Saturday 29 March 2014

Three For a Laugh

I'm heading out of town for 48 hours and, despite my best efforts, I've run out of time to get a proper post together before I go. Instead, I'll leave you with three short clips that bring a smile to my lips. A classic from The Goons, an inspired moment of daftness that we can all relate to from the recent, patchy, 'Life Of Rock With Brian Pern' and the genius of Kevin Eldon from 'Big Train'.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Higgins Waterproof Black Magic Band

I'm indebted to Steve Lamacq for alerting me to Tunde Adebimpe's new project, Higgins Waterproof Black Magic Band. I'll make time in my life to check out whatever any member of TV on the Radio is up to, but this one slipped by me, at least until now. Here's a live version of 'Mad Lifeline', from the band's debut EP, along with a remix of the same tune by Massive Attack's 3D. Check out the whole EP here.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Three For Dreaming

Our pal Singing Bear, over at Grown Up Backwards, has been discussing dreams just lately (see here). Inspired by these excellent posts and the fascinating follow-up comments from his readers, here are three tunes with a dream theme.

Thursday 20 March 2014

Saturday Scratch #36 - Special Birthday Edition

Yesterday, I journeyed East. East of the River Waveney. I ventured as far East as the road would take me, to the most Easterly point of the British Isles in fact. I travelled to see the legendary Lee Scratch Perry in concert, on the eve of his 78th a nightclub....on a Lowestoft. You couldn't make it up.

Aided and abetted by the current incarnation of The Upsetter Band, Scratch was on sparkling form throughout and considerably more focussed than when I last saw him 11 years ago. Between songs he exchanged greetings, words of wisdom and fist-pumps with the audience, before turning to the band and asking,'What now?' They responded by kicking in the next rhythm (sometimes familiar, sometimes not), over which Perry intertwined freeform ideas and phrases with occasional snatches of the song's original lyrics.

We were treated to smatterings from Scratch's association with Bob Marley, 'Sun is Shining', 'Jah Live' and 'Crazy Baldhead', the latter featuring shoutouts to individual members of the Royal Family, as well as other rhythms from his vast catalogue such as George Faith's 'To Be a Lover (Have Mercy)' and his own 'Roast Fish and Cornbread'.

Scratch seemed unconcerned at the abysmal turnout (around 150 in a venue with a near 900 capacity), obligingly grinning everytime he spotted a camera pointed at him and complimenting individual audience members left and right - 'I like your hair', 'I like your hat'. Finally, after 90 minutes, he sang 'Goodbye, bye, bye, bye, I got to go...' before leaving us with perhaps a little too much information '...I got to take a piss'.

Here's George Faith's original 1977 Jamaican 12" version of William Bell's 'To Be a Lover', featuring a brief cameo from Scratch himself towards the end.

Many happy returns of the day Mr Perry.

Friday 14 March 2014

Three For the Love of Pop

There are some genuinely great pop singles around at the moment. These three in particular are on heavy rotation round our way.

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Car Boots at Dawn

Last Wednesday at the crack of dawn, Mrs S & I sharpened our elbows and headed out to the first car boot sale of the season. We like a good rummidge and the first few events of the year are often the best. People who spend the winter sorting out their back room, shed or loft, stockpiling boxes of gubbins, arrive with carloads of accumulated tat, which we love to poke through. The mild weather ensured brisk business, probably around 250 stalls by the heat of the morning, though when we returned to the same venue on Sunday there were over 600.

While Mrs S filled her boots (and our boot) with vintage bits & bobs, I came home with a far more modest, though no less exciting haul - a 1962 EP of Wally Whyton singing children's favourites anyone? Also in my bag of goodies, not for the first time, were several old photos. If I see 'em and they look interesting, I just can't walk by on the other side. Take this one for instance. In the middle of a box of run of the mill family snapshots were these guys. What's going on? Why the hats? The chaps at each end look reluctant participants, but the main group are having a whale of a time - I sense that alcohol might be involved.

While we're at it, here's a considerably older photo showing how much a relaxing day at the beach has changed over the last hundred years.

This morning's car boot, despite the initial thick fog, was equally busy and my haul included a small painting, a few singles, a bag of early 20th century postcards, a John McLaughlin LP...and more photos. Well worth the early start. I'll be sure to report back with anything of interest that I pick up over the summer, though I'll have to go some to top my best ever car boot acquisition from about 20 years ago....but that's another story.


Monday 10 March 2014

Version City #24 - Loose Fur sing Tyrannosaurus Rex

I read recently that four Marc Bolan albums are about to get another deluxe reissue treatment. They are, transitional delights 'A Beard of Stars' and 'T.Rex', the last LP of the 'classic' period, 'Tanx' and the sprawling, experimental, some might even say self-indulgent, 'Zinc Alloy & the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow'. Each album comes with the requisite plethora of bonus tracks, demos and out-takes.

The news made me stop and calculate just how many times I've been here before. 'A Beard of Stars' 5, 'T.Rex' 4, 'Tanx' 5 and 'Zinc Alloy' 4 - that's the number of times I've bought each of these albums on various formats over the years. The previous reissue programme, in the early noughties, threw up some fascinating bonus tracks and I'm sure there are many more to be discovered here. No doubt some of the rarities from the last go round aren't duplicated this time, so the completest in me would need to keep those older versions too. These LPs are important to me and will always be in my collection in some form or other, but can I really justify buying them all yet again?

Considering T.Rex were my first love, you might expect that one of their titles would be my most purchased LP - not so. That honour is shared between Dylan's 'Blonde on Blonde' and 'Kind of Blue' by Miles Davis, each of which I've shelled out for a remarkable 7 times in various versions! I'm sure many reading this will have purchased a few favourite albums at least three times - the original LP, the first CD issue and a remastered upgrade. Many of the core components of my collection are into at least their third copies. Dylan, Bolan, The Clash, Triffids, Marley, Miles Davis, Costello, John Coltrane, Robyn Hitchcock - virtually entire catalogues replaced at least twice, sometimes more. If I hadn't spent so much money upgrading stuff I already had, I could've bought another couple of hundred different albums. It makes you think.

But wait, I've let my duplication dilemma run away with me. I originally mentioned the Bolan reissues as a way of introducing an inspired cover of 'Organ Blues' from 'A Beard of Stars'. Loose Fur, the band formed by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, producer/experimental musician Jim O'Rourke and drummer Glenn Kotche, released two LPs, an eponymous debut in 2003 and the brilliant 'Born Again in the USA' in 2006, but this lo-fi performance was recorded at their first ever gig, back in May 2000, after only a couple of days rehearsal.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Eardrum Buzz

It took a little getting used to, but over the past three years, I've gradually become accustomed to the everchanging dawn chorus around these parts. A variety of birdlife tweeting, clucking and squawking. Horses snorting, whinnying and neighing. Cows mooing out on the marsh. No two days are quite the same. One noise, however, is audible every day - morning, noon and night. It's the sound inside my head, my constant companion - tinnitus. Sometimes an unoffending background whistle, way off in the distance, while on days like today, the piercing insistent screech is upfront and personal.

There are many contributing factors to tinnitus, but all those gigs over the past 42 years can't have helped matters much. Prolonged loud music in an enclosed space can never be a good thing for the old lug'oles. And some gigs were much louder than others.

Surprisingly, one of first to really knock me back on my heels was Rockpile in 1979, not a band immediately associated with excessive volume. Considering by that time I'd already seen a fair few rowdy blighters (Hawkwind - loud, Black Sabbath - even louder, Uriah Heep - teeth-meltingly loud), the unexpected nature of the torrent of sound produced by Nick, Dave, Terry and Billy that night at Colchester University was a bit of a shock to the system.

Husker Du at The Electric Ballroom in 1985. Bloody hell. The room was dark, dank and packed to the rafters. When the band took the stage I was wedged in the middle of the crowd towards the front of the hall, but the sheer ferocity of their concrete slabs of noise pummeled me ever backwards until, after just a couple of songs, I found myself pinned against the back wall, which was already a pouring waterfall of condensation. Bob Mould's next band, Sugar, provided a similarly solid sonic swathe of sound at the Cambridge Junction a few years later. 'What did you think of the cover of 'Armenia City in the Sky'?' asked a friend after the show. It's a song I know well, but one which, on that night, passed totally undiscerned in the midst of the onslaught.

My Bloody Valentine at the Norwich Arts Centre in 1991, was not only mind-bendingly loud, it also ranks as one of the foggiest concerts I've attended. The venue is very small, but thanks to a relentless wall of dry ice, I only caught fleeting glimpses of the band through the murk, usually drenched in a bank of red light. After the gig, we, the audience, staggered like siege survivors, coughing, spluttering, confused and disorientated, out into the night.

Lee Perry and his band were deafening at the Norwich UEA in 2003, but were as nothing compared to the Rebel Lion Sound System beforehand. You know that simultaneous feeling of excitement and terror you experience when standing on a platform as an express train thunders through the station just a couple of feet away? That was how it felt to be in the same room as Rebel Lion - except the experience lasted for a couple of hours instead of a few seconds.

How I loved Swervedriver. And what a force of nature they were onstage. Much like the famous Maxell advert, I felt my hair and clothing flap in the wake of their magnificent racket. The year was 1991, the venue, once again, the downstairs hall at Colchester University. Unfathomably, one of my party crashed out on the side of the stage, directly in front of the band's bank of speakers - a remarkable achievement. I was lip-reading for days after the gig.

There have been many other bands of course, good, bad and indifferent, all contributing in their small way to my tinnitus. How I used to smirk as sensible friends stuffed cotton wool into their ears on the way to gigs (remember when ringing in the ears the morning after a concert was embraced by fools like me as a badge of honour?), but, all these years later, I suppose they've had the last laugh. I wouldn't change a moment though.

I'm sure there are exceptions and maybe it's a measure of how my musical tastes have changed, but these days, gigs just don't seem as loud. Of course, it could be my ears.

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