Monday, 31 January 2011

Deaf Metal

My own local haunt as a music hungry teenager was a boozer in New Barnet, Norf Lundun, called The Duke of Lancaster.
Free music every night of the week, except Wednesdays; the pub's darts team had the run of the place.

And while many of my peers were studiously revising for their O Levels, there was I, often accompanied by a dude named Rickets [!], sipping on an illegally obtained pint of Courage Director's Bitter (or 'Bad Breath' as we coined it), firmly laying down the foundation of what would manifest in years to come as intermittent bouts of mind-fucking tinnitus.

But hey, it was worth every tone, ring and hiss; as there really was nothing better than bending one's ear drums to the likes of Strasse, Silencer, Spring Offensive, 64 Spoons, Spider, and many, many more kick ass bands whose names didn't necessarily begin with the letter S.

One of them being Bleak House, a firm favourite with the 'Duke' clientele.

Hailing from St. Albans, a very metal city at the time, Bleak House didn't have far to travel; and they were always given a very warm welcome by a most enthusiastic, mainly hirsute, mainly male, beer swilling, heaving bunch of hedonists who Bacchus himself would have been honoured to have been among.

Man, Bleak House were loud.
They used to use thunderflashes!
With green smoke!
The residue of which would settle itself atop the head of your 'Bad Breath'.

Bleak House were very much riding on the new wave of British heavy metal; their old school sound was a fusion of influences: Judas Priest, Budgie and of course Sabbaff; and with two guitars, bass, drum and an oscillating soprano they encapsulated the late seventies metal sound perfectly.

The big metal bands who followed in the wake of these early pub playing pioneers owed just as much to bands like Bleak House - and there were many - as did those such as the Sex Pistols and The Clash owe to those who did the groundwork for punk.

Personally, I lost interest when acts like Iron Maiden, Diamond Head and Angelwitch turned up on the scene. All the fun seemed to go out of it; metal got serious.
And boring.

Anyway. Here's a right bit of self-indulgent nostalgia.
And who knows, it may be of interest to someone...

Bleak House 7" (1980)

Rainbow Warrior

Decent 7" vinyl rip @320kbs
Ear'ole assault here

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Did You Spill My Pint?

If London had a CBGBs it wasn't The Roxy or The Marquee Club, it was Islington's Hope & Anchor (of course it had to be a pub, right), and this seminal compilation substantiates that.

It's all here to be heard: the juxtapositions reveal all.

The old guard, represented by Steve Gibbons, The Pirates, and dear old Wilko; and those who retained an older style, such as The Pleasers, Dire Straits, and to a certain extent Sean Tyla's Tyla Gang - who never sounded more like an English version of Tom Petty and The Hertbreakers - are heard alongside the new young gunslingers and upstarts: X-Ray Spex (Poly Styrene being the only woman on the album!), The Saints, Suburban Studs, The Only Ones, 999 and XTC, a band who were already years ahead; already sounding post-post-punk.

And there's Steel Pulse, the then great ambassadors of the new wave of British reggae.
To have seen them at that time in a London pub must have been something else.

There wasn't much to the Hope & Anchor back in the nineteen-seventies.
No real stage as such, just a raised area in an airless, heaving, chamber-like bar.
But the historicity of the place is immense.
And this compilation is its ossuary.

Various Artists - Hope & Anchor Front Row Festival (1978)

Wilko Johnson Band - Dr. Feelgood
The Stranglers - Straighten Out
Tyla Gang - Styrofoam
The Pirates - Don't Munchen It
Steve Gibbons Band - Speed Kills
XTC - I'm Bugged
Suburban Studs - I Hate School
Wilko Johnson Band - Billy
XTC - Science Friction
Dire Straits - Eastbound Train
Burlesque - Bizz Fizz
X-Ray Spex - Let's Submerge
999 - Crazy
The Saints - Demolition Girl
The Only Ones - Creatures of Doom
The Pirates - Gibson Martin Fender
Steel pulse - Sound Check
Roogalator - Zero Hour
Philip Rambow - Underground Romance
The Pleasers - Rock and Roll Radio
Tyla Gang - On the Streets
Steve Gibbons Band - Johnny Cool
Wilko Johnson Band - Twenty Years Behind

Cd rip to mp3s
Return to the Front Row here

Thursday, 27 January 2011

True Grit

Sean Tyla must have seriously questioned the validity of his existence when Dire Straits made it massive.
Back in the day the two bands could often be found playing side by side on the same billing; back in the day there were plenty of boozy venues crying out for solid rock acts.

Tyla Gang, as with Dire Straits, never sat easy among their contemporaries - my next post really highlights that - but were regularly lumped in with the 'new' punk movement and were often described as a pub-rock band.
In reality they were a long way away from Eddie and The Hot Rods and Kilburn and The High Roads, and they sounded nothing like 999; Tyla Gang just happened to be doing their thing at the same time; the venues just happened to be pubs.

Although, it must be said, it was the great champion of punk, John Peel, who introduced me to Sean Tyla's music; but like the best of us, Peel was never one to confine himself to a single genre, and really he had an ear and an enthusiasm for anything good.
Peace be upon him.

And it was this album, their second and last, that really caught me.
Many consider Yachtless, their debut, to be their best, but I think the second side of this album - from 'Spanish Street' onwards - is one of the finest collections of tracks from any British rock band of that time.

The songs are gritty, hard-played, and in that uniquely British way real seedy; perfectly capturing the run-down, beat sensibility which troubled so many at the end of that abysmal decade.

It suited the band to sign to an American label (Beserkley) as Tyla's muse had already taken him there. There's a sense of imaginative longing in his songs, a desire for better things; exotic things; things sensational, exciting and thrilling.
At the time, the late seventies, there seemed nothing more exotic and exciting than televisual America, and Tyla delineates it so well you'd think he was born on the West Coast; in fact he's a Yorkshireman.

But hey, forget that.
Grab this. Click on the track 'American Mother', turn it up to about seven or eight and prepare to be completely blown away.

And it still sounds good for a well played thirty-three year old cut of sickly yellow vinyl.

Tyla Gang - Moonproof (1978)

Tropical Love
Oakland Red
It's Gonna Rain
Did You Hear it on the Radio
Spanish Street
No Roses
American Mother
Suicide Jockey
Flashing in the Subway

Nice vinyl rip @320kbs
Join the Gang here

Friday, 21 January 2011


As it's my birthday I figured I'd share with you something from 'The Best'.

Despite this 2008 album's official release status, it seems to have gone beneath many's radar, especially in Britain where I believe it only existed as an import - if such things can exist in that fashion in today's technology reduced planet.

Essentially an album of fragments from seventies' shows, this, unlike some of the posthumous releases, is definitely of interest to both the casual and the hardcore Zappa fan. The fragments are extremely well selected; offering some wonderfully tasty morsels for the ears to chomp upon.
Chomp Chomp.

To open, there's a glorious piece from the Apostrophe/One Size Fits All band, where the playful stretching of words, mainly the word 'well', can be heard; all done in the spirit of jazz of course: an old joke it may be, but it always makes me chuckle.
The clowning is followed by some masterful loose keyboard playing by Duke - surely one of Zappa's most homogeneous and complimentary of collaborators (after all, they wrote 'Uncle Remus' together, right, say no more!).

After a mosaic of quite discordant instrumentals, FZ gets down to business and two of those gorgeously claustrophobic squitty solos are captured.
'Occam's Razor', lifted from a recording of 'Inca Roads', highlights Zappa's tactile playing - as much done with pedals as it is with his fingers - and it's so precise and so extraordinary it totally mesmerizes.
'Heidelberg', a solo extracted from a recording of Sheik Yerbouti's 'Yo Mama', is deep: deep, deep notes squirted straight into your head; even the pauses, the spaces, creating a deep sense of claustrophobia.

To be there, to experience what Zappa referred to as 'air sculptures' was incredible.
The notes, especially those 'deep' ones, would leave you catatonic.
When that spotlight picked out that guitar player the audience were one.
Not in a 'Radio Ga-Ga' way, but held, suspended; beheld by something truly great; beheld by something magical: sublime.
And no matter how many people were in that venue, when that guitar player played that guitar there existed in that moment merely you and him.
And that doesn't happen very often.
Well, not to me it doesn't.

'Australian Yellow Snow' is a revamped version of the Nanook songs from Apostrophe. A real hodge-podge this one: each section taking on a different genre, making it very new and fresh to the ear.

And no matter how familiar you think it's going to be, you can never assume you've heard it all before with Zappa, he always went beyond expectations; even evening shows following a matinee were considerably different.
Hence the glut of bootleg material.

But this isn't a bootleg, and you have no need to worry about the sound quality; as with all released by the ZFT, sometimes the artistic quality may not always be top notch (Trance Fusion, what was going on there?) but the sound quality always is.

Fortunately, this selection meets all criteria.

Frank Zappa - One Shot Deal (2008)

Bathtub Man
Space Boogers
Trudgin' Across the Tundra
Occam's Razor
The Illinois Enema Bandit
Australian Yellow Snow

CD rip to mp3s
Feel it here

Monday, 17 January 2011


Tom Mahler was a fictional character; the protagonist of Calvert's only published novel, Hype.
Much of this album could be understood as being a soundtrack to that novel, which is a nice twist on the familiar film related package; but then, Robert Calvert liked to twist the familiar.

In this, the first of Calvert's albums to heavily rely on electronica, his detached, staccato, sometimes machine-like, ethereal vocal brought enormous amounts of authentic feeling to these songs.

His mini-anthems - narratives inspired as much by Astounding Stories magazine as Bob Dylan - trip along to accompaniment Devo-like with its use of percussive synths and rhythmic stun-guitar.

His gorgeous couplets; sometimes funny ('We Like To be Frightened'), metaphysically freaky ('Greenfly and the Rose'), or damn-right odd ('The Luminous Dial of the Dashboard') always catch you out; and like much great poetry, every encounter seems fresh, new: alive.
He can even make a rainy afternoon in Margate seem like a cosmic experience ('Hanging Out on the Seafront').

To accompany Calvert's new direction, he needed a new wave sounding band, and he called on an old Hawkwind connection, Bethnal; a band who had toured with the Hawks back in seventy-seven, when Hawkwind began associating themselves with young punk acts.

Bethnal had been doing 'punk' since the early seventies, and by seventy-six, seventy-seven they were already well on their way to becoming a prog band, or post-punk as it became known.

By eighty-one they were perfectly primed to accompany Calvert's take on the new wave; and they do a great job; and along with slots from Michael Moorcock (12 string), Simon house (elctronica), Nik turner (sax) and Pete Pavli (cello), Calvert couldn't have asked for better musicianship.

The best comes last on this album, as it closes with one of Calvert's finest anthemic epics: 'Lord of the Hornets', one of his live highlights.
Listening to this I can still envisage him on stage, and no matter how big his audience, he always flogged his guts out; giving it everything he had; all in the name of art; in the name of rock n roll.
And we liked it.
Thanks Bob.

Robert Calvert - Hype (1981)

Over My Head
It's the Same
Hanging Out on the Seafront
Evil Rock
We Like to be Frightened
Teen Ballard of Deano
Flight 105
The Luminous Dial of the Dashboard
Greenfly and the rose
Lord of the Hornets

Excellent cassette rip @320kbs
Catch the Hype here


Just in case you're curious; here's what Bethnal sounded like when they were on their own back in seventy-eight.

Already firmly entrenched in the post-punk camp, their fiddle-fronted sound could only go one way.
And on this 12" the tracks reveal their destiny: prog called and they ran towards it.

Here they sound a bit like Eddie and the Hot Rods with a great deal of Who sensibility.
The title track is a well played and well produced rocker. The flip is made-up of excerpts; clips from their album Dangerous Times; seems a little desperate: I don't think they sold too well.
And although this is not a bad listen, I always felt Bethnal were one of those bands who were top musicians, had a great sound, but didn't really have too much decent material.

Until Bob came along that is.
O the Hype.

Bethnal - Don't Do It 12" (1978)

Don't Do It
Excerpts from Dangerous Times:
Who We Gonna Blame
Baba O'Reily
Out in the Street

Decent 12" vinyl rip @320kbs
Go to Bethnal here

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Man a Pysgod

Why o why o why was I not at this gig?

Here were two of Wales' finest jamming with not only a true icon of the sixties, but one heck of a blistering plank-spanker.

Now Barry Melton has never been regarded much in the guitar world, but his playing with Country Joe and The Fish (Melton's The Fish) was always incredibly bold and dynamic.
He could do a nice jingly-jangly and he could play a mighty fine boogie; but his solos, Wow! They were off the scale.
Blistering, shuddering notes that jumped right out at you, just leaping off the mix; notes so intense with vibrato and power they'd send your head reeling.
Man, he could do incredible things with that whammy-bar!

Okay, so he's slowed a little through the years, and his solo work is rather subdued compared with what he produced back in the day, but hey, he's Barry Melton, The Fish, the guy who runs towards the camera with a joint and holds it an inch away from the lens in the movie Woodstock, the guy who shouts 'no rain, no rain', the guy who often led the Fuck chant, you know: 'Give me an eff, give me a you...' etc.
And he was playing in Baglan, near Port Talbot!
Less than an hour away from my house!
And with two guitarists who could easily keep up with the Californian import.

Micky Jones and Deke Leonard: Man! nuff said.

Except, Micky Jones was rated by Zappa as one of the best guitar players out there - I saw Jones jamming one time with Jimmy Carl Black's Muffin Men, and Man, when he played Zappa, he played Zappa. Closer than anyone else I've ever heard. It's all in those nuances, right! And Jones could do it so well - and Deke Leonard: Man, one of the gutsiest rhythm players you'll ever encounter.

And the reason I wasn't at the gig: well, didn't know anything about it.
Most gigs in Wales seem to rely on word of mouth; the talking drums around here are very, very damp; the best shows one seems to come across through serendipity rather than advertising.
And to prove it: there's no one at this gig.
Okay, maybe six or seven people; or at least that's what it sounds like.

The space makes for a wonderful recording; top class, as good as many professional live recordings: a definite A+, but it does sound pitiful when Melton tries to sell the empty venue 'genuine Woodstock and Monterey picks' [£6.95 a pair].

However, the lack of bodies doesn't deter the axe wielding trio - three SGs! What more could one want!? - and they play their hearts out.
The combination of Melton's songs and the Man duo's Spunk Rock sensibilities makes a perfect blend: a cocktail for the ears.

So, enjoy this.
Nearly two hours of psychedelic bliss from three very original players.
O yes.

Barry Melton, Micky Jones & Deke Leonard - Baglan Social Club 17th July 2004.

I Can't Dance
Barry Speaks
Barry Breathes
Mojo Navigator
Picks For Sale
The Love Machine
Busted Strings
Colorado Town
The Dance
Butcher's Boy

CD rip to mp3s; includes cover art.
There was a welcome in the hillside here

Monday, 3 January 2011

Stronger Than A Moose

White Rabbits!
Oops, bit slow off the mark with that one, but there you are: life and all that....

To get the new year off to a flying start, here is something that is both original and unique; original in it's own way and unique as a product/download/whatever.
For here is Boosh music.
That being all the music from The Mighty Boosh's TV shows; and when strung together makes for one heck of a gloriously, surreal - but incredibly infectious - absurd audio montage.

Featuring all the Boosh regulars: Howard & Vince (our heroes), Bollo (a spliffed out gorilla), Nabu (a blissed out shaman),

as well as some excellent guest performances from Milkie Joe & The Coconuts, Sammy the Crab, Rudy, Bob Fossil, The Hitcher [with his solo-polo vision], The Mod Wolves and others too numerous (or far out) to name or mention.

With their tripped-out, stoner-styled humour, Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding pick up the English absurd baton (think of The Goons, Python, The Goodies, The Young Ones) and run with it.
Their music was really the highlight of each episode. Incorporating a Ween/Zappa/Devo/Beastie Boys' style, they twist funk, rap, punk, electro, folk and prog with ease; if anything, leaving the listener wanting more as few of the songs are longer than two minutes.

If you haven't experienced the Boosh for yourself, check it out on YouTube; but really, the Boosh was at its best before it engaged with the world of television: practicing absurdities on radio.
Fortunately, their radio shows are still available, and if you gravitate towards English surreal humour you've got to give them a listen.

But for now, here's their music.
Dress up and dance.
Like a wolf. Like a wolf!

Series 1

Mod Wolves
Ape of Death
The Shamen
The Tundra Rap
The Hitcher

Series 2

Yeti Magic
Searching for the New Sound
Rudy's Quest
Spider Lovin'
El Sondio Nuevo
The Chosen One
The Soup Song
Love Games
Sea Funk
Milkie Joe & The Coconuts

Series 3

Eels (A Pie & Mash Up)
I Did a Shit on Your Mum
Future Sailors
Looking Backwards
The Crimp
A Higher Place
Bouncey Bouncey
Sammy The Crab
It's What's Inside That Counts

Ripped from DVDs @320kbs
booshmusic here