Archives for October 2011

Playlist 31.10.11

Stuart Bailie | 23:52 UK time, Monday, 31 October 2011

It was Bono who wrote "every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief", and that's surely the essence of 'Achtung Baby', the 20th anniversary edition. The tunes on the bonus CD have largely been available before, but I still find amusement in tracks like 'Salome' and 'Where Did It All Go Wrong'. These originally surfaced on the Silver' and 'Gold' bootlegs, which leaked ahead of the album and showed the band struggling with dance grooves, ad-libbing frantically, not sounding that great. I remembering writing about these artifacts for the NME and feeling rather worried for the band.

But they pushed on through to more interesting places. 'Lady With The Spinning Head' is another landmark recording in that it was later broken up to form 'The Fly' and sundry other album parts. U2 didn't waste things without good reason, fine young cannibals when the job required it.

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

Tom Waits - Satisfied (Anti)
Manic Street Preachers - This Is The Day (Sony)
Rams Pocket Radio - The Dogs Run In Packs (Reel To Reel)
Kill It Kid - Wild And Wasted Waters (One Little Indian)
Billy Preston - I Want To Thank You (Apple)
Nitin Sawhney - Taste The Air (Pisitiv ID)
St Vincent - Year Of The Tiger (4ad)
Jeffrey Lewis - How Can It Be (Rough Trade) 2
Tom Waits - Pay Me (Anti)
Friendly Fires - Blue Cassette (XL)
The War On Drugs - Come To The City (Secretly Canadian)
U2 - Lady With the Spinning Head (Universal)
Gareth Dunlop - Fool's Desire (Moraine)
Wilco - Capital City (dBpm)
John Hiatt - I Love That Girl (New West)
Cashier No 9 - A Promise Wearing Thin (Bella Union)
Meshell Ndegeocello - Oysters (Naïve)
DJ Shadow - I've Been Trying (Island)
Katie And The Carnival - Fancy Face (Third Bar)
Tom Waits - Last Leaf (Anti)
Japan - Ghosts (Virgin)

Playlist 24.10.11

Stuart Bailie | 09:15 UK time, Tuesday, 25 October 2011

For last night's show, I was aiming for a live session with Anthony Toner and Eilidh Patterson. They both have fine records out, they work together well and I'm always keen to have uplifting company on a Monday evening. Unfortunately, Eilidh had a sore throat, but Anthony came in anyway, with guitar and a stash of CDs. He performed three tunes from the new album, including the most charming 'East Of Louise'.

Anthony plays it as an impish rag while the words pay tribute to a cool individual. Louise is precocious and fun, royally absent-minded and prone to issues with her disc drive and her romantic life. She parties like Holly Golightly and is surely related to 'Queen Jane Approximately', 'Visions Of Johanna' and 'Absolutely Sweet Marie'.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM

Mondays, ten - midnight
Elvis Presley - Bossa Nova Baby (RCA)
The Salt Flats - Never Going Back Again (white)
Ane Brun - One (Baloon Ranger)
Anthony Toner - All Of The Above (live session)
Tom Waits - Get Lost (Anti)
Nick Lowe - Somebody Cares For Me (Proper)
Anthony Toner - East Of Louise live session track
Frankie And The Heartstrings - Everybody Looks Better In The Right Light (Wichita)
Gruff Rhys - Space Dust (Turnstile)
Anthony Toner - Walking Down The Line live session track
The Sundays - Cry (Parlophone)
Stone Roses -Ten Storey love Song (Geffen)
Fools Gold - The Dive (Iamsound)
Tom Waits - Bad As Me (Anti)
The Dollybyrds - No 21 (Time To Be Proud)
The Horrible Crows - Ladykiller (Side One Dummy)
The Henry Girls - Watching The Detectives (Henry Girls)
Slow Club - If Were Still Alive (Moshi Moshi)
Lisa Hannigan - Paper House (Hoop)
Joe Henry - Heaven's Escape (Anti)
Ane Brun - Oh Love (Baloon Ranger)
Ben Aiken - One And One Is Five (Philly Groove)
Nick Lowe - Til The Real Thing Comes Along (Proper)
The Salt Flats - Everywhere (white)
Crystal Fighters - At Home (Zirkulo)

McCullough Was Here

Stuart Bailie | 15:22 UK time, Monday, 24 October 2011

It's part of your musical education to spend a Sunday night in the basement of The Empire in Belfast. Ken Haddock is the prized resident with one of the most expressive voices in town. I believe we've paid tribute to his awesome style in the past.

But there's also plenty to be said about his pals on the stage. This becomes apparent during a rendition of 'I Shot The Sheriff', when each of the musicians gets to stretch out a little. Make sure you catch this moment and in particular watch the guy on keyboards. The name is John McCullough. He looks like Jamie Cullum if you squint just a little. And on cue, he hauls free from the band, grooving and expressing, a deal of pure adventure. The regulars are smiling. A few jaws drop. And when his allotted bars are completed, John sits back and lets other players take the glory. Next week, he'll do it all entirely differently.

My radio show routinely plays records with the McCullough signature. He's on the new Gareth Dunlop EP and he's a delight on Anthony Toner's current album 'Light Below the Door'. He's been a regular with Ben Glover, a sometime Waterboy, a mate of Grainne Duffy and he brings value to Ronnie Greer, Bap Kennedy and Eilidh Patterson.

John can do winsome like Bruce Hornsby, or work up a concise funk. He's cool with the Rhodes, the Hammond and the Wurlitzer. And when Gerry Anderson comments that the Anthony Toner record has the verve of prime Steely Dan, he really means that John McCullough has the chops to do an effortless Donald Fagen. Outstanding.

Tweed Will Rock You

Stuart Bailie | 09:06 UK time, Monday, 24 October 2011

I was probably 12 when I got my only tweed jacket. It was purchased at Gowdy's on the Woodstock Road in Belfast, in the days when you were expected to dress like a small facsimile of your father. And I did hate that jacket. It was hot, unforgiving and scratchy and there were flecks of purple on it that looked like alien life forms.

My tweed aversion has survived all those years. Sometimes I think that when I decide to go mature, that a jacket in sturdy herringbone might give me a bit of gravitas. It works for Seamus Heaney and those other professorial sorts. But not yet, surely.

I was walking around Bang, the vintage clothing store on Ann Street the other day. And I couldn't help but touch the sleeves of the jackets on the tweed rack. Suddenly, Mike the proprietor appeared at my arm. It was like when Mr Benn, the animated character from Festive Road encounters the fez-wearing shopkeeper. Mike gave me a conspiratorial wink.

"Can't get enough of them, Stuart. They're flying out of the shop."

With the persuasive powers of his station, Mike rolled a jacket off a hangar and slipped it over my shoulders. Harris Tweed. A crofter on some windy Scottish shore probably spent half his life creating the cloth. Nice. Unfortunately a little tight in places.

"That's the way they're wearing them these days," he offers.

Perhaps, but only if you are a slight-shouldered hipster, with 5% body fat, narrow Chinos and a mousey growth under the chin. This particular jacket hugs the middle and pinches the upper arms. I start to itch and feel hot. I am 12 years old again. I mumble an excuse and exit, swiftly.

Tweed is of course de rigeur again, a staple in the high street stores with expensive variations in the designer racks who make an easy connection to their Gatsby chic. Let's also remember that a Ralph Lauren got a credit on the Annie Hall movie in 1977, where wovens ruled and a classic look was revived. And to think that my Gowdy's jacket was just a few years before this. Always the trend-setter, so I was.

Pastie Supper For Rihanna

Stuart Bailie | 12:13 UK time, Thursday, 20 October 2011

There's a girl that's down the chip shop swears she's Rihanna. No really. You check out the singer's video for 'We Found Love' and there she is, in the North Street chippy in Belfast, looking furtive and amazingly out of place. A few seconds later and she causes havoc with a shopping trolley in the grocery across the road. Of course there are also the scenes in a hay field near Bangor, when the farmer famously told her to get her kit on. And then she's hanging by the New Lodge flats, hiring some urban credibility the way her millionaire peers might purchase another set of ciggy heel Jimmy Choos.

You can see the BBC report here.

I could witter on about the subtext of the song, in which love blossoms in "a hopeless place". It's always nice for Belfast to be patronised, eh? I might quote the Sex Pistols line about "a cheap holiday in other people's misery". But I'm rather fatigued at the moment.

Still, I'm finding the experience too surreal. Previous to this, the North Street chippy was notable for a photo montage on the wall, featuring happy customers with their food. One of my friends is on the display. She and her mates pay a monthly homage, a Friday fry up. We enjoyed the kitsch celebrity of it all. I said she was the face that launched a thousand chips.

The North Street chippy is now part of a weird cultural triangle. At the top of the street, Edward Bunting transcribed some of the most beautiful melodies ever during the 1792 Harper's Convention. A few yards in another direction is the former site of Wizard Studios, where The Undertones recorded their magical debut. Teenage chips, so hard to beat. Or something like that.

Mancs For The Memories

Stuart Bailie | 20:22 UK time, Tuesday, 18 October 2011

May 26, 1990 and Manchester is looking good. You step off the train at Picadilly and straight away you appreciate that there's a significant culture quake going on. Every young person has it. The flares are wider, the hair more shaggy and the Manc walk has a pronounced bounce. It's an epochal scene, interspersed with Japanese tourists, bemused old folk plus music journalists from all over. Tomorrow, The Stone Roses will play at Spike Island, near an old chemical plant in Cheshire. Tonight, we party.

At The Dry Bar, Shaun Ryder is holding court with Mick Hucknall and Cressa, sometime dancer with the Stone Roses. A bunch of NME people are remarking on the rather mad press conference earlier in the day, when the Roses had mocked the expectations of the media folk. For years, the band had been ignored by the soft Southerners. Now they could handle intense fame in their own terms. Mostly rudely and with nonchalance. The first album had established the cool and 'Fool's Gold' had delivered a masterclass in sustained indie-funk, loose attitude and John Squire's imperial wah wah.

I'd seen the Roses at Alexander Palace the previous November, when London finally swooned. And so Spike Island was the moment when the baggy nation would have its coronation. The 27,000 strong crowd wore their beanie hats and their Affleck's Palace shirts, expecting greatness, possibly bliss. It was the closest thing we would get to a Woodstock moment, a defining day.

Unfortunately, the sound was awful, the facilities were lacking and the party mood never quite peaked. And while we had denied the problems with the live Stone Roses, they were quite apparent on the night. Ian Brown was potentially regal, but the sound was blown around and the enormous potential receded.

Then there were five years of mostly nothing. And a second album that was only special in parts. I watched them at the Brixton Academy and it was underwhelming. And when I bumped into Ian Brown at the Reading Festival in 1996, he was fried and unfocussed. I didn't even bother hanging around for their performance. Apparently it was one of the great comedy moments as Ian became a stranger to the art of melody.

Have your reunion and your payday. We can hardly begrudge it. But while you're at it, cancel my subscription to the resurrection.

Playlist 17.10.11

Stuart Bailie | 20:19 UK time, Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Jazz purists may not care for 'Time After Time' by Miles Davis. It's hardly 'Kind Of Blue' and certainly no 'Bitches Brew'. Remember this is a tune that was made famous by Cyndi Lauper, a graceless bawler with pink hair from Ozone Park. But Miles chooses not to reinvent the song. In his youth, he'd be picking at the seams, pulling out the entrails. This time he plays it straight. There's a minor skank in the beat and a deal of sentimentality. Miles isn't fixing to be around for much longer. He gives you a bit of sweet tone, some regret and the hint of a farewell between the notes.

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

Laverne Baker - Hey Memphis (EMI)
Gareth Dunlop - Fools Desire (Moraine)
Mariachi El Bronx - 48 Roses (Wichita)
The Heptones - Baby I Need Your Loving (Island)
Strange Boys - Walking Two By Two (Rough Trade)
Elliot Smith - Ballad Of Big Nothing (Domino)
Christopher Rees - Sparks Flying (Red Eye)
James Vincent McMorrow - Higher Love (Believe)
Ryan Adams - Chains Of Love (Sony)
Gareth Dunlop - Devil Mocks Me (Moraine)
The Felice Brothers - Fire at The Pageant (Loose)
Paul Simon - The Afterlife (Universal)
Zola Jesus - Vessel (Souterrain)

Van Morrison - Domino (live) (Polydor)
CW Stoneking - The Love Me Or Die (King Hokum)
Ry Cooder - No Banker Left Behind (Nonesuch)
Bonnie Prince Billy - No Match (Domino)
Laura Cantrell - Broken Again (Shoeshine)
Thomas Truax - Everything's Gone Halloween (SL)
Eilis Philips - Here Be Dragons (white)
Strange Boys - Saddest (Rough Trade)
Laura Nyro - Emmie (Columbia)
Marketa Irglova - Your Company (Anti)
Bonnie Prince Billy - Time To Be Clear (Domino)
Anthony Toner - Finally (Dozens of Cousins)
Miles Davis - Time After Time (Columbia)

Playlist 10.10.11

Stuart Bailie | 10:06 UK time, Thursday, 13 October 2011

It's the summer of 1997 and I'm on the phone to Ryan Adams. He's a resident of North Carolina but it sounds like he's currently on a planetary orbit, between parties, loving life. He's the singer of a cool band called Whiskeytown and their current album 'Stranger's Almanac' is exciting people like myself.

He's plainly in thrall to artists like Gram Parsons, the guy who mixed up country with twisted attitude to reveal Cosmic American Music. We talk about this a little, but Ryan also wants to rave about The Smiths and some other random stuff. His conversation is at least 10% laughter.

Ryan has lived large since then, putting out intense records, getting messy and not working to the regular corporate plan. This may be why this his successful moments are often qualified by quiet times. Still, his new record is called 'Ashes And Fire' and it's one of the great ones. When his heart is sore and the muse is attuned, there are few to match him.

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

The Smiths - The Boy With The Thorn In His Side (Rough Trade)
Lisa Hannigan - Home (Hoop)
Wilco - Born Alone (dbpm)
General Fiasco - Waves (Dirty Hit)
Tom Waits - Back In The Crowd (Anti)
Smith Westerns - All Die Young (Weird World)
Gruff Rhys - Whale Trail (Turnstile)
Ryan Adams - Ashes And Fire (Sony)
Lisa Hannigan - What'll I Do (Hoop)
Joe Henry - Eyes Out For You (Anti)
Los Campesinos - Hello Sadness (Wichita)

The Kinks- Where Have All The Good Times Gone (Spectrum)
Gabe Dixon - My Favourite (Fantasy)
Tim Buckley - Happy Time (BBC)
Eliza Carthy - Monkey (Hem Hem)
Josh Rouse - Disguise (Bedroom Classics)
Ryan Adams - Do I Wait (Sony)
Suzanne Savage - Disguise (white)
Nick Lowe - Stoplight Roses (Proper)
Joe Henry - Tomorrow Is October (Anti)
Blood Orange - Champagne Coast (Domino)
Lisa Hannigan - Little Bird (Hoop)
Ryan Adams - I Love You But I Don't Know What To Say (Sony)
Liz Gordon - Midnight Blues (PIAS)
Webb Sisters - If It Be Your Will (Proper)

The Moet, The Merrier

Stuart Bailie | 15:22 UK time, Monday, 10 October 2011

The 'Achtung Baby' album and the Zoo TV tour were license for U2 to abandon the script and to get royally silly. It was probably their best record and it was torn out of the most grievous circumstances. So, as we get close to the 20th anniversary of all that, there are going to be many chances to revisit the story.

Last night's BBC broadcast, 'From The Sky Down' was a good version that enlisted the band and their studio cohorts, Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Flood. There was plenty of context - about the overkill of 'Rattle And Hum' in 1988 plus the annoying cowboy hats and cover versions. The Berlin shenanigans also allowed us to remember what the intense upheaval that the city and the band lived through at the same time.

Sadly, the individual album tracks were mostly passed over. There was a bit about 'The Fly' and excitingly, a recording of the moment when the chords of 'One' first appeared as the bridge section in another tune. This was a eureka session, and it's the first time I've heard it roll.

I was an NME writer at the time and this gave me access to some feverish Zoo TV moments in 1992. I'll relate a few of these in the coming months, but one of the most flippant came about when I noticed a promotional U2 video that had chopped up a load of my reviews and spliced them into the edit. An American writer would probably have gone straight to his lawyers, looking for a settlement. However, I just placed a snippy remark in the NME gossip column.

Next thing I get a call from the reception desk at IPC Publishing at King's Reach Towers. I go down and I find that Bono has sent me a letter of apology and a large package. Inside is a box of Tayto cheese and onion plus a case of Dom Perignon, cuvée 1988. Achtung, bubbly.

Brown Into Gold

Stuart Bailie | 16:34 UK time, Saturday, 8 October 2011

I've been talking a lot about Van Morrison's 'Brown Eyed Girl' and the recent news that it's been played 10 million times on US radio. The singer may have mixed feelings about the song, but I'd say a few bank managers and accountants may be more admiring.

Radio and press people have been asking me about the record's life since 1967. Many releases from that time have fallen out of fashion but 'Brown Eyed Girl' still holds up. It's an unapologetic pop song, about young love and pure experience, followed by the sadness and compromise of adult life. You dig?

I've met around five people who claim to be the Brown Eyed Girl. A few of them don't even have brown eyes. And some of the others have the most flimsy narratives. Several have assured me that the 'stadium' in the lyric is the Oval football ground in east Belfast. Another theory is that the action takes place around the Shankill Road.

Van Morrison is largely protective of his songs, and he doesn't do literal. I'm rather glad about this. I'm not sure what 'Madam George' means, but there's a universe of personal significance in the recording for me. So I might want to locate the romance of the 1967 hit in the green grass around Parkgate Drive, but essentially, it takes place in the heart.

Bert Berns was the record's producer. The New Yorker had previously worked with Van and Them on 'Here Comes The Night' and was the pop-soul architect of sessions by The Drifters, Ben E King and the Isley Brothers. He doesn't miss a trick on 'Brown Eyed Girl'. It has a cool guitar riff that's a bit Spanish Harlem. The rhythm is almost calypso, there's a bass guitar breakdown and a perfect sha-la-la moment that was later borrowed on 'Mr Jones' by Counting Crows. Meantime, wee Van sings it like there was never a more deserving girl in the world. A classic, then.

Playlist 03.10.11

Stuart Bailie | 18:58 UK time, Tuesday, 4 October 2011

I had a semi-ridiculous discussion in a London pub recently about the best Bucks Fizz record ever made. In my mind, there was only one answer - their 1981 opus, 'The Land Of Make Believe'. The song was ok, but the sound of it was resplendent. Thunderous, gated snare drums, keyboards sequencing like mad, simultaneously compressed and enormous. And if I had to be perfectly honest, I might add that Jay Aston's perma-pout was a bonus.

The record was produced by Trevor Horn, who gave the decade grandeur and string arrangements, pulsating rhythms and the Fairlight computer, which delivered that crashing orchestral chord, signature of the era. Trevor Horne announced his talents with Buggles and Yes, but excelled with ABC, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Grace Jones, Propaganda and Art Of Noise. I wasn't sure about the recent collaboration with Belle And Sebastian but generally the fella did well and it was good to have his career path profiled on the show tonight with Reggie Chamberlain King. He even selected Dollar, but tragically, no Bucks Fizz.

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

David Bowie - Golden Years (EMI)
Marcus Foster - Old Birch Tree (Polydor)
The Rifles - Dreamer (The Rifles)
Ash - Jack Names The Planets (Rhino)
Trevor Horne - profile
Jeffry Lewis - Try It Again (Rough Trade)
Lisa Hannigan - Love You More (Absolute)
Marcus Foster - The Room (Polydor)
William Bell - I Forgot To Be Your Lover
Blueflint - Barren Lands (Jrr)
Atlas Sound - Lightworks (4ad)

Louis Prima - Basin Street Blues (Signature)
Bombay Bicycle Club - Lights Out Words Gone (Island)
The Persuaders - A Thin Live Between Love And Hate (BBC)
The Swell Season - I Don't Wanna Know About Love (Absolute)
Gillian Welch - Silver Dagger (Warner)
Bonnie Prince Billy - Quail And Dumplings (Domino)
The Murder Balladeers - South Of The Border (white)
The Innocence Mission - The Happy Mondays (Badman)
Majestic Silver Strings - Meds (New West)
Nick Cave - Straight To You (Mute)
Wild Beasts - Reach A Bit Further (Domino)
Dawes - Time Spent In Los Angeles (Loose)
Cave Painting - Midnight Love (Hideout)
Other Lives - Old Statues (PIAS)

Bunny Peculiar

Stuart Bailie | 17:44 UK time, Saturday, 1 October 2011

It is the spring of 1992 and I'm in a tiny dressing room at the Underworld in Camden. I've come to see three friends at work. They call themselves Compulsion, and they used to be Thee Amazing Colossal Men, Dublin contenders who blew loads of record company cash and didn't achieve much. This time around, they are going cheap and living it punk style. They will manage better with it.

That's Josephmary on vocals, Sid Rainey on bass and a pink-haired prodigy on guitar called Garrett Lee. Later, Lee will change his first name to Jacknife and in the following decade he will produce U2, REM and Snow Patrol. But for now, he's part of a scrounge rock band, playing supporting roles the bands who were once a lot bigger.

Tonight, it's the turn of Echo And The Bunnymen. Once they were tousle-headed stadium contenders. But in 1992 they are without singer Ian McCullough and are managing instead with a Belfast chap called Noel Burke. I've mentioned him in a blog before. He sang with St Vitus Dance at home, and sometimes still does. Decent fellow, but never a convincing Bunnyman.

Anyway, the dressing room door is open a bit, as during a lull in the Compulsion conversation, we eavesdrop on the Bunnymen pre-gig ritual in their own little changing space. The veteran members Will Sergeant and Les Pattinson are there, plus Noel and some other guys. And then Will starts on the motivational speech.

"What's the word tonight?" he asks.

They all look at him with interest.

"The word tonight," he explains with a smile, "is victory!"

The band cheer a bit and hug each other in a semi-enthused manner.

Then they step onto the Underworld stage. There are maybe 150 people in the audience. They go down reasonably well. The band play some of the admirable old songs, and a few of the new tunes also. What the evening lacks, however, is the certain smell of victory.

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