Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Farewell Bill Price

The dismal year of 2016 landed one final blow on Monday, with the belated announcement of the death of noted producer and engineer Bill Price on December 22nd, at the age of 72. In a career which started in 1965, Price twiddled the knobs for a rich and varied cast of characters over the years, including Tom Jones, Pete Townshend, Davey Graham, Englebert Humperdink, Peter Cook, The Pretenders, Bill Fay, Free, Paul McCartney, British Sea Power, Mott the Hoople, Human League, Camel, Sparks, Roxy Music, The Saints, TRB, Elton John, XTC, Guns N' Roses and many more - plus of course he worked with both The Clash and The Sex Pistols, virtually simultaneously.

Bill Price was a quiet giant of the recording industry for over 40 years and his passing will be mourned by artists and audiences alike. Here are just three examples of his production talent.

Racing Cars - They Shoot Horses Don't They (1976) 

Jesus & Mary Chain - Happy When It Rains (1987) 

The Waterboys - The Return of Pan (1993)

Monday, 16 January 2017

All That Jazz #1 - Herbie Hancock

For a long time, a very long time, I've wanted to introduce a Jazz series to these pages. I'm keenly aware that this might prove less than popular in some quarters and I can respect that, but it's a musical genre that takes up a great deal of my listening hours, so please forgive an old man's indulgence. Fear not though, the series, much like its Reggae counterpart Red Gold & Green, will be an occasional one. The title, All That Jazz, is a nod to my Dad (himself a Jazz fan in the 1950's) who would often, apropos of nothing, conclude a sentence with the phrase '...and all that jazz'.

I'll kick things off with the nearest thing to a safe bet that I have at my disposal, 'Cantaloupe Island' by Herbie Hancock. The tune was recorded in 1964 for Hancock's fourth Blue Note LP 'Empyrean Isles', on which he is joined by three musicians who will definitely reappear in this series down the line somewhere - Freddie Hubbard on cornet, Ron Carter on bass and the great Tony Williams on drums. The tune achieved renewed recognition when it was heavily sampled to form the basis of 'Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia)', a hit single for Us3 in 1993.

Herbie Hancock - Cantaloupe Island

(Buy 'Empyrean Isles' by Herbie Hancock here)

Thursday, 12 January 2017


Considering that we spend 24 hours a day in the same building, the Swede Towers Venn diagram of musical obsessions doesn't overlap as much as you might think. The tuneful taste-buds of Mrs S & I are often complementary, but rarely absolutely identical. Currently, however, we are in complete agreement, sharing an ear-worm that gets us both throwing ill-advised shapes around the kitchen when we reconvene for lunch. Congolese singer, songwriter and rapper Baloji has a substantial catalogue of fine music under his belt and is currently signed to Bella Union, who released the '64 bits & Malachite' EP in November. From it, the tune that Mrs S & I can't get enough of is 'Spoiler'. Be prepared to be hooked.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

One Year


The homeward road is long 
You've left your prayers and song

Monday, 9 January 2017

Feeling Gravity's Pull

In her final years, as her frailty and ill heath became gradually more pronounced, my Nan would quite often grab my arm for support, pull me close and whisper in despair - 'Don't ever get old'. I remember it distinctly. I also remember shaking my head at the absurdity of the very notion. I was young - I wasn't ever going to get old. Nan was living with us by then, as was her Sister-in-law, always known to me as Aunt Maud. Aunt Maud bore her own old age in a more stoic fashion than Nan. She laughed a lot, she enjoyed a drink and a cigarette and was generally the more sociable of the two, in spite of her increasing deafness and having been registered as blind for most of the second half of her life. As I went through a growth spurt in my mid-teens and shot up past them both, Aunt Maud, a Cockney through and through, would peer up at me as best she could and exclaim, 'Blimey, I reckon I'm growing downwards!'

Your humble author in 1975, aged 15, with Nan and Aunt Maud.

It would appear however, regardless of my very best efforts over the intervening 40 odd years, that I am in fact getting old. Or at least old enough to qualify for a recent invitation to our local medical centre, to have a general health and well-being check. Questions were asked, blood was drawn and readings measured. I'm doing ok apparently - BMI, weight, heart, pulse, cholesterol and blood sugar all tickety-boo. 'One last thing...' said the nurse as I was about to leave, '...step over here and we'll check your height.' 'Six foot six, I chimed confidently - I'd already told her as much, earlier in the examination. The nurse stood on tiptoe for a moment to adjust the measure so that it rested lightly on top of my head. 'Six foot four actually' she countered with a smile. 'Blimey,' I said. 'I reckon I'm growing downwards'.

REM - Feeling Gravity's Pull

Saturday, 7 January 2017


All my own work!

Among the ever increasing list of accidental omissions from in my recent end of year posts is 'Ceremonial' by Anchorsong, which was issued so early in 2016 that I became convinced it had actually been released in 2015. Schoolboy error. The LP, on the Tru Thoughts label, is oozing with beautifully realised cross-cultural pop tunes. Look out - here comes one now. (If you like it, there's more here)

Anchorsong - Butterflies

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Version City #57 - Pete Townshend sings The Beat

Talking as we were about The Beat, I'm reminded of Pete Townshend's admirable cover of 'Save It For Later', which was originally released on the band's final LP, 'Special Beat Service' in 1982. Townshend recorded the song in the studio during the sessions for his 1985 album 'White City', a version that eventually appeared over 20 years later on a deluxe CD reissue. Here though is a live performance of 'Save It For Later' from 1985, which wound up seeing the light of day on 'Deep End Live!' the following year. In the clip, Pete references the song's unusual tuning and the direct phone call to composer Dave Wakeling that cleared up his confusion. In 2006 Dave Wakeling recalled the same phone call, and subsequent meeting with Townshend, from his own perspective.

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