Sunday, 28 November 2010


Raised by a retro Ted and a woman infatuated with 'Elvis the Pelvis'; it was rock n roll, 'The King' and The Beatles that made up the incidental music of my early life.

The first music I discovered for myself - and it really was mine as my parents hated it - came through accessing contemporary pop.
Fortunately the pop music of the time was very, very exciting; especially to those like me, in a state of burgeoning pubescence.

Sweet and Slade - as well as Suzi Quatro, but for somewhat different reasons - were the bands who totally enthralled me.

They puzzled me: they were odd, strangely theatrical, a little scary, but they could really belt it out; and they were fantastic.

Even then, in my state of innocence, I realised that they weren't 'puffs' as the old man would have it; no, these guys were very much 'men': blokey men; there was nothing effeminate about them.
The members of Sweet and Slade were obviously blokes who dressed up, whereas Marc Bolan wasn't.
Bolan was Bolan.
Brian Connolly and Noddy Holder were very different animals.

'Brickies in drag' was a common description from the time, and in a way, it was kind of fitting; not only were they obviously blokes, but they were working class blokes.

(Slade's film, Slade in Flame - a rock film Mark Kermode (credible British critic) considers to be the best in its genre - delineates the band's working class roots effectively: shot in a naturalistic socio-realist manner, it makes for the most downbeat, Ken Loach styled rock movie you'll ever see.
The band even insisted on getting Johnny Shannon (a real life gangster turned actor who first came to attention in his role as Harry Flowers, the Mr. Big who hunts down Chas in the film Performance) to play the crooked manager, adding to the film's strong but bleak verisimilitude.)

But at the time working class men didn't wear eye liner; nor did they wear groin high, flesh hugging, silver stacked boots; something was being challenged; and it didn't have much to do with sexuality.

There has always been a tradition within the working classes to use gender play as an act of subversion.
It was there in music hall, variety and penny operas.
But the idea, the concept, has its roots in radical politics.

Members of The New Model Army would often 'drag-up' before ambushing Royalist supporters in the street. The idea being that the Cavaliers would be humiliated because it seemed they were being duffed up by women.

The Rebecca Rioters, those who tore down toll gates in nineteenth-century West Wales, were aggrieved agricultural workers who donned womens' clothes while attacking the oppressive taxation on the freedom of movement.
They also covered their faces in soot - one wonders if that was purely to disguise themselves or to add an extra humiliation to the land owners of the time: not only to be overpowered by 'women', but 'black women'.

Of course Dave Hill never blacked up - although I'm sure if he'd thought it might have shifted a few more copies of Slayed he may have done - but Slade were very quick to change their image in an attempt to gain attention.

Encouraged by the mercenary and Machiavellian managerial tactics of Chas Chandler, they moved from their psychedelic rock look (while Ambrose Slade) to a skinhead look.
Chas thought it was going to be the next big thing.
They played a few skinhead venues apparently, but as soon as Jim Lea got his violin out to fiddle along to their version of 'Martha My Dear' [!] the audience would bottle them off.
Not surprising really.
I mean, just look at Dave Hill in this pic.
Does he really look like a skinhead?

So they grew their hair long, again, changed their clothes and jumped on the glam-bandwagon.
And I for one am ever so glad they did.

(Although it must be said, my favourite album of Slade's is Play It Loud (1970), the album where they are represented as a skinhead band; but it's more of a hard rock nuggets styled album; there's certainly no ska or Oi!
And they'd thankfully dropped 'Martha My Dear' [probably brought back nasty memories...].)

Sweet came to Glam from a slightly different angle.
They'd been playing around with garage styled pop for a few years, but became lighter and lighter, ending up in bubble gum territory.
It was only after several line-up changes that the band found a sound they could actually sell, and before they knew it they were cutting edge: massive.

Not that it did them much good.
Another working class attribute they adopted was live fast and... well, you know the rest.

Slade, however, did manage to keep it together, although Noddy retired from music - concentrating on his nuts and various panel games and chat shows - stating that the business was bent: run by crooks and gangsters; begging the question: how real and autobiographical was the representation of the business shown in their movie?

Anyway, here's a couple of great shows from both of the bands' peak periods; proving that these outfits were a lot more than merely fronts for studio based products.
They could really do it.

Man, I'd hate to be an adolescent now.
Have you heard the state of pop lately?

Sweet - Berlin Blitz (recorded: 1976; release date unknown)

CD rip to mp3s.
Get Sweet here

Slade - Young Vic, London, 1975 (release date unknown)

Them Kinda Monkeys Can't Swing
The Bangin' Man
Gudbuy T' Jane
Far Far Away
Thanks For the Memory
How Does It Feel?
Just Want a Little Bit
O.K. Yesterday Was Yesterday
Raining in my Champagne
Let the Good Times Roll
Mama Weer all Crazy Now

CD rip to mp3s
Get Slade here

Tuesday, 23 November 2010


As mentioned in my previous Beatles' post, there's an enormous glut of material out there.
Sifting through it all is one heck of an investment, even for the most ardent of fans.

I have tentatively dipped my cyber-toe but soon withdrew; overwhelmed by mop-top sludge, poor recordings, recycled 'rarities', rubbish (not something one would readily associate with the Kings of EMI), and collections of alternate takes: often of the same track (you know the kind of thing: 'on this version John's breath is more prominent during the harmonica solo...')!

I mean, I'm sure there are those out there who revel in a collection of twenty-five different takes of 'Help' or thirty versions of 'Strawberry Fields', but they're probably people who count out grains of rice into a bowl before serving, making sure everyone gets the same amount.

If you're not one of those types, but like a bit of Beatles, and maybe want to hear something a little outside of the ever-so-famous canon, try this.

It truly does what it says on the tin; it gives an 'insight into The Beatles' creative process', and it does this in a most informative and entertaining way.

There are complete versions of songs on this album, all of which are alternate takes: all more interesting than the released versions.
But the best tracks in this collection are those that are made up from extracts of different takes spliced together; allowing the song's history to be revealed.

The track may start somewhere near demo or early rehearsal stage (The Beatles recorded everything [which is why they're so heavily bootlegged, of course]), but soon segues into a more developed take; eventually melting into the released version.

It sounds a bit gimmicky (which it is), but actually makes for a fascinating listen.
The creator, bootlegger, whoever, allows the listener to appreciate the song's journey; to take in the song's development and change through time.
This is best exemplified by 'Good Morning, Good Morning', which begins merely as the animal sfx track that accompanies the piece (most prominently heard at the end of the released track - this freed-up version sends my dogs berserk!), joined by an early hard rock styled-version of the song, and then segueing, seamlessly, into the finished, familiar version.

As I've already said, it is gimmicky, but it's compelling.
And despite the fact that it is a kind of documentary of sorts of the songs, it's gratifying enough to be played again and again.

The sound quality is also superb throughout.

And if you are interested in The Beatles' music, another reason to grab this is for the track 'Sour Milk Sea'.
A song I know nothing about.
It's simply beautiful.
It sounds like a George song - I think George sings it.

Definitely the most interesting and thrillingly new, to me [fuck, I'm a Chuckle Brother!], Beatles' song I have so far discovered.
I have no idea why it isn't known or why it wasn't released.

But I'm sure there's someone out there who does...

The Beatles - Men & Horses, Hoops & Garters (2001 [?] )

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
With a Little Help From My Friends
Glass Onion
And I Love Her
She Loves You
Eight Days a Week
She's a Woman
Good Morning, Good Morning
I Me Mine
Honey Pie
It's Only Love
Get Back
Sour Milk Sea
I Am the Walrus
Old Brown Shoe
Why Don't We Do It In the Road
What You're Doing
Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey
Across the Universe
Let It Be
Isn't It a Pity / Hey Jude
Her Majesty
King Lear Speech
Sour Milk Sea

CD rip to mp3s; artwork included.
Get this most essential of Beatles' boots here

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Prêt à Punk

Groovy old punk sampler from seminal French record label Skydog Records.

It's all in here to be heard; The Clash, The New York Dolls and of course: Iggy.
But there's also a smattering of blues; capturing the true gestation of punk and the live scene of the late nineteen-seventies.

Skydog were really all about the Stooges; although they did have many other interesting artists visit their stable, but essentially Iggy was where they were at.
And Iggy, at the time, was very punk indeed.

When Iggy was punk.
Remember that?
Included here is a fascinating version of the Stooges' 'Open Up and Bleed', with Iggy-styled preamble; I'm not sure if this version was released anywhere else; but I know the album that was to be titled with the same name was never released - although there's bound to be out there somewhere something those who are pragmatic and motivated enough to do such things have put together.
Bound to be.

It's funny how Sean Tyla always managed to get in on the act (he appears on this compilation both with his own band and with Ducks Deluxe), being regularly grouped, or lumped in with punk and new wave bands - The Tyla Gang were included on the classic compilation Hope & Anchor Front Row Festival (1977), along with XTC, Steel Pulse, Dr. Feelgood and, er, Dire Straits [!].

It's not that I'm down on Sean Tyla; far from it; he was truly a great songwriter and performer (I still think The Tyla Gang's Moonproof (1978) is one of the best albums of its genre from the period).
I just never got the association.
He even looked wrong: long hair and bearded, flare-wearing, obvious stoner; yet there he was, doing his rock n roll thing alongside The Stranglers and 999.

I know Peel liked them - it was his show that introduced me to the band - so maybe that made The Tyla Gang cool.

All in all, this sampler, as all samplers are, is very evocative; crystallizing the time perfectly.

Bon Appétit!

Various Artists - La Creme De Skydog (1978)

Flamin' Groovies - Jumpin' Jack Flash
Ducks Deluxe - Here Comes the Night
Tyla Gang - It's Only Rock n Roll
Titus Williams - Talkin' About You
Fantomes - I Wanna Be Your Dog
Fantomes - High School
1984 - Dirt
1984 - Flesh Kaput
Iggy and The Stooges - Open Up and Bleed

Excellent 320 vinyl rip, from a not that well pressed record.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

El Residentes, innit

Right strange one this.

First off, this is not the Balearic beat as we all now know it: this is a very different animal.
And secondly, a compilation featuring such diverse artists as The Residents, The Woodentops, Nitzer Ebb and Mandy Smith (remember her? Think Bill Wyman, yeah, you got it) is hard to imagine; especially one titled Balearic Beats.

All rather bizarre; but somehow, rather good.

Up to a point.

The liner notes boldly suggest that despite the Balearic beat being born in Ibiza, it was actually conceived in South London, or more precisely: The Shoom Club, as well as a little foreplay going on down the road at The Future.

Well, it was the eighties....

Of course the highlight is without doubt The Residents' 'Kaw-liga', alone well worth the download: it's really stomping; dreadfully infectious, and just makes you want to go and listen to a lot more Residents.
And why not?

There are some other interesting pieces on here though, it's not just a one trick pony by any means.
Nitzer Ebb's 'Join in the chant' has much of a 23 Skidoo vibe about it, and Beats Workin''s 'Sure Beats Workin'' is reminiscent of Jah Wobble's late-eighties' sound, and includes some gorgeously blended Moorish flavours.

So despite the strange combination and odd juxtaposing within this collection, it does work.
It's bouncy, upbeat and just oozes eeeeeeeeeeee.
All in all, very evocative of that late-eighties club vibe.

Two up on the pacifier!

Various Artists - Balearic Beats: Vol 1 (1988)

Electra - Jibaro
Code 61 - Drop the Deal
Beats Workin' - Sure Beats Workin'
Enzo Avitabile - Blackout
Mandy Smith - Mandy's Theme (I Just Can't Wait)
The Residents - Kaw-liga
The Woodentops - Why Why Why (live)
Nitzer Ebb - Join in the Chant
Fini Tribe - De Testimony
The Thrashing Doves - Jesus on the Payrol

Excellent vinyl rip @320kbs
Go "Kaw-ligaaaaaaaaaaaaaa" here

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Kula Shaker.
Remember them?

They're still doing it apparently.
Not that anyone would know it...

They seemed to come from nowhere back in 96; they were really hot, ubiquitous: steaming!

But they created a bit of a dead end for themselves.
What with all the incense burning; the Hindu iconography and their psychedelic boogie/Asian mix, they just couldn't go anywhere.

They'd turned themselves into Sadhus and then wondered why no one took too much interest when they suddenly appeared daubed in eye liner and looking rather like Green Day.

Crispian Mills also suffered from some very prejudicial music press.
He was never liked.
'Little Lord Fauntleroy' Noel Gallagher - who could speak or do no wrong in the eyes of the NME and the like at the time - dubbed him; and the press seemed to take real umbrage that he came from an established family of actors (John [granddad] & Hailey [mother]) and was so obviously bourgeois and not rock n roll.

They were out to get him.
And they did.
Claiming he was a Nazi because of his adoption of the swastika symbol - a Hindu symbol, of course - which is kind of weird, considering nobody accused Jordan or Siouxsie Sioux of being Nazis, despite their deliberate provocative use of the emotive icon....

What with all that going on, Kula Shaker were short lived (although now resurrected), and I consider them to be a one album band (although their most recent album, Pilgrims Progress, is apparently impressive [memo to self: must get a copy...]); and there's no doubt about it: their first album was really, really good.

Fortunately, this performance from early 97 is all about that first album; and it is a superb performance.
Here, they're really hot, as I said: steaming!

'303', what I think has to be their best song, has got something of the energy of The Gaye Bykers about it; Kula Shaker could really kick-ass boogie when they wanted to.
And they do a lot of that here.
And this is what the band should be remembered for.


Kula Shaker - Live at Aston Villa Leisure Centre, Birmingham, U.K. 27/1/97.

Baby You're a Rich Man
Knight on the Town
Grateful When You're Dead
Jerry Was There
(Raagy One) Waiting For Tomorrow
For This Love
Drop in the Sea
Smart Dogs
Start All Over
Hey Dude
Hollow Man (parts 1 & 2)
Into the Deep
Govinda/I Feel Fine

Excellent rip from cassette captured FM recording @320kbs.
Originally broadcast live by BBC Radio 1.
Finger cymbals at the ready here