Sunday, 16 November 2014

Lost on the Hard Drive #3 - The Emeralds

There are many good things about the easy access to music that we enjoy today. I want it. I got it. Quick as that. I can order a physical album without leaving my keypad, I can stream entire catalogues in any number of ways, or I can purchase and download individual tunes or complete recorded works in seconds. The problem with the latter comes when a stray tune hits the hard drive, is played and enjoyed for a while, before being lost in an anonymous folder on my computer. Which happens a lot. In this occasional series I'll be scouring my D and G drives, unearthing half-forgotten gems along the way. 

The fashions, the curtains, the carpet, the radiogram, the goldfish tank - the castanets! Could this anonymous photo possibly be any more 1965? How I'd like to rifle through that little rack of 45s on the floor. What do we think the Decca single is at the front? I really hope it's not something by The Bachelors or Kenneth McKellar. It may be a long shot, but I'm putting half a crown on it being this.

(I'm heading out of town for a few days. Should be back in action on Wednesday.)

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Flip It! #4 - Dib Cochran & the Earwigs

Off the top of my head, I can only remember ever meeting a mere handful of my youthful prog-rock heroes in the flesh, usually while bagging post-gig autographs in the 1970s. One, who shall remain nameless, was, disappointingly, an utter arse, the combined membership of Van Der Graaf Generator were very amiable and Rick Wakeman, who was friendly and extremely funny.

A couple of evenings ago, round at our local petrol station, I was surprised to see Rick Wakeman walk across the forecourt in front of me, from the shop back to his car. I've no idea what might have brought him out to my neck of the woods, but was suddenly taken with the urge to go over and renew our brief acquaintance of nearly 40 years earlier. Halfway out of the car, though, I changed my mind. What could I possibly say to him that would justify invading his privacy?

In retrospect, perhaps I could've quizzed him about his involvement in a short-lived group, Dib Cochran & the Earwigs, which also featured Tony Visconti on bass and vocals, drummer John Cambridge (from the band Juniors Eyes) and a certain Marc Bolan on guitar. Dib Cochran & the Earwigs issued one single, 'Oh Baby', in September 1970, a month before T.Rex released 'Ride a White Swan'. What if 'Ride a White Swan had bombed? What if 'Oh Baby' had been the hit? The 1970s might have been a very different place.

The b-side of 'Oh Baby', a short instrumental sketch entitled 'Universal Love', features Rick to the fore.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Version City #35 - The Gaylads sing Simon & Garfunkel

One day, six or seven years ago, when I was working for a well known high street coffee chain, I was on the till as the lunchtime queue stretched up the shop and out of the door. I took a lady's order and was about to move on to the next customer, when she said, 'Why do you put up with this all day? I wouldn't put up with it'. She wasn't complaining about the queue, she was pointing at a speaker in the ceiling. With a laugh, I apologised for the quality of the (admittedly crushingly dull) instore music, but she was deadly serious. 'It's not THIS music it's ANY music. Why is there music everywhere nowadays? I can't stand music. I don't see the point of it. Why can't we just live in silence?'

Over the years, in my capacity as a store manager, I had to deal with all manner of customer complaints and comments, but that one had me stumped and has stuck with me. Had I been on my toes, I could've responded by quoting Nietzsche, 'Without music, life would be a mistake'. Or maybe Robert Fripp, 'Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence'. Perhaps even, bizarrely, former LibDem head honcho Charles Kennedy, 'I couldn't imagine a day without music. It relaxes and stimulates me in equal measure. And I hate the sound of silence. The concept, I mean. Not the track by Simon and Garfunkel.'

(Inspired by a recent post over at Grown Up Backwards.)

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Saturday Scratch #41 - The Mark E. Smith Connection

Did someone put together a compilation of tunes from the Amalgamated label for Mark E Smith in the early 1990s? If so it would help to explain The Fall's brief foray into the fine art of the reggae cover version. Best known is 'Why Are People Grudgeful' issued as a single in 1993 and based on a fantastic 1968 Joe Gibbs 7", released on Amalgamated, which was itself a reply in song to Lee Perry's scathing, 'People Funny Boy'.

Less familiar is 'Kimble', originally issued on Amalgamated by Perry (under the pseudonym, The Creators) as the b-side to Stranger Cole & Gladdy's, 'Seeing is Knowing', also in 1968. The Fall recorded their version of this obscurity in 1992 for a John Peel session - and it's a corker.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Toast Returns

We watch an infinitesimally small amount of telly in this house, mainly because we don't have a telly, but one show we've been hooked on, since we bumped into the pilot on Channel 4's catch-up service in 2012, is 'Toast of London', which returns for a second series this evening. Written by Matt Berry and Arthur Mathews, it stars Berry himself as Steven Toast - actor, voice-over artist and pompous windbag. It's a hoot. Don't miss it.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

John Cale - If You Were Still Around

A year to the day after Lou Reed's death, John Cale issued a re-recorded version of 'If You Were Still Around', a song originally released on the 1982 LP 'Music For A New Society'. The accompanying video is a moving salute to Reed and other fallen comrades from the Velvet Underground era, including Andy Warhol, Sterling Morrison and Nico, and finds Cale himself literally raging against the dying of the light. Stay tuned until the very end of the clip and watch as he staggers out of shot, emotionally spent.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Hallowe'en and all that....

When exactly did Hallowe'en become a thing in the UK? When did trick-or-treating begin in earnest? As a kid in the 1960s, my memory is of returning to school in early September, after the summer holidays, and moving pretty seamlessly into standing on street corners next to a pile of old rags in a pushchair, with a saucepan for a head, shouting 'penny for the guy mister?' at passing strangers. I was aware of the existence of Hallowe'en from cartoons and American TV programmes, but the day was never celebrated or recognised round our way - Fireworks Night was infinitely more important. When did the change occur? It must've been in the 1980s when I wasn't looking. Nowadays, at this time of the year, you can't move for costumes and decorations hanging from shop displays and pumpkins rolling around all over the place. I don't think I even knew what a pumpkin was until I was in my 20s!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the harvest from our own allotment is currently taking up every available space in the house - I love 'em now! Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

Here's Charles 'Packy' Axton, in his guise as The Pac-Keys, with 'Greasy Pumpkin' from 1967. Axton's story is a fascinating one and this tune can be found on a terrific compilation of his work entitled 'Late, Late Party 1965-67'. Find out more about the man and his music here.

Pick of the Pops...