Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Beak

It's Mrs Swede's Birthday on Thursday, an event that will see us head off to a quiet bit of the coast for a couple of days of walking and eating, but before that, later today in fact, the New York branch of the family arrive at Swede Towers for a short visit.

Before family matters take me away though, I wanted to share this tune from the new Beak album, '>>'. Beak is a side project of Geoff Barrow from Portishead, a band that certainly allows plenty of time for side projects. I played their 2009 debut (you guessed it, '>') a lot at the time, but the new release, which I've been exploring over the past few days, seems a step up both in quality and cohesiveness.

'Wulfstan II' is a beefed up re-working of a tune from '>' and is a big nod in the direction of Neu! and 'Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun' by Pink Floyd. See what you think.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Saturday Scratch #4

In 1963 Lee Perry was working for Coxsone Dodd's Downbeat Sound System and this early ska vocal cut from Scratch is a thinly veiled sideswipe at their big rival in the dance, Prince Buster.

'Come let's face the facts, 
The Prince is in the back, 
 He is completely lost, 
Like a tuppence in the grass'. 

One suspects that the rivalry was a somewhat hyped-up affair, however, as four years later, after Perry had walked out on Dodd, he recorded a number of sides with the Prince, including the classic 'Judge Dread'.

Enjoy your weekend.




Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Yo La Tengo

At the risk of having severe abuse hurled in my direction, can I just say....it's too hot! I realise I'm in the minority here, but the temperatures of late have been perfect for me - it's just the biblical quantities of rain that I've had an issue with. Now though, after just a couple of days of non-stop sunshine, i'm wilting!

So today I took a drive with the windows down in order to get some air movement going on. The mp3 player was on shuffle, as it always tends to be in the car, and up popped this - as the little repeated piano figure eased it's way into my brain I swear I actually felt a little cooler and more comfortable.

The track is 'Let's Be Still' from Yo La Tengo's 2003 LP, the appropriately titled 'Summer Sun'. The band have released a dozen albums and a plethora of singles, EPs and compilations since the mid-1980s. They're also known for their eclectic range of cover versions and make an annual appearance on New York's WFMU radio station fundraising evening where, in exchange for a pledge, they'll turn their hands to any tune the listeners request. The band even released a limited edition compilation LP of these one-offs entitled 'Yo La Tengo is Murdering the Classics'!

It's a hot and humid evening. Let's spin this one more time.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The Slider by T.Rex - 40 Years Old Today

Just over a month ago, the 40th anniversary of the release of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust LP was rightly celebrated with much fanfare and bunting. Today, I'm dusting off the party hat and dressing in my best bib and tucker, for what I assume will be a slightly more low-key 40th birthday celebration, that of The Slider by T.Rex.

The Slider was my first LP. 'Wait', I hear you cry, 'what about this?'. OK, my first new, real, proper non-cheapo compilation LP! The anniversary of it's actual purchase by me is still a week or so away, but today is the day it was let loose on the world.

By the time of The Slider's release, I was familiar with Electric Warrior and had accumulated many of the band's singles to that point; Get it On and Hot Love from a store selling ex-jukebox records, Jeepster from a slightly older school friend who had already moved on to more 'serious' music (how fickle!), and the album's trailblazers Telegram Sam and Metal Guru were the results of my earliest forays into real record shops. I didn't pick up Ride a White Swan until slightly later. I remember being overwhelmed by the three tracks on offer on each of the latest singles - so much new music all at once! Telegram Sam b-side Cadilac, which didn't feature on the album, remains a favourite to this day.

School was out for the summer and it was in Boscombe, Dorset during the first week of August 1972, while on holiday with my parents, that I first saw the distinctive, now iconic, sleeve for The Slider in a record shop window. I don't recall being aware of it's impending release, but I do remember the initial frisson of excitement upon seeing that sleeve. I had the wherewithal (holiday spending money from various relatives) and with Dad's help I made the purchase.

A well put together LP sleeve can be a beautiful thing and The Slider's packaging is a very beautiful thing indeed. I should know, I had over a week of our holiday left in which to examine every inch of it before we went home and I could actually play the record!

Then came the music....aah the music. It was at once lush and raw, direct and impenetrable, obvious and mysterious - all produced to perfection by Tony Visconti. These days I might not listen to the album as frequently as I once did, but from time to time it can still take me by surprise. In recent years, in my mind, I've thought of Metal Guru as being one of the band's weaker singles of that period, then one afternoon in 2010 I happened to hear it on the radio. That intro exploded from the speakers in a majestic ka-boom of sound and I was all at once 12 years old again.

There have been thousands of other LPs since 1972, many of which may have been better records, played more often, subject to more critical acclaim, cherished and feted, but you always remember your first love don't you? The Slider has been with me for over three quarters of my life and at this juncture, I think it's safe to say it'll be with me until the bitter end - we're in it for the long haul.

Monday, 16 July 2012

R.I.P. Jon Lord

I can't claim to be their greatest fan, but I, like many others of my age, had a definite Deep Purple period. As Mark Steel remarked on Twitter this evening, their heyday was a time when 'heavy metal had a tune that all the family could enjoy'. I'm not sure my parents would have agreed, but I can see where he's coming from. Tonight, to mark the sad passing of Jon Lord, here's a tune from the tail-end of that heyday, but what a stormer it is.


Saturday, 14 July 2012

Saturday Scratch #3

In the early 1980s, purely because I worked in the local record shop, I was offered the opportunity to host my own Hospital Radio show. Visions of being hailed as the new John Peel flowed through my mind and I readily accepted.

When the day of my first show arrived, I headed off to the hospital with little preparation and no records - no need, I was told, the station had a bountiful supply of donated records, enough for a hundred shows. On arrival at the studio I was indeed greeted by a huge quantity of records...Foster & Allen, Mantovani, Charley Pride, Val Doonican, James Last, Johnny Mathis, Daniel O'Donnell, Klaus Wunderlich you name them, they were all there on the shelves of a musical wall of horror. My heart sank.

Needless to say, from my second show onwards, I made greater preparations and took my own tunes. That first week, however, I went through every last record in the studio in an effort to find an hour's worth of broadcastable music - the pickings were very slim indeed. On-air, I mumbled and waffled from nerves and also to cover the fact that I had scarcely anything decent to play.

Bizarrely and unaccountably, however, I found a 7" single of The Jolly Brothers 'Conscious Man' in amongst all the dross. I played it instantly. Then I played the dub version on the b-side. Then I rambled on a bit about reggae in general, Lee Perry in particular and the Black Ark studio where the track was recorded in 1977...I might have even played the a-side again!

What the patients on the wards upstairs made of my efforts that day, or in the slightly more organised weeks and months that followed, is thankfully lost in the mists of time, but whenever I hear the distinctive, squelchy, couldonlycomefromtheblackark intro to 'Conscious Man' I'm transported back to that studio and it's musical wall of horror.

Here's the full 12" mix. Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Henry Badowski

Henry Badowski is a multi- instrumentalist, who made just one album and a handful of singles before slipping out of view in 1981. Up to that point he'd played drums, bass or keyboards with a number of punk-related bands such as The Good Missionaries, Chelsea and (the briefly re-named Damned) The Doomed.

Over 30 years later, I can still recall my initial reaction when I first heard this terrific song. I was momentarily convinced that Syd Barrett had made a miraculous recovery and was making records again. Even now I can appreciate why my imagination made that brief, optimistic leap.

'My Face' is a great 'lost' single if ever there was one and is probably the song that has featured on more of my own mixtapes/minidiscs/CDRs over the years than any other in my collection.




Talking of Syd - it was six years ago last week that he passed away. He was a man who made an indelible mark on my listening habits and musical taste, even though his recording career was over before I bought my first record - here's a reminder why.


Saturday, 7 July 2012

Saturday Scratch #2

This week, Saturday Scratch finds Lee Perry back behind the desk at the Black Ark for this 1977 single by Ronnie Davis.

For over 40 years Davis has worked as part of The Itals and The Tennors vocal groups and he's also been produced as a solo artist by legendary figures such as Bunny Lee and Phil Pratt. Now in his early 60s, he continues to tour and record.

An enterprising soul put the two sides of this 7" together to form a custom made extended edit, although I own a 12" version which has a subtly different mix. This works fine for me though. Feel free to join in with the backing vox.

Have a good weekend.


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