy)
Dr John - tribute including:
The Band - Such A Night (Capitol)
Dr John - Walk On Gilded Splinters (Atlantic)
Dr John - Junko Partner (Atlantic)
Dr John - Right Time, Wrong Place (Elektra)
Dr John -Basin Street Blues (Warner)
Joe Worricker - Finger Wagger (Rough Trade)
Protex - A Place In Your Heart (Sing Sing)
Stornoway - I Saw You Blink (4ad)
Solomon Burke - Got To Get You Of f My Mind (Atlantic)
Young Rebel Set - Measure Of A Man (Ignition)
Manic Street Preachers - The Future Is Forever (Sony)
Protex - Strange Obsession (Sing Sing)
Orange Juice - I Can't Help Myself (Domino)
Cathy Davey - Dog (Hammer Toe)
Anthony David - 4 Evermore (Dome)
Solomon Burke - Don't Give Up On Me (Anti)
Steve Mason - Boys Outside (Double Six)
James - Rabbit Hole (Mercury)
Wyatt, Atzmon, Stephen - What A Wonderful World (Domino)
The Divine Comedy - A Lady Of A Certain Age (EMI)
Welfare Heroine - Where Do You Go To My Lovely (NME)
Maximum Balloon - Communion (Fiction)
Heliopause - Save For Me (white)
Solomon Burke - It Makes No Difference (Shout Factory)

Solomon Burke RIP

Stuart Bailie | 17:30 UK time, Sunday, 10 October 2010

It is March 29, 2005 and I'm watching Solomon Burke onstage at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. No admission fee, no fuss, just an important soul legend in a great music store, giving it his all. He was a large guy and there were hospital screens set up across the makeshift stage so that he could take up his place with a deal of dignity. The screens were pulled back and there he was on his throne, immaculate.

He was surrounded by sons and grandsons, who gave out red roses to all the ladies in the house. He wore a black Stetson and his voice was astounding. I was there with my BBC pal Mike Edgar, and we were suitably wowed. It was an honour to see a legend like Solomon, getting his dues again, relatively late in his career, and my radio show has often been enriched by his music, particularly his recent work with Joe Henry.

As Van Morrison noted, the guy was real, real gone.

Digging The Scene

Stuart Bailie | 12:46 UK time, Sunday, 10 October 2010

Three years ago, I was blogging about a 1951 film called 'Ace In The Hole'. It's about a guy trapped underground and the media drama that surrounds the story. By the end, the accident site has become a fairground and the controlling journalist (played by Kirk Douglas, who clenches his jaw with gusto) is an utter monster.

I've thought about this film often when news of the mine disaster in Chile has featured on the news. I felt a chill when 'Camp Hope' emerged. But like everyone else, I felt happy for the miners when the escape shaft broke through to them.

So while the media can be a vile intrusion in some cases, you could also argue that in Chile, the world's interest has guaranteed that the national government were obliged to make every effort to rescue those unfortunate souls. Somewhere, Leo Minosa is smiling.

Playlist 04.10.10

Stuart Bailie | 20:48 UK time, Tuesday, 5 October 2010

I was in the NME office in 1991 when the news came through that Morrissey had recruited a guitarist called Boz Boorer. In the days before the internet, knowledge was the personal stuff in your head, and luckily I knew something about the guy's form. He had been a member of the Polecats, a UK rockabilly combo with a minor hit, 'John I'm Only Dancing' in 1981, followed by 'Rockabilly Guy' and a version of Marc Bolan's 'Jeepster'. Later he appeared on The Tube with The Shillelagh Sisters, bashing out 'Give Me My Freedom', a Motown-cowpunk hybrid that I was fond of.

Boz was good for Morrissey, finding his way with 'Vauxhall And I' and helping to write many songs with swaggering cool. I met the man in the BBC Belfast studios a few years back. He was over for a rockabilly festival at Clarendon Dock and was decent company.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight

Playlist 04.10.10

John Lennon - Instant Karma (Apple)
Badly Drawn Boy - I Saw You Walk Away (One Lost Fruit)
Boz Boorer - Miss Pearl (Floating World)
The Lowly Knights - Burning Powder (We Collect Records)
Mark Ronson - Somebody To Love Me (Sony)
Susan Cadogan - Hurt So Good (Trojan)
Tender Trap - Dansette Dansette (Fortuna Pop)
Ben Folds - Belinda (Nonesuch)
Antony And The Johnsons - Thanks You For Your Love (Rough Trade)
The Good Fight - Passport (Halfway)
Neil Young - Love And War (Reprise)

St Etienne - You're In A Bad Way (Heavenly)
Boz Boorer - Rockaway Beach (Floating World)
Building Pictures - Simple Gesture (white)
Ronnie Spector - Ode To LA (Music Collection)
Alexandro Escovedo - Down In The Bowery (Fantasy)
Deerhunter - Helicopter (4ad)
Nina Simone - Little Girl Blue (Crimson)
Antony And The Johnsons - Fletta (Rough Trade)
Captain Kennedy - No Fried Of Mine (white)
Elliott Smith - Happiness (Domino)
Cowboy Junkies - Renmin Park (Proper)
The Lowly Knights - Even Keel (We Collect Records)
Neil Young - Peaceful Valley Boulevard (Reprise)

Banking On Hannon

Stuart Bailie | 09:45 UK time, Monday, 4 October 2010

Neil Hannon took a standing ovation at the Waterfront Studio in Belfast last night. It wasn't one of those phoney acclaims that are sometimes cooked up between the artist and his people. Rather, this was a spontaneous surge - a sign that for well over an hour, the guy had delighted us with ballads, skits and philosophies, delivered on piano and guitar.

He had picked through some of the giddy parts of his recent album, 'Bang Goes The Knighthood'. Sometimes he faltered on the lyrics or the chords, but his charm was enough to carry the event and happily, he was more focused than his Custom House Square gig, earlier in the year.

Cleverly he began with 'My Lovely Horse', to disarm the shouters in the venue. Extra points for arriving in banker's attire and some bonus cover versions, such as 'Don't You Want Me' and New Order's 'Blue Monday'. The latter was sweetly inserted at the end of 'Indie Disco' and the kick drum effect was replicated by Neil pattering the microphone with his fingers. Chap.

The steady fans were sated by the likes of 'Summer House' and 'Tonight We Fly', while 'Our Mutual Friend' smoldered and fumed with impeccable style. The asides were neat and the bliss of 'I Like' suggested that the artist is currently on his emotional uppers. And who would begrudge him that?

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