Archives for June 2011

Scents And Sensibility

Stuart Bailie | 13:38 UK time, Wednesday, 29 June 2011

So what's the most fragrant pop song ever? Could it be 'Chanel No. 5' by American Music Club? Or Joni Mitchell's 'Carey' in which she namechecks her French cologne? Or Rod Stewart during the Brit Ekland years when he bleated listfully about Chanel scent and Cartier rings?

I think 'Perfume' by Sparks is one good contender. The lyrics are a seductive roll call of the most distinguished brands, but hey, the guy isn't interested in Opium, Cacharel or Tommy Girl, because he feels that those creations are merely luring him away from the present. He likes his girl because she doesn't indulge. Hence one of the most interesting lyrics ever: "the olefactory sense is the sense that most strongly evokes memories of the past". Stick that in one of your fancy bottles, Miss Kylie.

Actually two of my all-time favourite songs mention Shalimar, a proper old scent with a 90 year history from the Guérlain family. Johnny Cash referenced it in his stupendously sentimental 'Forty Shades Of Green', a lyric that was apparently inspired by a visit to Dublin. In it, he sings that "the breeze is sweet as Shalimar".

Are you sure Johnny? Shalimar was created by Jacques Guérlain in 1921, and named after the Garden of Shalimar in Lahore, a gesture of big love from Emperor Shah Jehan to his favourite wife Mumtaz. Last time I checked, the Liffey didn't have quite the same aroma.

On Tuesday night, BBC4, I watched the first part of their 'Perfume' documentary. Not really my thing, but I was transfixed when the Guérlain team started work on a revised version of Shalimar. An ancient recipe book was opened and the family secrets were perused. One of the vintage elements is Iris Oil, incredibly expensive to process, but just as important as those notes of bergamot, vanilla and jasmine. All that plus a secret combination, known as the Guérlainade. One female user said the brand was "like being wrapped in a cashmere stole".

Was Van Morrison thinking of such things when he wrote the story of 'Madame George', a flirtatious character of indeterminate gender. As well as playing dominoes in drag and escorting a drunken solder up Cyprus Avenue, this beguiling soul wafts through a haze of something special:

"And that smell of perfume comes drifting through, the cool night air like Shalimar".

Every the sensualist, Van lets us know how it looks, how it sounds and feels and tastes. But importantly, we also know just how it smells. It fills you up, utterly.

Playlist 27.06.11

Stuart Bailie | 12:38 UK time, Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Last week I saw Dan Todd from Cashier No 9, was wearing a papier-mâché diving helmet and singing veeeeerrrry slowly. It was a video shoot for the band's upcoming single 'Lost At Sea' and the plan was to make many thousands of digital stills and then speed them up as a kinda stop-time animated adventure. It looked like a silent movie from more innocent times, and I liked it plenty. So the band members were performing against a cheaply painted backdrop of undersea weeds. Elsewhere there was a rickety boat that wouldn't have taken anywhere far, and a load of wine bottles, that might have simply been refreshments between takes.
The song itself is a handy follow-up to 'Goldstar', and another eloquent persuader for the album, 'To The Death Of Fun'. Producer David Holmes has been getting extra value from his kettle drums (first featured on the legendary 'Smokebelch II' remix, nearly 20 years ago) and the harmonica flights of Tommy Morgan.
Back at the video shoot and Dan was peering out of his cranky helmet and looking like his job was getting a bit hard to fathom. I'd say full fathom five, at least.

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

Oppenheimer - Breakfast in NYC (Smalltown America)
Fleet Foxes - Bedouin Dress (Bella Union)
Gillian Welch - Six White Horses (Acony)
Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson- Black Cat Bone (white)
Booker T Jones - Progress (Anti)
Bon Iver - Michicant (Bella Union)
Rory Gallagher - Fuel To The Fire (Sony)
Aaron Shanley - Tears On Elizabeth Street (Love Gum)
Brian Eno - Pour It Out (Opal)

Cashier No 9 - Lost At Sea (Bella Union)
Flaming Lips - Waitin' For A Superman (Warner)
Robyn G Shiels - Two Nights In June (Hardboiled)
Primal Scream - Damaged (Creation)
Lucy Wainwright Roche - Statesville (Strike Back)
Joni Mitchell - Turn Me On I'm A Radio (Reprise)
Drugstore - Clouds (Drugstore)
Villagers - The Sun Is Hanging From A String (Any Other City)
Gillian Welch - Scarlet Town (Acony)
Feldberg - Dreamin (Small Town America)
Seasick Steve - It's A Long Long Way (PIAS)
Slow Club - Two Cousins (Moshi Moshi)
Bruce Springsteen - Jungleland (Columbia)

I'd Rather Jack

Stuart Bailie | 11:04 UK time, Monday, 27 June 2011

When people talk about their Converse sneakers they invariably mean their Chuck Taylor All-Stars, a basketball design that dates back to 1917. I have an acquaintance who wore a red pair on his wedding day, and so did the Best Man. Like the Doc Martin boot, they are a rock and roll standard - the 'Johnny B Goode' of footwear.

Converse Sneakers

These days you can buy Ramones, AC/DC and Clash themed versions and even the fact that the company was bought out by Nike in 2003 doesn't seem to have harmed the alternative kudos.
Still I have an extra fondness for the Jack Purcell design. It was named and designed by a Canadian badminton champion and supplied the players of 1935. The shoe has an endearing 'smile' on the toe, a light blue sole and a tidy, preppie demeanour. They were originally made by the tyre company Goodrich, but Converse brought them into the fold in the Seventies
I got my first Purcells in 1999. Off-white leather the 3V Ox variation. They don't look so cute these days, but my children refuse to let me bin them. Apparently when ancient sneakers come out, it means that summer has arrived. So I avoided controversy by purchasing a matching black pair, with the red smiles. I took them off to the Fleet Foxes gig at Custom House Square at the weekend and got some indie dirt on them. I think we'll get on just fine.

One Thing About Mary

Stuart Bailie | 11:55 UK time, Friday, 24 June 2011

Fans of Mary Margaret O' Hara are a kind of secret society. The include Michael Stipe, who led a special delegation to the artist's home in Toronto a few years ago, accompanied by the late Vic Chesnutt. They were imploring her to make a follow-up to her 1988 album, 'Miss America', one of the most entrancing records ever. Sadly, they weren't successful, and the devotees have settled for a few collaborations (she's on 'November Spawned A Minster' with Morrissey) a film soundtrack and a tune on a sea shanty compilation. Not much, but we must value what there is.

I've met the artist a few times, firstly at the office of Virgin Records when the record was released. She was a gracious person, but hard to follow as each sentence seemed to mutate into half a dozen possibilities.
Later we met up in Toronto's Queen's Street West, which was then a gloriously bohemian strip. A couple of her brothers ran a place called the Squeeze Bar, which was stuffed with squeaky toys. They come from a large Irish family, each with matching, lazer blue eyes. I loved them.

The last time I saw Mary was The Dominion Theatre, London, on Canada Day, a few years later. Most of the family had come over and think I met most of the gang, including actress sister Catherine, star of Beetlejuice, Home Alone, etc. The show was awesome, the company was grand and nobody wanted to discuss the lack of a follow-up record.

Mary once appeared on the Late Late Show, but it was traumatic, and she felt that her Irish homecoming had been less than perfect. Still, she has many fans from these parts, including the writer / promoter Paul Charles, who worked some references to the singer into his novel, 'The Hissing Of The Lonely Silent Room'. And I was delighted that Conor from The Villagers chose an O'Hara recording, 'Body's In Trouble' for our co-present, radio show earlier this week. Chap.

Playlist 20.06.11

Stuart Bailie | 10:34 UK time, Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Greg Cowan and Brian young were in the studio last night. During the punk wars, they were intense rivals, leaders of The Outcasts and Rudi. But that was all fixed up years ago, when they played together to launch the NI punk book. 'It Makes You Want To Spit'. They toured as Shame Academy, giving respect to each other's songs and now Brian is deputising with the reformed Outcasts. They are booked for The Empire in Belfast, July 30 and then Blackpool's Rebellion festival. Martin Cowan and Raymond Falls are also back in the firm. While the band may have overplayed the agro card back then, they also had the tunes, the voice, humour, glam rock and a rumble-thump dynamic.

They also have an album out on Spit Records called 'Vive Lyon'. It's taken from some vintage radio recordings and it does bear up the myth that the bold boys from Belfast were genuinely big in France. Vive le rock.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM

Mondays, ten - midnight

Bruce Springsteen - Tenth Avenue Freeze Out (Columbia)
Cashier No 9 - Flick of The Wrist (Bella Union)
Larry Williams - She Said Yeah (EMI)
Arctic Monkeys - Reckless Serenade (Domino)
The Outcasts - Self Conscious Over You (Good Vibrations)
The Outcasts - Seven Deadly Sins (Spit)
The Sabrejets - Lone Wolf Blues (Raucous)
Mavis Staples - I Belong To The Band (Anti)
Bon Iver - Towers (4ad)
John Edgar Voe - The Conscript (Bow Lake)
Brian Eno - Glitch (Warp)

Second hour: Villagers co-present

Nick Drake - One Of These Things First (Island)
Villagers - The Pact (Domino)
Fleet Foxes - Montezuma (Bella Union)
Mary Margaret O'Hara - Body's in Trouble (Virgin)
Villagers - The Meaning Of The Ritual (Domino)
Paul Simon - You're the One (Warner)
Villagers - In a New Land You Are Free (ATLsessiontrack)
Pulp - Weeds / Weeds II (The Origin of the Species) (Island)
Scott Walker - It's Raining Today (Fontana)
Swan Silvertones - Working on a Building
Elvis Costello - Watch Your Step (Demon)

I Sequel That Emotion

Stuart Bailie | 13:43 UK time, Thursday, 16 June 2011

I'm aiming to do a radio show of sequel songs. Slightly different to answer songs, but there's probably a grey area. I'll list a few below, but all suggestions appreciated.

'Space Oddity' / 'Ashes To Ashes'

'Peggy Sue' / 'Peggy Sue Got Married'

'Babies' / 'Your Sister's Clothes'

'Johnny B Goode' / 'Bye Bye Johnny'

'Where Do You Go To My Lovely' / 'The Last Of The Breed'

'Love Child' / 'I'm Living in Shame'

'I Am the Walrus' / 'Glass Onion'

Over to you, kind people...

Playlist 13.06.11

Stuart Bailie | 09:40 UK time, Thursday, 16 June 2011

What tune might you put on the playlist ahead of Father's Day? In the past I've considered 'My Old' man by Ian Dury and Peter Gabriel's strangely affecting 'Father, Son'. But this time I've settled for a bit of Bruce. The guy has charted the paternal relationship over a clutch of songs, including 'Independence Day', 'My Father's House', 'Factory', even 'The River'. Douglas Frederick Springsteen comes out of it all fairly well. But I have a special fondness for 'Walk Like a Man'.
It a lyric about the young man's wedding and the ritual import of the day. There is sentimentality there, the kind of moment when you go through the baby photos in your mind. The groom remembers his time as a child on the beach and the reassuring dad's presence. Now he knows that he has to advance as an adult, and he's quietly anxious, hoping that he can do the right thing.
The tune was released on the 'Tunnel of Love' album, after Bruce had married Julianne Phillips. But the songs weren't particularly content and the guy looked awful glum on the record sleeve. So it's interesting in hindsight to note that while the father and the groom are emotionally reconciled, there's no great love song on the collection.
Still, 'Walk Like a Man' was the track that I put on the car player on the way to my mate's wedding. I was Best Man, he sat beside me and we listened to Bruce as the singer carried us through that significant ride to meet his bride. The track still chokes me up a little. Happy Father's Day, you dads and children.

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

Jackie de Shannon - Put A Little Love In Your Heart
Cashier No 9 - Lost At Sea
Versechorusverse - One Fine Day
Carole King - Profile
The Shirelles - Will You Love Me Tomorrow
Carole King - It Might As Well Rain Until September
The City & Carole King - Victim of Circumstance
Carole King - I Feel The Earth Move
James Taylor & Carole King - You've Got A Friend
Ane Brun - Do You Remember
Ash - Walking Barefoot
Cults - Bumper
Katie And The Carnival - I Went To the Fair
Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Box Of Stones
British Sea Power - Georgie Ray

Graham Parker - Soul Shoes
Amy Lavere - You Can't Keep Me
Neil Young - I've Been Waiting
The Lost Brothers - The Bells They Won't Ring
Jackie Wilson - I'm Wandering
Paul Kane - Dadstar
Bruce Springsteen - Walk Like A Man
Southern - People Said
Ed Harcourt - Lustre
Millie Jackson - Hurt So Good
Cults - Never Saw The Point
Katie and The Carnival - Secret Song
Kate Bush - Flower Of The Mountain
Morrissey - Moon River

What Katie Did Next

Stuart Bailie | 12:37 UK time, Tuesday, 14 June 2011

On Saturday June 11, the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast was overwhelmed by giant plants, eccentric trees, a tonnage of edible glitter, accordions, ventriloquist dolls, heaving cake stands, a choir, swirling petticoats and dozens of grinning musicians. The fun began on Hill Street and diverted to Gordon Street, ending officially after midnight but actually signing off long after dawn. It was all Katie Richardson's fault.


She had chosen to mark the release of her CD release, 'Went To The Fair' with a day-full of adventure, inviting her many friends to take part. So there was Duke Special and the Lowly Knights, Colenso Parade, Clown Parlour and Cara Cowan. It was an enormous love-in, proof that so many local artists are sharing their talents and supporting their peers. Rather emotional, actually. Katie And The Carnival have always been about colour and rich ideas. But in the past you needed a bit of imagination to get the intent. Katie is a bit of a torch singer, in the tradition of Julie London and Billie Holiday. The sentiments are strong, the blue notes are wailed and you really need a big dress to deliver the extra poise. It also helps if you have access to the Beat Initiative and their warehouse full of carnival props. So this was the chance to go large on the vision and there was absolutely no scrimping. Katie and her friends created a portable Wonderland and filled in with ballads, skiffle-pop and enchanting jazz. By the end of her second performance, the assembled pals were relieved and elated. A milestone moment. Sweet.

Playlist 06.06.11

Stuart Bailie | 09:21 UK time, Thursday, 9 June 2011

Back in the Nineties, Fermanagh was rudely moved by The Skinflints, a compendium of spikey tunes, provocation, theatre and errant manners. The band was fun to watch, although the songs weren't quite up to the challenge. In their spare time, they slummed it as The Irish Sex Pistols, even though the band members were all the wrong sizes and shapes. They decamped to the cheap outskirts of London and then combusted, quietly.

Martin Corrigan continued his revenge with the Corrigan combo and then a spell with Phil Kieran and Alloy Mental. Some great songs emerged, and a lot of the future luminaries on the local scene were party to those bold designs.

In recent years, he has been formulating the John Edgar Voe experience. This is Americana, shot through with the native, rural experience. It's a bit Craggy Island with essence of At Swim Two Birds. There is wit and consternation and wonderful phrasing. 'Highwayman' is pure delight.

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

The Isley Brothers - This Old Heart Of Mine (Motown)
Arctic Monkeys - She's Thunderstorms (Domino)
Eddie Vedder - Sleeping By Myself (Island)
Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou - Making It Count (Heavenly)
Ben Glover - Any Other Way (Ben Glover)
The Waterboys - Glastonbury Song (Geffen)
Neilson Hubbard - Do You Want To Start A Fire? (Paper Star)
Johnny Cash - Five Feet High And Rising (Columbia)
Ben Glover - Trick Of The Light (Ben Glover)
Arctic Monkeys- Suck It And See (Domino)

Kim Daisy And Lewis - I'm Going Back (Sunday Best)
Katie And The Carnival - Went To The Fair (white)
James Vincent McMorrow - If I Had A Boat (Believe)
Gillian Welch - The Way It Goes (Acony)
John Edgar Voe - Highwayman (Ox Bow)
Eddie Vedder - Sleepless Nights (Island)
Amy Lavere - Stranger Me (Archer)
Paul McCartney - Teddy Boy (MPL)
Brett Dennen - Song For Leaving (Dualtone)
Nina Simone - The Human Touch (BMG)
Lil' Band O' Gold - I Don't Wanna Know (Room 609)
Tom Waits - Small Change (live) (BBC)
Arctic Monkeys - That's Where You're Wrong (Domino)

Set Faders To Stun

Stuart Bailie | 20:46 UK time, Sunday, 5 June 2011

Annie Nightingale was the more approachable version of John Peel. Like her broadcasting pal, she played left-field tunes during the punk wars, breaking the Smashy embargo on anything that wasn't Abba or the Barron Knights. But while Peel favoured the discordant, the home-made and the defiantly weird, Annie filtered some of that stuff out.

I seem to remember her on Radio 1 on a Sunday. The tunes that stuck included 'Whole Wide World' by Wreckless Eric, 'Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll' by Ian Dury plus 'Womble Bashers Of Walthamstow' by The Grimms. The latter was a silly pastiche of terrace aggro that gave no indication that the amiable broadcaster would still be on the station at the age of 69, blasting out grime and dubstep.

If you're fast enough with the iplayer, you can still see the BBC4 documentary, 'Bird On The Wireless', which recounts Annie's full history. She was mates with The Beatles and she partied with Keith Moon. She took over as presenter on the Whistle Test when Bob Harris couldn't tolerate the punk contenders. There were less enthralling periods and the programme is strangely reticent on her friendship with The Police, but we do get an appreciation of her grit and belief.

She got a gig on Radio 1 at a time when females were shunned. Apparently the male jocks were regarded as husband substitutes, a theory which Annie expounds with proper contempt. I had a few encounters with this exceptional person during the Primal Scream years and I can vouch for the fact that she was utterly up for the music, carried by a succession of subcultures and evidently still loving it.

Triumph Of The William

Stuart Bailie | 13:24 UK time, Thursday, 2 June 2011

Are you ready for The Snoodles? They're an indie supergroup from the north, incorporating bits of A Plastic Rose, Mojo Fury plus And So I Watch You From Afar. I believe they have only played once before, and that was a select rooftop performance in Belfast on the anniversary of 'Get Back' by The Beatles. That was a rocking moment.

They are playing again tonight at Auntie Annie's in Belfast. Other acts on the bill include Rachel Austin, Colly Strings and Prolapse (another one-off supercombo). The aim is to raise funds for Will McConnell, mainstay of Bandwidth Films, an essential part of the NI music experience.

Will has been making loose documentaries and performance shorts of local bands for more than three years now. His work is resourceful and creative and in future years when the TV researchers go looking for the moving images of our nascent new world, it will be Bandwidth's archive that will deliver the baby pictures.

Unfortunately, the guy was robbed recently, and lost his video camera, laptop and other essential items. In a matter of days, the music community had rallied round, donating stuff and putting tonight's event in place. It's another chance to appreciate the unselfish value of our creative people. Bless.

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