Roddy Frame was 19 when he released 'Oblivious' with Aztec Camera in 1983. He already had a stash of great songs behind him and there were plenty ahead also. He was one of the wonderful pool of artists that had been showcased by the Postcard Record label - Edwyn Collins being the rightful equal of Roddy. And while the label was slightly ironic about being "the sound of young Scotland" it did soundtrack a generation that was gifted and fearless and eager for the post-punk adventure.
Where did young Roddy find the inspiration for such a song? The 'Oblivious' rhythm is pure Latin, owing as much to Gilberto Gil as to Johnny Rotten. The Spanish guitar is glorious and the singer is hurling one-liners around like grenades. "They call us lonely when we're really just alone," he declaims, with the perfect clarity of youth.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight
Aztec Camera - Oblivious (Rough Trade)
Chris Campbell - Inability To (white)
Dusty Springfield - He's Got Something (Mercury)
Diagrams - Black Light (Full Time Hobby)
David C Clements - Every Second Of Sense (live session)
David C Clements - Flow River (live session)
The Horrors - Changing The Rain (XL)
Dodgy - We Try (Strike Back)
Jim White - What Rocks Will Never Know (Loose)
Grimes - Genesis (4ad)
Van Morrison - Help Me (Polydor)
Justin Townes Earle - Am I That Lonely Tonight (Bloodshot)
Perfume Genius - Take Me Home (Turnstile)
Leonard Cohen - Different Sides (Columbia)
Lost In The Trees - Red (Anti)
Otis Clay - I Die A Little Each Day (Demon)
Grainne Duffy - Don't You Remember (white)
St Vincent - Cheerleader (4ad)
Justin Townes Earle - Look The Other Way (Bloodshot)
Moya - I'm Losing More Than I'll Ever Have (white)
The Jane Bradfords - Retro Romance (white)
Geoff Farina - Prick Up Your Ears (Damnably)
The Kills - The Last Goodbye (Domino)
Leonard Cohen - Lullabye (Columbia)
Bap Kennedy is at the HMV store in Belfast, strumming out songs from his new record, 'The Sailor's Revenge'. As ever, he's singing about shipwrecked hearts and the flotsam of the soul.
The tunes are lonesome, but many of them snatch a few fibres of romance against all the odds. Remember, back in the days of Energy Orchard, Bap would rouse the New Pegasus pub in north London with a tune called 'Pain, Heartbreak And Redemption'. Always the difficulty, but love remains the great consolation prize.
The new record summons up the ghosts of Hank Williams, Dominic Behan and Francis McPeake, Senior. There's a tremendous lyric about Jimmy Sanchez, the Chilean miner, and like Woody Guthrie, Bap is able to combine the personal with the political, and to vent about the cost of capitalism on a poor man's dignity.
The song that works best in the HMV store is 'Shimnavale'. It's about a location beneath the Mourne mountains, but Bap carves a mythic dimension out of that granite pile. It's about the sweetest girl, the old place and the awful wrench of being somewhere else. We're all willing him back to where he once belonged.
Ryan Vail is the Derry-based author of last year's excellent 'These Words' EP. The tunes were lovely and minimal and emotionally true. A few listeners were making fond comparisons to James Blake - possibly due to the artfully spare vocals, the wash of electronica and the value of surprise in the songs. Ryan has many admirers now and a rising interest with DJs, record labels and media.
The guy is on a very credible steer - his collaboration with Smak (Steve McCready) is another sublime idea. 'In The Beginning' is the future sound of the north west: gleaming, elegantly paced and a tonic for the heart. Ryan won't be an unknown quantity much longer.
I'm very fond of the music of Eddie Hinton. He sang bruising soul tunes in the southern tradition and was intensely fond of Otis Redding. A lot of his recordings have that same pleading intensity and one of these, 'Everybody Need Love' was beautifully revived by the Drive By Truckers. He was also a session guitarist at the Muscle Shoals studio, playing with the legends during the greatest of times.
His recorded history is patchy, and according to some accounts, Eddie partied hard until his death at the age of 51. But the music won't go quietly and this programme's choice, 'Concept World', was one of the stand-outs from the 'Very Extremely Dangerous' debut. The horn section soars, the whistling is perfect and Mr Hinton gives it unquenchable feeling.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight
Etta James - Good Rocking Daddy (Ace)
Spector - Chevvy Thunder (Fiction)
David C. Clements - No Sleeping (white)
Eddie Hinton - Concept World (Shout)
Howler - Back To The Grave (Rough Trade)
The Maccabees - Ayla (Fiction)
General Fiasco - Don't You Ever (Dirty Hits)
Beth Jeans Houghton - Sweet Tooth Bird (Mute)
Billie Holiday - More Than You Know (Union Square)
Real Estate - Easy (Domino)
Matrimony - Obey Your Guns (white)
Maccabees - Go (Fiction)
Howler - Wailing (Rough Trade)
Bruce Springsteen - We Take Care Of Our Own (Sony)
Mel And Tim - May Not Be What You Want (Stax)
Fanfarlo - Shiny Things (Atlantic)
Jeb Loy Nichols - Hard Times (Decca)
Leonard Cohen - Crazy To Love You (Columbia)
Ernest Tubb - Pick Me Up On Your Way Down (Righteous)
Lambchop - Gone tomorrow (City Slang)
The Triffids - Save What You Can (Domino)
Porcelain Raft - Unless You Speak From Your Heart (Secretly Canadian)
Wilco - Capitol City (dBpm)
Leonard Cohen - Come Healing (Columbia)
Bap Kennedy - Shimnavale (white)
Perfume Genius - Hood (Turnstile)
James Walborne - Gypsy Gate (Heavenly)
'Good Rocking Daddy', sung by Etta James, was quite popular in 1955. Then in the Eighties, it became a cult tune around London. This was partly the archival passion of Ted Carroll at Ace Records, plus the enthusiasm of DJ Gaz Mayall, whose Rockin' Blues night at Gossips were massively influential.
It was such a worthy tune, right at the centre of the Fifties youthquake. Etta mentions the boogie, the jump and of course the rocking experience. She's got a connection to the old band-leaders and jive-masters like Louis Jordan. Certainly the horn section bears that out. But there's also a lightness and a demeanour that looks forward to the new age. Elvis Presley is just about done at Sun records, en route to RCA and 'Heartbreak Hotel'. The culture is going to get frenetic, but Etta James - who had endured a horrendous childhood and will have a rather awful adult life also - sounds essentially sweet.
I think I first heard the tune at the Electric Ballroom in Camden around 1985. It would have been Jay Strongman on the decks and that lovely old venue was busy with the rocking girls, their ponytails and the fierce red lips, all grooving perfectly. For all of the above reasons, and as a fond tribute to Ella, I'll play the song tonight.
When I was a homesick boy in London, I used to console myself with cultural scraps from the old place. It was about the humour, the poetry, the tastes and those maverick characters who'd done well from the Tayto nation. Sometimes there was a sporting result and always there was music. I made myself a mix tape, full of tunes to feed the heart, to rend the sentiments and I'd play it often.
Van Morrison was all over the playlist of course. He gave us a sense of self and he knew all about the lonesome blues. You could hear it on 'Celtic Ray' and 'Sense Of Wonder', all over 'Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart' and 'Astral Weeks'. You could say I indulged.
Now here we are, many years later, part of a redefined, freshly motivated Norn Iron. Our music tends to be upbeat these days. Our poets are recognised, the cityscapes have fresh aspects and the event schedules are busy. Therefore Tourism Ireland has thrown a celebratory night at St James' Palace in London, bigging up our prospects for 2012 and beyond.
You may know some of the guests: Eamonn Holmes, Christine Bleakley, Barry McGuigan, Patrick Kielty. There's Feargal Sharkey in a dinner jacket and Bronagh Gallagher, enhancing the Derry dimension. I'm standing coyly before Amanda Burton while Jayne Wisener glides into the Queen Anne Room. The walls are all crimson and gilded, with a Rococo tendency that would make Liberace blush. But hey, it doesn't bother Dermot Murnaghan, while travel writer Simon Calder is more interested in pictures of the Titanic Buildings and the Peace Bridge over the Foyle. Neil Hannon's 'Songs Of Love' is sweetly intoned by Music Theatre For Youth and the evening revs up.
Simon Callow takes to the stage, remembering his days at Queen's University and raving about the new Lyric Theatre. He reads some Seamus Heaney with booming gravitas. Martin McGuinness says he is happy to be in Derrylondon and Peter Robinson makes some jokes about taking his colleague on a tour of the royal palaces. How many varieties of surreal do you need?
And then blimey, Van Morrison is up there. He's playing the hits, but pepping his interest by adding some jazz flavours. Which is no bother for 'Moondance', seemingly quoting from Miles Davis and 'So What'. But it's quite a stretch for 'Star Of The County Down', that's now only slightly north of 'A Night In Tunisia'. Van makes a friendly remark to the audience and masses up the bounty with 'Here's Comes The Night' and 'Gloria'. I'm looking around at the faces in the crowd and it seems that they too have relied on Van during the bad old days and are now rather delighted with this shiny new context, the happy narrative.
He ends with a version of Sonny Boy Williamson's 'Help Me'. This was a staple of Van's Caledonian Soul era in the Seventies and tonight he's emphatically playing it for himself. It whirls and it swings, the singer's timing and timbre hasn't sounded this intimate in years. By the end of it, we're all taken off into this perfect rapture. "It's too good to stop now!" he wails, taking a new steer on a lovely old line. And you know, I think the man may be right.
Here's a photo of myself taken in Times Square, New York, 1988. It's my first time in NYC, hence the excited look. The bonus for me is that I'm standing outside the Bond Building, an old casino that the Clash had commandeered in 1981 for some historic gigs.
Back then, I didn't know the name of my hat. I just liked the shape and the old-fangled style. Tom Waits used to wear one, and Bruce Springsteen also, around 1975. Likewise with Dr John. I remember someone called it a Po' Boy cap, connecting it to Depression-era America. That would explain why George Clooney wore it during O Brother Where Out Thou and why the American street gang, the Dead End Kids were accessorised in Angels With Dirty Faces, taking no lip from that gangster Jimmy Cagney.
Anyway, the style has been somewhat revived this winter. Now I find that the retailers call it the newsboy cap, the eight quarter cap, the baker boy or even the Big Apple cap. I've even heard it described as the Gatsby. A lot of names for a humble bit of headgear.
You might never worry about songwriter's block as long as you can make a list. It always worked for Chuck Berry, who would literally catalogue the cities, the cars and the accessories of teen America. Bob Dylan took that idea and made it cosmic, man. Soul brothers could sing about the endless dance crazes and even just list their majestic peers. Neil Hannon has been there numerous times, with 'The Booklovers' and 'The Indie Disco' but I especially love 'Absent Friends'. And who can fault the Skids for name-checking the soap stars of the late Seventies and chorusing with "Albert Tatlock!"
So, hey, we got two hours of radio out of this tendency. Thank you to my friends on Facebook, who pitched in with excellent requests. Sorry, I just couldn't bring myself to play 'We Didn't Start The Fire' by Billy Joel. A boy has to have standards, you know.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight
Ian Dury - Reasons To Be Cheerful (Stiff)
Chuck Berry - Promised Land (Chess)
Dexys Midnight Runners - Dance Stance (EMI)
Billy Paul - Let Em In (Philadelphia International)
The Divine Comedy - Absent Friends (Parlophone)
REM - It's The End Of the World (IRS)
Snow Patrol - Lifening (Fiction)
The Jam - That's Entertainment (Polydor)
Flight Of The Conchords - Fou du Fafa (Warner)
Paul Simon - 50 Ways To Lose Your Lover (Sony)
Nina Simone - Ain't Got No - I Got Life (BMG)
The Waterboys - A Bang On The Ear (EMI)
Wilson Pickett - Land Of A Thousand Dances (Atlantic)
Arthur Conley - Sweet Soul Music (Atlantic)
The Cure - Friday I'm In Love (Fiction)
The Skids - TV Stars (Virgin)
Bruce Springsteen -Ain't Got You (Columbia)
Johnny Cash - One Piece At A Time (Columbia)
The Beloved - Hello (Warner)
A House - Endless Art (Setanta)
The Moonglows - Ten Commandments Of Love
Van Morrison -The Days Before Rock and Roll (Polydor)
Chris Spedding - Guitar Jamboree (EMI)
Bob Dylan - Forever Young (Columbia)
Kate Bush - 50 Words For Snow (Fish People)
I first met Andy Kershaw at his flat in north London. As expected, the place was racked high with albums and there was a perpetual gush of ideas and exceptional tunes. Guests arrived, the phone got busy and there was talk of Zimbabwe, Billy Bragg, George Jones and cowpunk. The soul shouter Barrence Whitfield was over from Boston, where Andy had 'discovered' him a while earlier, and I think he was crashing on the couch. Fun was had.
I'd see him fairly often at gigs in town or around Crouch End, particularly a cool little café called Banners, which served roadhouse fare, American style. His motorbike was parked outside and his presence was evident in the playlist (palm wine tunes from Sierra Leone, jigs from Sligo, Kentucky ballads) while the walls were decorated with Kershaw memorabilia. Andy had travelled well and with a proper sense of curiosity. I don't recall him ever talking about his TV presenter role during Live Aid - that was a weird aberration rather than a career step, and he would be far more animated about some Vietnamese field recording.
Andy will be at the Black Box in Belfast this Saturday afternoon, part of the Out To Lunch Festival. I think he'll be reading from his autobiography, No Off Switch. It's the story of an intense life, coloured by a series of difficulties in recent years. My hope is that the book represents the closing of one era, and the reintroduction of Andy to the public domain as an important music fan. We miss his keen ears, his individuality and his adventure.
I first heard 'The Prettiest Star' on Bowie's 'Aladin Sane' album in 1973. That particular record was all chaos and paranoia, the pressure of taking his Ziggy Stardust creation across America. Mick Ronson played glam guitar with assurance and actually, 'The Prettiest Star' was rather sane in this context. I heard people say that the song was about Marc Bolan, a tribute from one glitter-streaked contender to another. But others have maintained that this was David's siren call to his future wife Angie.
There is a 1970 version of the track that features Marc on guitar. It's a very different version, and both artists were still working out their slant on a new decade. Bolan is decent, but without the zipgun swagger. Bowie lacks the intrigue that would become so essential to his act. Still, it sounded well on the radio and it was a nice way to celebrate Dame David's 65th birthday.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight
David Bowie - Young Americans (EMI)
Larry Williams - Slow Down ( )
The Jane Bradfords - Last Stop (white) Stephen Foster - profile
The Big Pink - Rubbernecking (4ad)
Dodgy - What Became Of you (Strike Back)
Vagabonds - We Gave Up (white)
Karen Dalton - How Did The Feeling Feel To You (Megaphone)
CW Stoneking - The Love Me Or Die (King Hokum)
Plush - Greyhound Bus Station (Broken Horse)
The Jane Bradfords - Until The End (white)
David Bowie - The Prettiest Star (EMI)
The Diamonds - Little Darling (Mercury)
Our Krypton Son - Catalonian Love Song (STA)
The Triffids - New Year's Greetings (Island)
Mara Carlyle - The Devil And Me (Ancient & Modern)
Dodgy - Only A Heartbeat (Strike Back)
Mahalia Jackson - Move On Up A Little Higher (Metro)
Bap Kennedy - Please Return To Jesus (white)
Leonard Cohen - The Darkness (Sony)
Rachel Sermanni - Beathe Easy (white)
Tindersticks - Slippin Shoes (City Slang)
Emma Russack - He Was My Family (white)
Portico Quartet - Spinner (Real World)
Stephen Rea is in the Black Box, Belfast, reading from The Third Policeman
by Flann O'Brien. It's the second day of the Out To Lunch festival and an opportune way to chase out the January blues. Outside, things are perplexed and miserable. In here, we're party to a quality actor and a monumental book that's funny, fantasmagorical and more.
Rea is relishing the job, using choice sections of the story to picture the poverty, the dread and the rampant weirdness of rural Ireland in the 1930s. The bicycle rules and there's an atomic transference between man and machine that produces havoc with the habitual users. In this respect, The Third Policeman is the true parent of Father Ted, allowing the humdrum of parochial life to spin off into uncharted places - where the gombeen meets the grand-guignol.
It's not a far jump from here into the cosmic dimension. The book was never published during the author's lifetime, largely because it was too peculiar and post-modern. But a recent reference in the Lost TV series suggests that the public have caught up with the method. So the book is a mythical map, full of the walking dead and purgatorial wanderings. And as Stephen Rea returns us after an hour to the police station with the same old conversations and routines, the cycle of dread is complete.
The readings are enhanced with the accompaniment of Colin Reid, swapping his customary guitar for a piano, plus three string players, including the ever-engaged Neil Martin, aided by Becky Joslin and Niamh Crowley. They play edgy arpeggios and nocturnes with a nightmarish hue. Such an exceptional event. What a challenging start to the year.
How impressive was Neil Hannon on Celebrity Mastermind? A champion aficionado of the Frasier sitcom, perhaps in response the call of his inner Niles Crane. But he was also very nippy on the general knowledge and once again, making a positive contribution to the Alzheimer's Society cause. The deserved winner on the night.
While I admired the young, precocious Hannon, I think I like the evolving version more. He's full of ideas and wears his erudition well. There's a dose of humility in the gig now and he's got a cool portfolio of talents: pop songs, TV themes, sporting anthems, orchestral swoonage and musical theatre. A credit to the place.
There will be a new Dexys Midnight Runners album in 2012. Not everybody may share my excitement at the prospect but I'm always a bit thrilled when Kevin Rowland delivers something new. Let's not forget, the contentious 'My Beauty' album from 1999 was a covers project. The last 'proper' solo album was 'The Wanderer' in 1988 and since then, there have only been three new songs in circulation: 'Manhood', 'My Life In England' and more recently, 'It's OK Johanna'.
A recent online sample of new work suggests that it will partly return to the theme of Celtic laments and his connection to the west of Ireland via his parents' Mayo roots. Which is great by me. On my first show of the year I dropped in 'Young Man' from that 1988 collection. The sound of a guy telling his lessons to another generation, consoling the boy's heart, looking to balance the intensity of pure experience with the world's brutal tendencies. Kevin sings it tenderly and it always chokes me up.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight
The Psychedelic Furs - Pretty In Pink (CBS)
The Silver Seas - Candy (Lights)
The Amboy Dukes - Baby Please Don't Go (Elektra)
Tom McShane - Private Rooms (Third Bar)
Leonard Cohen - Show Me The Place (Sony)
Tom McShane - A Personal Narrative of Life At Sea (Third Bar)
Howler - Back Of Your Neck (Rough Trade)
The Rockingbirds - Til Something Better Comes Along (Spring)
The Staple Singers - Got To Be Some Changes (Decca)
Van Morrison - Brand New Day (Warner)
Porcelain Raft - Drifting In And Out (Secretly Canadian)
Duke Special - This Time Next Year (Reel To Reel)
Julia Lee - If It's Good (Mercury)
Jeb Loy Nichols - Ain't It Funny (Decca)
Mayer Hawthorne - A Long Time (Universal)
Aretha Franklin - Ain't No Way (WSM)
Kevin Rowland - Young Man (Mercury)
Michael Tiwanuka - Home (Communion)
Mary Margaret O'Hara - A New Day (Virgin)
Nick Lowe - The Poisoned Rose (Proper)
Ruth Moody - Winter Waltz (Red House)
Craig Finn -Terrified Eyes (Full Time Hobby)
Nat Johnson - The Scottish Song (Sheffield Phonographic)
Malojian - Julie-Anne (white)
Portico Quartet - Ruins (Real World)