Saturday 30 March 2013

Saturday Scratch #23

In 1977, as Lee Perry and The Congos worked on the legendary 'Heart of the Congos' LP, Jeremy Marre, an English film maker, was in Jamaica gathering footage for a BBC documentary entitled 'Roots Rock Reggae'. When Marre knocked on the door of The Black Ark and asked if he could film some musicians at work in the studio, Scratch, Junior Murvin, The Congos, The Upsetters and The Heptones obligingly improvised a tune for the camera crew entitled, 'Play On Mr Music'. It was subsequently assumed that the song remained unfinished, with the only evidence of it's existence captured in these brief, priceless moments from the documentary.

In 2012, however, the DVD release of 'Beats of the Heart; Roots Rock Reggae' unexpectedly included a complete version of this most sought after of lost Black Ark nuggets amongst it's bonus features. Now, 35 years later, the tune is finally available for all to enjoy. One can only imagine what other gems might be stashed away in the Black Ark vaults.

 Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Adam Buxton

BBC Radio 6 Music is currently running a David Bowie week, with liberal sprinklings of familiar and not so familiar archive material scattered through it's schedule. In addition, it's also broadcasting a handful of one-off programmes dedicated to the great man and his music. One I'm particularly looking forward to is on Sunday at 4pm and is hosted by well known Bowie fanatic Adam Buxton.

When 6Music was facing the very real possibility of termination a few years ago, Buxton, with help from Tom Robinson, quickly produced a little song in the style of his hero to encourage people to show their support for the station. Needless to say, people power eventually won the day and 6Music was saved. Wuzza wuzza wuzza wuzza, wuzz wuzz wuzz.....

 Check out the BBC iPlayer for all the David Bowie goodies on offer this week.

Tuesday 26 March 2013

Nikki Sudden and Swell Maps

Nikki Sudden, of D.I.Y. post-punk pioneers Swell Maps, died, as the result of a heart attack, seven years ago today, soon after concluding a performance at The Knitting Factory in New York. His prolific career continued long after the band split in 1980 and he went on to release over 30 albums, including collaborations with members of Waterboys, Wilco and REM.

I initially selected a couple of songs from his later work, but found neither of them available to stream, so have gone back to The Maps by way of a tribute. Neu! meets Buzzcocks on Sudden's pulsating 'Blam!!', from the 1979 debut LP 'A Trip to Marineville', while the brilliant and eccentric 'Steven Does', from a bonus EP issued with the same album and vocalised by fellow Map Phones Sportsman, is quite simply one of my favourite songs of the period. Listen out for Nikki's unique acoustic guitar solo.

Saturday 23 March 2013

Saturday Scratch #22

Lee Perry pieced together much of the Upsetters LP, 'Double Seven,' at Chalk Farm Studio in London, during the winter of 1973 and you don't need a crystal ball to gauge Scratch's opinion of the unfamiliar climate in which he found himself, as the album contains the titles' 'Hail Stones' and, this week's featured tune, 'Cold Weather.' 40 years on, in the grip of a winter that refuses to end, it seems an appropriate selection.

Previously on Saturday Scratch.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Brian Eno

Here's a great clip of Brian Eno, seeming uncomfortable in the spotlight, but looking every inch the latter-day glam-rocker while simultaneously sounding every inch the proto-punk. The tune is his 1974 single 'Seven Deadly Finns', which I bought on release, but subsequently lent to a friend and, of course, never saw again - d'oh!

Do please feel free to join in towards the end of the song, with, what Julian Cope once described as, Eno's 'psychedelic yodeling.'

(A tip of the titfer to the good folks over at Tune Doctor, for posting my true story of Ramones rage! Read all about it here.)

Saturday 16 March 2013

Tanx by T.Rex - 40 Years Old Today

Saturday January 27th 1973 - now there was a good night for telly. At 8.15 that evening, having pleaded with my parents to to remain silent for the duration, I settled down, portable cassette player at the ready, to watch the Cilla Black show with special guests Kenny Lynch, Cliff Richard (singing that week's unsuccessful contender for the Eurovision Song Contest) and, my only reason for tuning in, T.Rex. Their appearance was a very big deal for me and my chums. In those days pop and rock bands just didn't do this kind of prime time, TV variety show and furthermore, with no single to plug, we had no idea what they would play. 

In the event, and extremely excitingly, the band mimed to a brand new song, after which Marc Bolan sat down with Cilla herself to perform 'Life's a Gas' as an acoustic duet. Seconds after the programme's conclusion, and finally able to breath again, I began a frantic series of phone-calls to friends. We played our cassette recordings of the performance down the line to each other and tried to make out the lyrics. 'What was the title of that new song?' 'Something about magnolias I think...' It was another two months before we would own an actual vinyl copy of the song, 'Mad Donna', when it appeared as the opening track on side two of the LP 'Tanx' - released forty years ago today.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Speedy Wunderground

Speedy Wunderground is a new label, created and curated by producer Dan Carey, knob-twiddler for such artists as Django Django, Yeasayer, Hot Chip, and Bat for Lashes. The label's aim is to record a series of 7" singles in sessions lasting no longer than one day (with no lunch breaks) and release the results in limited editions of 250, in the shortest possible time. At the end of the year a compilation album of these recordings will be made available.

If this first release is any indication of what's to come, Speedy Wunderground is a label to keep an eye on. 'I Go Out', an utterly inspired collaboration between Steve Mason, Emiliana Torrini and Toy, is nothing short of epic in it's duration and ambition - and all put together in one day. A seven minute sonic assault, as one review accurately described it.

Check out Steve Mason's latest 'official' single amongst the other goodies on offer over at Tune Doctor.

Monday 11 March 2013

Version City #9

Over the weekend, I fired up the i-Player and listened to a short Radio 4 documentary about the song 'Shipbuilding'. It was an enjoyable programme and while I didn't learn anything new, I was reminded of something I'd forgotten, namely, that Suede had covered the tune for 'Help', the War Child Charity album, in 1995. Robert Wyatt's original and Elvis Costello's own versions are hard acts to follow, but Suede deliver a pretty good take, recorded, as was the rest of the album, in one day.

This one's for you C!

Saturday 9 March 2013

Robert Calvert

The first time I saw Hawkwind live in concert  was 8 months after my family had relocated from London to Ipswich. My mate and I were each 15 years of age and found that our tickets for the show had us placed in the same row, but on either side of the aisle. Sat on my right, exuding patchouli, was an exotic young lady, perhaps a couple of years older than me, wearing a cheesecloth shirt that virtually matched my own (this was 1975 folks!) and very little else. Soon after taking my seat, she began to lean into me, linking her arm through mine and talking quietly, close to my ear, in a slow, husky drawl. My pal across the aisle looked on in envy, while I beamed over at him in gloating disbelief, despite feeling way out of my depth in this highly charged situation.

An hour or so later, when Hawkwind took to the stage, the audience rose to their feet as one. I tried to stand, but the young lady grabbed me, pulled me back into my seat, held me close, looked deeply into my eyes, threw up all over me and passed out face first in my lap. A security guy was on the spot and took her out to the foyer of the venue, where she quickly recovered, having 'overdone it' earlier in the evening. I washed my clothes as best I could under the tap in the toilet, but was a bit of a smelly mess for the remainder of the gig - it was a dank, sweaty, dry-ice clouded affair though, so I doubt if anyone noticed the additional fug in the air. My mate thoroughly enjoyed my misfortune and can still be relied upon to recount the story with amused relish 38 years later.

A quick flick through old ticket stubs and diary entries confirms that I saw Hawkwind in concert on five separate occasions between 1975 and 1979, the first four of which featured the unique presence of novelist, poet, singer, songwriter, and showman, Robert Calvert in the driving seat. I initially picked up on Calvert a full two years before the evening of the vomitus maximus incident, via a 7" single purchased for 12p in late 1973, from the reduced price section at Woolworth's in Walthamstow. I must have been aware of 'Silver Machine' at the time, but that was the extent of my Hawkwind knowledge, so I have no idea what attracted me to the fantastic 'Ejection' by Captain Lockheed & the Starfighters (essentially Hawkwind plus Twink and minus Dave Brock), perhaps the oddity of a, then rarely seen, picture sleeve single. Over the past 40 years, the song has been described variously as kraut rock, space rock, even nascent punk rock. It's all of these and more.

Robert Calvert died from a heart attack in 1988 aged just 44. Had he lived, today would have marked his 69th birthday, so here's a little something extra to remember him by, 'Spirit of the Age', a Hawkwind classic from 1977.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Wolf People

A pinch of prog, a dash of psych and a sprinkling of folkiness - check out 'All Returns', the first release from Wolf People's third LP, 'Fain', due for release at the end of April.

Friday 1 March 2013

Version City #8 - Marsha Hunt Sings Marc Bolan

Even in 1972, the Marsha Hunt LP 'Woman Child' was something of a holy grail for us T.Rex fans. It had only been released the previous year and we'd all read about it, but I didn't catch my first sight of a copy until I picked one up second-hand at the dawn of the 1980's. The reason we were all so excited was not just the three Marc Bolan tunes covered on the album, but also a fleeting, ghostly, cameo by the main man himself on a version of 'My World is Empty Without You', a hit for The Supremes in 1966.

'Woman Child' is a bit of a hodgepodge, drawn together from sessions spread over three years, helmed by as many producers and featuring guest artists ranging from Pete Townshend to the Count Basie Orchestra. It does have some great moments though, not least a rambunctious romp through the re-titled, pre-Tyrannosaurus Rex Bolan composition, 'Hot Rod Poppa'.

(For a deeper look at 'Woman Child' and more tunes from the album, check out this excellent piece.)

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