Indie Cindy, Stroh 80 & San Francisco (The Best of 2013)

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On the last day of the year and in no particular order, thirty of my favourite new tracks released during 2013, at least I think they’re all from 2013, along with ten of the very best compilations, reissues, live albums or soundtracks and five books.

Singles

My Bloody Valentine: Nothing Is
Arcade Fire: Reflektor
David Bowie: Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix)
Tess Parks: Somedays
The Sexual Objects: Feels With Me
Primal Scream: 2013
Vic Godard & Subway Sect: Caught in Midstream
Jagwar Ma: Come Save Me
Dot Dash: Hands of Time
Pixies: Indie Cindy

 
Steve Mason: Fight Them Back
Daft Punk: Giorgio Moroder
Cat Power: Bully
The Pastels: Kicking Leaves
Boards of Canada: Reach For The Dead
PiL: This PiL
Iggy and The Stooges: The Departed
Lloyd Cole: Women’s Studies
Edwyn Collins: Forsooth
Casual Sex: Stroh 80

 
Franz Ferdinand: Love Illumination
The Fall: Loadstones
Brazos: How The Ranks Was Won
Prefab Sprout: The Best Jewel Thief In The World
Paul Haig: Daemon
Low: Just Make It Stop
Anna Calvi: Eliza
Book Group: Victory Lap
James King and The Lonewolves: Pretty Blue Eyes
Foxygen: San Francisco


 Compilations

The Clash: Sound System
Simple Minds: Celebrate
VA – Punk 45. Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself!
Belle and Sebastian: The Third Eye Centre
The Velvet Underground: White Light/White Heat – 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition
XTC: Nonsuch
The Boys: Alternative Chartbusters
Jazzateers: Rough 46
TV Smith: Acoustic Sessions, Volume 1
Jon Hopkins/VA: How I Live Now (OST)

The Written Word

Morrissey: Autobiography
Alan McGee: Creation Stories
Nina Antonia: 13 Knots
Sheila Rock: Punk +
Harry Papadopoulos: What Presence!

 

A Merry Punk Rock Christmas: Anarchy in Ivanhoe’s

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I’ve just had a quick look to see what’s on offer on British TV over the Christmas holidays and highlights would appear to be few and far between. One programme though, does stand out in the schedules.

On BBC4 on Boxing Day at 10 PM, there’s a new documentary that really does look highly promising. Never Mind The Baubles: Xmas ’77 With The Sex Pistols is directed by Julien Temple of The Great Rock ’n’ Roll Swindle and The Filth and the Fury fame and, according to advance publicity, will be ‘looking back to Christmas 1977 with an irreverent portrait of the times, featuring unseen footage of the Sex Pistols’.

Never Mnd the Bans

Johnny Rotten remembers the day fondly and the matinee show, a benefit for the children of local striking fire-fighters, might just be the most unexpected concert any band ever agreed to take part in.

For the previous thirteen months, a moral panic fuelled by the tabloid press, had surrounded the Pistols but that day the band and their Glitterbest management threw a party, filling the venue with sweets, fruit and a giant cake with Sex Pistols written in pink icing piped over it. They gave away Sex Pistols themed pressies to the kids and there was a talent competition – won by a girl who read out a poem by the distinctly un-punky Pam Ayres, while the young lad judged best pogoer was rewarded with a skateboard, coloured Day-Glo pink and yellow just like the sleeve of Never Mind The Bollocks.

Sid Vicious apparently even danced with some kids to Daddy Cool by Boney M as well as to one of the year’s biggest hits by Baccara. Yes sir, Sid could boogie.

The children all seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, as of course did the punks and a number of firemen who showed up for the evening performance. Maybe it’s no coincidence that to this day, fans of the local football team, Huddersfield Town, will still on occasion chant out this little ditty to the tune of Anarchy in the UK:

I am a Hudders fan / And I am a Yorkshire man / Don’t know what I want but I know how to get it / I wanna destroy Bradford and Leeds / Cos I wanna be HTFC.

I don’t think I was even aware of what was happening that afternoon in the north of England – due to the threat of last minute bans from local councils and to cut down on the chances of troublemakers organising themselves and turning up in the hope of dishing out some aggro to the band or their fans, details of each of the shows that December were kept a well guarded secret for as long as was possible.

Some had more luck than me – or probably just better connections – and a couple of months or so ago, before the announcement of the documentary, I got talking to one young Glaswegian who’d managed to find out about the gig and land a ticket: Radio Clyde DJ and journalist Billy Sloan, who agreed to talk about the evening show at Ivanhoe’s.

Ivanhoe's Xmas 1977 (2)

How did you find out about the show and manage to get your hands on a ticket?

Stuart Bell, who was the plugger at Virgin, phoned me up and told me about the Ivanhoe’s show and mentioned that he could get a ticket for me if I was interested in trooping down, which I definitely was. He was as good as his word.

Were you a big Sex Pistols fan?

Huge fan. I’d noticed the name reading Sounds one time and thought – what a great name for a group. I bought Anarchy in the UK when it first came out with the plain black sleeve and thought it was brilliant. I took it to a party one time where I was in charge of the music. Everybody seemed to love it too but when somebody asked who it was and I revealed it was the Pistols then strangely enough some people’s reactions seemed to instantly change. I bought God Save the Queen the moment that came out as well though not the A&M version which is worth a fortune nowadays.

Yeah, not so long ago a copy of that went up for sale for around ten grand!

I also got an early copy of Never Mind the Bollocks album with the 7 inch single of Submission but due to all the bans in cities like Glasgow, the first chance I really had to see them live was in Huddersfield that Christmas.

And did you see them when they got back together?

Yeah, I saw them in 1996 at the SECC when Stiff Little Fingers supported them and very good they were too although when I saw them again in Glasgow in Hall 3 of the SECC in 2007 they were even better. Absolute dynamite and they made songs like No Feelings and God Save The Queen sound amazingly fresh.

Sex Pistols Glasgow 1996

I didn’t see them myself back in the 1970s and just felt that I didn’t want to see the reformed version in case they were a big disappointment.

You need a slap then! Seriously you should have gone. Musically they were again superb.

Sex Pistols SECC 18 Nov  2007

So when you informed your family that you were going to spend your Christmas day travelling down to Yorkshire to see Britain’s most notorious band how did they take it?

Because of the nature of the shows I only found out maybe five days beforehand that I would definitely be going, so when I brought up the fact that I couldn’t make the Christmas meal my mum initially thought I must be having to work and was looking all sympathetic. But when I told her I was away to a concert she went absolutely ballistic!

Not a big Sex Pistols fan herself?

Let’s just say she wasn’t too enthusiastic about the fact that at the one time of the year when all the family were supposed to get together for a big sit down meal I wouldn’t be there. And watching Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious instead!

And how did you make your way down to Huddersfield?

In a car with my pal and Stuart Bell and a pal of his. You could go ten miles without overtaking another car and when we stopped off at a Little Chef for something to eat there wasn’t anybody else there.

Different era I suppose, just about everything would shut back then on Christmas Day.

There was no sign of any staff around either when we walked into the place. They were all out the back and surprised to be interrupted when we gave them a shout.

And what like was the venue?

Ivanhoe’s was a nightclub with a medieval theme. There were swords and shields and even maybe lances on the walls, and long wooden benches. But for that night the stage had a backdrop with ‘Sex Pistols’ spray painted in red across it.

Were you at both shows or just the one at night?

No, we arrived down in Yorkshire at around half four or five and the matinee show for the children had just finished. There were still kids there milling around, wearing Never Mind the Bollocks T-shirts and Sex Pistols badges. At the end of that show Johnny Rotten had dipped his face into a massive cream cake and there was a bit of a food fight with the kids. The Pistols had really entered into the spirit of things and the youngsters loved it.

And what was the audience reaction at the second show?

They went totally nuts. I think some of the crowd including ourselves maybe realised this wasn’t going to have the longevity of, say, the Rolling Stones and it could end at any time so best to savour it while you could. They played the whole album and Belsen Was a Gas and maybe a couple of cover versions like Stepping Stone. Really thrilling stuff. In fact, it’s hard to stress just how good they were. Definitely one of the greatest shows of my life! And don’t ever listen to anyone who says they couldn’t play live, they were magnificent. The guitar break on EMI, Steve Jones played it note for note.

What about Sid?

Well, he was never gonna give Jack Bruce or Paul McCartney a run for their money but he certainly didn’t detract from the sound.

Did you meet the band and if so, how did you find them?

Met the four of them backstage and Nancy Spungen too, who didn’t know if it was Christmas, New Year or Pancake Tuesday. Johnny Rotten was wearing a Chinese style straw hat and a Never Mind the Rich Kids – Here’s the Sex Pistols T-shirt as a dig at Glen Matlock (whose new band The Rich Kids had just played Ivanhoe’s a few days earlier). The guy was in great form as were Steve Jones and Paul Cook. They were all happy to sign albums and posters but not Sid Vicious, who to me fuck off when I asked him to sign something. After the show we were invited by Johnny to join them at a party back in London, they were heading straight there in a coach. Sadly we had to say no and drove home to Glasgow, returning at about three or four in the morning.

Never Mind the Bans Final

Have you still got your souvenirs from the day?

I’ve still got my ticket – there were two versions, one that stated the venue and another, mine, that just said Sex Pistols Live at ????? Still have my double sided Never Mind the Bans poster too, which is going for crazy money on eBay. I’ve also got a photo with me behind Johnny Rotten. I’m looking forward to seeing this Never Mind the Baubles documentary to see if I maybe pop up somewhere in the background there too.

And finally, Malcolm McLaren wasn’t there that day, was he?

No. I’m not sure what he was up to.

It’s just, one of my favourite memories of your show was when Malcolm paid a visit to Radio Clyde and told listeners to wake up anybody in their homes that was asleep so they could hear him talk – this was around the time of Buffalo Gals. Fascinating stuff with the man giving his spiel about managing the Sex Pistols and coming out with some wonderful tales like meeting Afrika Bambaataa on the streets of New York.

Yeah, that was a memorable night. I was called into my boss’s office the very next morning and warned that he was never going to be allowed on the show again after letting out a swear word or two live on air. I did manage to interview him again a couple of times later for the Daily Record though. Always tremendously entertaining to meet and talk to.

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Billy. Enjoy the documentary.

And as a taster for Never Mind The Baubles, here’s a short documentary that features snippets of the footage that Temple shot that day and includes interviews with some the children (now adults) who attended the matinee concert and party.

 
Billy’s show is on Radio Clyde 2 every Sunday night from 7-10 PM and features a mix of new music and classics like Bowie, The Beatles, The Velvet Underground and, every now and again, some Sex Pistols. Live sessions are also a big part of the show and this year Billy has featured some top quality turns from acts like Franz Ferdinand, Lloyd Cole, James King and The Lonewolves and The Jazzateers.

A Band Fae Edinburgh Called The Valves

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7x7-1977

THE VALVES: AIN’T NO SURF IN PORTOBELLO

I’m riding on the crest of an oil-slick / but I don’t care / I’ve got the smell of freshly treated sewage / blowing through my hair.

Bands announcing that they’re getting back together is seldom a surprise nowadays.

In the last decade we’ve had The Sex Pistols, Led Zeppelin and The Stone Roses deciding to share the same stage once again. Pink Floyd, who we were repeatedly told would never-ever-ever get back together managed four songs for Live-8 and, as I write, there’s a rumour that one of headlining acts at Glastonbury 2014 will be. . . Abba.

But it’s not just the big names guaranteed to accumulate big bucks through playing arena shows and festivals who are going down the reformation route. Earlier this year The Jazzateers reappeared after a gap of decades and now – and this did somehow surprise me – it’s the turn of the group once described in Hanging Around fanzine as Edinburgh’s finest rocka-boogie combo.

Yep, after a gap of around 33 years, The Valves are back and with the same line up from their late 70s heyday: Dave Robertson aka Dee Robot (vocals), Ronnie Mackinnon (guitar), Gordon ‘Pada’ Scott (bass) and Gordon ‘Teddy’ Dair (drums).

Being a fan myself since I bought their debut single Robot Love/For Adolfs’ Only and then saw them support The Rezillos at Satellite City in Glasgow, I thought I’d ask Pada Scott – in the run up to their show at Edinburgh’s Liquid Room tomorrow night – about the reasons behind the reunion and also find out more about the track that I’ve selected as the latest in my 7 x 7: 1977 series, Ain’t No Surf on Portobello released by Zoom Records at the tail end of 1977 – and I’ll be writing about Zoom in more detail in 2014 in my Scottish Independents series which I haven’t really forgotten about. Honestly.

Valves Ain't No Surf in Portobello

So Pada, what has prompted the band to get back together after all this time?

The royalties for ‘Adolf’ finally run out, so we had to start working again. Actually – triggered by a Japanese vinyl buff asking for permission to produce a 12” album of our singles, demos, live stuff etc, we started the ball rolling on the gig as a publicity stunt for the album, but the publishing and copyright ownerships for the songs was so convoluted and labyrinth-y that we gave up on trying to assemble it and we’ve stowed the idea (temporarily, we hope). But the interest in the gig was so encouraging we couldn’t pull out.

Hopefully the reunion will help the idea come to fruition.

We hope so, but we could do with some advice for negotiating rights/royalties etc. from our 35-year-old catalogue with someone who’s been round that course already.

And how are the rehearsals going?

Great – the instrumental 75% of the band have been rehearsing at Banana Row on and off for 3-4 months and will be working even harder now that Dave is in town. Ah, but the falsetto backing vocals may be lost in the mists of time. We ain’t juveniles no more.

Any new songs?

We’re doing a couple of post-Valves songs by Dave at the gig.

Excellent. And do you envisage the show as being a one off or are you planning more dates (in, say, Glasgow, hint, hint)?

Very probably a one-off as Dave lives in Antwerp and needs to get back for Christmas. And logistically it’s hard getting the four of us together for any length of time. But, who knows?

Valves 2013

So what have all the Valves been getting up to since splitting up all those years ago?

I joined the Mudsharks with Dave, Stuart Nisbet, Keith Burns, Alan Marshall (and another sax player whose name I’ve shamefacedly forgotten). After a year or so, this band split and I’ve been a civilian ever since. Worked in IT for Scottish Office and Scottish Equitable. Took early retirement a couple of years ago but am loving playing in the band again.

Ronnie – played with the Mudsharks and then Fun City.

Gordon – still gigging and did some band management. Owns the ‘Soundtrack to Your Life’ record shop in Tollcross, Edinburgh. Gordon has played in the Gordon Dair Trio, Plats Combinats and El Rey de los Pantalones.

Dave – Gigged with the Mudsharks, did some poetry in Edinburgh, moved to Belgium and played in various bands (the Vikings, Kiss my Jazz etc.)

You were in a pub rock band called Angel Easy in the mid 1970s, what sort of stuff did you play and what was the music scene in Edinburgh like pre-punk?

Angel Easy was the first band that Gordon and I played in, with a couple of guitarist mates from Lochgelly/Cowdenbeath – played covers by the bands we liked – SAHB, Babe Ruth, Traffic (8 minute version of Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – quality!), Man, Burrito Brothers, Steve Miller, Fleetwood Mac. Our publicity poster was a copy of the pic on the back of Todd Rundgren’s ‘Runt’ album which speaks volumes. We were a wee bit different as other bands (e.g. Brodie) were technically more proficient, but you can only hear so many versions of Locomotive Breath, Smoke on the Water etc.

I’ve heard that people always told you played too fast until punk came along.

When Dave joined, we started doing his songs but they weren’t particularly fast (as I dimly recall).

Why and when did you become Valves?

After Dave joined Angel Easy, we were playing different music so we changed our name to ‘Sale’ (don’t even ask. . .). As the number of gigs and venue size increased, Bruce Findlay showed interest (especially after a support gig at Tiffany’s) and we thought there could possibly be a snappier name out there (and yet we still didn’t find it).

And how long before Bruce signed you up to Zoom?

Sale were only going for a month before Bruce heard us and signed us up. And we could have gone with Lenny Love too. . .

How did Ain’t No Surf in Portobello come about?

Ask our resident genius Dave. It’s basically ‘Surf City’ by Jan and Dean with bits from other surfing songs. It was swapped to the B-side of our second single as we were worried about legal implications if it was played on the radio as an A-side. . .

Are any of the band actually from Porty?

None – the Gordons are from Lochgelly, Ronnie’s from Meadowbank and Dave’s from Sighthill.

And what about the inspiration for the fantastically titled Tarzan of the Kings Road?

Just Dave’s fertile imagination – and he did buy bondage trousers at one point.

Valves Ad

You had quite a reputation for enjoying a bevvy or two, is this still the case in 2013 or are you all reformed characters?

We did like a drink, but no more than any four guys with a common purpose and some spare time. We’re a bit more restrained now, but no-one’s on the wagon yet and we still enjoy a fine ale.

You headlined the Edinburgh Carnival Against the Nazis (I was there myself but my memory of the day is a bit vague after me and my pal met some Skids and drank lots of vodka with them). Any special memories of that day?

The heat (unusual for Craigmillar, I know) and the fact that we weren’t booed off after the Clash failed to show* – a nice generous audience.

Any theories on why The Valves didn’t become better known?

We weren’t as ambitious and single-minded as others, and we were considered punky by some rock fans and too old-school (and old) for the punks. And once the New Romantics came along, well f**k that for a game of soldiers.

And finally, your chance to sell yourselves. Why should the good folk of Edinburgh (and elsewhere) buy a ticket to see you at the Liquid Room?

’Cos it probably ain’t gonna happen again, it’s your last chance to sing along to these songs, it’s gonna be good fun and it’ll give everyone a chance to see if they’ve aged as badly as their long-lost mates.

Should be a cracking night. Enjoy yourself! I’m sure the audience will.

The Valves play the Liquid Room in Edinburgh on Saturday 21st December 2013. 

Doors open at 7 pm. The DJ will be Colin D’uff and the support act will be William Douglas & The Wheel, who’ll be on from 7.30 – 8.00. The mighty Valves will take to the stage at around 8.30 until 9.45. And as the band note on their website: ‘There is an absolute curfew at 10. You will be thrown out in the streets but…. Don’t worry. It’s not love you and leave you. We might have a surprise in store… X.’

Concert Tickets: Liquid Room Edinburgh 

For more on The Valves

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* The organisers of the Carnival hit on the idea of pretending The Clash were going to headline the bill to swell the attendance, which certainly worked. Whether it was a good idea, when you want people to trust whatever you are going to say afterwards, is far less certain.

Ignore Them (& Sneak Preview)

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7x7-1977

EDDIE AND THE HOT RODS: IGNORE THEM

Launched in February 1977, STV’s Sneak Preview mixed live performances with interviews and discussions and was probably the nearest thing that television in Scotland ever got to Granada’s So It Goes, albeit there was never anything as notable as the first live TV appearance of The Sex Pistols.

Sneak Preview was shown late on Friday nights – and since this was the 1970s – by late we’re talking 11.05 to 12.05, when STV would shut down till the morning; hard maybe to imagine nowadays but then again, a blank screen would surely beat the rip-off interactive gaming shows that currently fill the post-midnight time slot across the ITV network.

Presented by Steve Jones (no, not that one) and Douglas Rae (who’d previously been part of the Magpie team and is nowadays a bigwig Film & TV producer), Sneak Preview during the early months of 1977 featured the likes of The Stranglers, Marianne Faithfull, Billy Connolly and, early in March, Eddie and the Hot Rods, who performed, if I remember correctly, both I Might Be Lying and Ignore Them (Always Crashing in the Same Bar) which would be the two sides of their just about to be released new single. Unfortunately no footage of their appearance exists but here are the lads a few weeks later doing I Might Be Lying on Top of the Pops:


Despite the exposure on TOTP, the single failed to make the breakthrough many had predicted but I’m sure if it had been flipped then they would have did more than just graze the edges of the British charts. See what you think, here’s the B-side:


 
Bruce's Glasgow 1977

The morning after Sneak Preview, the guys took part in an in-store meet and greet session at the new Bruce’s record shop in Glasgow’s Union Street and if you’re wondering about the ‘Opens With a Punk’ reference, the band had started using the phrase ‘Punk Rock Comes to Town’ in their own publicity material the previous year, when the term ‘Punk’ still possessed a number of connotations and was often used in connection with Eddie and The Hot Rods as shorthand for a resemblance to the sort of American ’60s garage bands gathered together a few years earlier by Lenny Kaye for the Nuggets compilation L.P.

The Hot Rods had also been part of the bill for the first Mont de Marsan Punk Festival which, confusingly enough, could more appropriately have been called a Pub Rock Festival, albeit the event was staged in a bullring in the south west of France rather than any smoky boozer in London or Southend.

They also found favour with many fledgling fanzines of the time, their frenetic singer Barrie Masters, for example, being chosen as the ‘cover star’ of Sniffin’ Glue #5 but any shreds of solidarity that might have existed between the Hot Rods and the undoubtedly punk Sex Pistols vanished after a bust-up during a gig at the Marquee early in 1976, when The Hot Rods accused their support act of wrecking their amps and monitors while Johnny Rotten counter-claimed the headliners had attempted to sabotage their set. The animosity lingered and the definition of punk narrowed.

Punk rock? Pub rock? New Wave?

Did classifications matter when the music was as exciting as Ignore Them?

Well, some critics have suggested that the inability to fit neatly into any particular pigeonhole cost the Hot Rods commercially – and if you’re wondering about the band themselves, they actually favoured the frankly cumbersome tag ‘high energy ’70s rock’n’roll’ to describe their music.

Eddie and The Hot Rods Glasgow Apollo 1977

What is certain is that by the time they next returned to Glasgow, for a date at the Apollo early in June 1977, they’d recorded a new song inspired by Aleister Crowley’s (in)famous dictum: ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law’ which would guarantee the guys at least one slice of surefire chart glory when released later that summer as Do Anything You Wanna Do, with the band credited simply as Rods, which to wrap things up – again if my memory serves me correctly – I bought as a 12″ single in the aforementioned Bruce’s.

Stop It! An Interview with Martin Gordon

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7x7-1977

Radio Stars: No Russians In Russia

(Stop It EP, Chiswick)

Firstly, just a little politics. The 1976 American Presidential race featured the first televised debates since JFK had gone head to head with Richard ‘I’m not a Crook’ Nixon in 1960. Nixon’s successor after impeachment was Gerald Ford and during the second of his three clashes with Jimmy Carter, the incumbent President made the bizarre and blatantly untrue claim: ‘There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration.’ He then refused to retract the statement.

Satirical mag Private Eye immediately pounced on the gaffe and lampooned Ford on its front cover. Martin Gordon was an avid Private Eye reader and a song was born.

Private Eye

Eventually released in August, 1977 (by which point Senator Jimmy Carter had been inaugurated as President), No Russians in Russia from the Stop It E.P. was the second 45 by Radio Stars.

Radio Stars - No Russians In Russia

Martin Gordon wrote and produced the song and also supplied bass, keyboards and backing vocals and he has agreed to answer some questions on the song, his time as a Radio Star, and his career generally.

*

You were in Sparks during the Kimono My House era but that ended acrimoniously. I’m guessing you haven’t been to see them on their current tour?

You guess correctly. In fact I’ve been subject, once again, to the whims of my hairdresser, and I couldn’t let him down by just trolling off to see Sparks at a moment’s notice. The last time I met up with Reginald and Roginald it all ended in tears anyway – here’s my account of what they were up to on that occasion, as published by Mojo mag. But I wish them luck and feel most proud to be co-financing their ongoing activities, albeit inadvertently. Here’s an overview of that long-lost era, from a recent Spanish article.

After Sparks you joined Jet, who were called the first ‘glam rock supergroup’. I’d have put money on you making it big but somehow that didn’t happen. Any ideas why?

Well, I had only just started writing, so some of the tunes could probably have been improved. And the rather unpredictable nature of some of the musicians involved did not make a solid foundation for even a successful rehearsal, let alone a meteoric rise to stardom. We were actually just beginning to make some headway when we were dropped by the label for refusing to play waltzes. We performed all our new material for a party of CBS bigwigs; we’d strung all the tunes together as one continuous piece of music, as a lighthearted jest. Well, they didn’t find it at all amusing and gave us our cards. ‘Dirty Pictures’, later to be the first Radio Stars single, came out of that collection of material, so what did CBS know about anything?

Did you see Jet as Glam Rock or do you not bother with categories?

Categories are forced upon us, unfortunately. Pre-digested bite-sized chunks of information relieve the average punter of the onerous task of having to work it out for him- or herself. If I had to do just that, I would classify Jet as Music-Hall Rock, if anything. ‘Our Boys’, for example, certainly fits into this category.

Yeah, there definitely is that element in Our Boys, and songs like Fax ’n’ Info and Tax Loss too. I would see it more as Post-Glam if anything myself.

I think there are two glam-categories – builder-glam and art-glam. The Sweet, Mott the Hoople, the Glitter Band would all fit into the first, Roxy Music, Bowie and their ilk into the second. I leave it to those who are more removed from the issue to decide which category has a Jet-shaped hole.

Radio Stars  Stop It Ad

No Russians in Russia was originally demoed in 1976 in between Jet and Radio Stars. Were you aware of punk at this point? Quite a few bands independently of punk were moving in the direction of shorter and sharper songs around this time.

You are right, this tune was recorded initially before the explosion of punk. And as you note, things were becoming more focussed and to the point, at least in my neck of the woods. I was always a big fan of economy, musically speaking if not fiscally. We were aware of the emerging punk thing, but didn’t consider that we would be seen as part of it. Our association with punk was really as a result of being on an independent label, Chiswick Records, but of course it was hard not to wear a leather jacket and have short hair in London, at that point. However, one band member grimly held out, at least hair-wise.

Did you come up with the music or lyrics of No Russians In Russia first?

The words came first inspired by the Private Eye cover, and the tune wrote itself once the lyrics were in place. I recorded it once as a demo, then again for the Stop It E.P. and then a third time for the Holiday Album, as I thought it sounded a bit tinny on the E.P. There’s a nice live version on Hello Boston, which was my solo debut in that city in 2007.

You performed the song on Marc Bolan’s late afternoon TV pop show Marc. How did that go?

It was very cool, and very nice to finally meet the bleating kobold in the flesh. Once we had finished ‘No Russians’, we had some photos taken. Marc tragically crashed into that tree about two weeks later.

Radio Stars Glasgow Apollo 1977

Any memories of playing the Glasgow Apollo with Eddie and The Hot Rods and Squeeze in 1978? 

The Apollo was always a great gig for us as the audience, if they liked you, made it known. They also made it known if they didn’t like you, as we found out earlier in Jet when we played there with Hunter-Ronson. I recall that when we did the Hot Rods soundcheck, the stage was quite close to the floor, but it was raised by the time the gig came about. This we didn’t know. So when Andy leapt of the front of the stage, he expected to hit solid ground within a couple of seconds, but he was now about three metres in the air. Plus, to make things even more secure for the sensitive artistes, the stairs at each side of the stage had been covered over with sheets of polished metal, making it impossible for him to climb back up. I think we used to just keep going until we saw him again, and then we’d end whichever tune we were hammering into the ground.

Andy Ellison apparently suffered an amazing amount of injuries on that tour. He stepped over my shoulder in the Apollo stalls when he decided that some crowd interaction would be a good idea. Did you ever worry when he got up to some of his daredevil antics?

Well, we always figured he would show up again at some point. At the Colston Hall in Bristol, he jumped on the back of one of the security guards, who took off round the hall in an effort to get him off his back, and once I remember that somehow he once got locked out of a venue and couldn’t get back in. He could hear us from the street, he said, while he was pondering his options. As you know, it was sometimes the punters who came off worst – one poor bloke got smashed across the face with Andy’s light sword, when he was going through his Darth Vader phase. The very next day, we took out insurance.

Over the years Radio Stars have got back together on occasion. Do you envisage this happening again any time soon?

Yes, we did it in 2008 and again in 2010. I’m thinking about having some kind of musical birthday celebration next May. If the stars are in alignment with Uranus, it might turn out to be a Radio Stars gig…

And how’s the solo career going?

I’ve just completed the sixth part of the Mammal Trilogy and am having a bit of a lie-down. There are a few projects on the back-burner, but probably nothing will be released for at least another year. I did recently collect all my words in a book, along with stories about each of the tunes, and I was quite pleased with how it came out. It’s called ‘Words in Your Shell-Like’, and it wraps up the whole event quite nicely. ‘No Russians’ is included in the 150-odd tunes, of course.

And finally, you’ve worked as a session musician and played live with everyone from The Rolling Stones to Kylie Minogue, wrote for S’Express and helped remix Primal Scream. To pick just one more highlight from your CV how was playing live with Blur?

The Blur episode came about when I was going through my all-things-to-all-men period. I played keyboards with them at the Kentish Town Forum. There were a few tunes in the set on which I didn’t play, so I wandered into the pub next door and monitored the band’s progress through the adjoining wall, and reappeared at a suitable moment. It turned out that Alex the bass player was a ‘Kimono My House’ fan, and was rather put out that I hadn’t told him that I was actually a moonlighting bassist.

For more on Martin and Radio Stars:

Martin Gordon
Radio Stars
Radiant Future Records
Martin’s Myspace Page
Martin’s Facebook Page