A Former Dreamboy & A Former Dancing Pig Discuss Punk, Doctor Who & Independence

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Ian Rankin - Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson

Good to see What Presence! The Rock Photography of Harry Papadopoulos being discussed this week by former Dancing Pig, Ian Rankin and former Dreamboy, Craig Ferguson, on prime time American chat show, The Late Late Show.

 
If you missed my review of the book and exhibition of the same name, click here.

And for more on Harry Papadopoulos and the music of the punk/new wave and post-punk era, here’s a series of discussions organised by Glasgow’s Street Level Gallery during the first staging of the show:

27th Jan 2012: Introduced and hosted by David Belcher.

10th Feb 2012: Introduced by Ken McCluskey and hosted by Billy Sloan.

24th Feb 2012: Introduced by Malcolm Dickson and hosted by John Cavanagh.

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Sauchiehall Street Nights

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Tonight Lloyd Cole and The Leopards are performing live at the O2 ABC, Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections 2014 and they’re being supported by Jazzateers, who should be hitting the stage at 7.30pm sharp so no trying to squeeze in a final pint in the likes of the Variety Bar at 7.25, folks – advice I wouldn’t necessarily have given ten years ago when James Blunt was given the support slot when Lloyd and The Commodores, sorry, The Commotions played one of their reunion shows at the Barrowlands.

Okay, I should really give you an explanation of that mention of The Commodores.

The December edition of Uncut included one of their monthly An Audience With… features where Lloyd Cole discussed his fondness for a round or two of golf while touring, haircuts, a recent encounter with Morrissey in Dublin and also the early days of The Commotions in Glasgow, which included playing a Tia Maria promotion night where the band was introduced by the MC of the event as Lloyd Cole and The Commodores.

Which made me laugh anyway.

Anyway, below is Bob Stanley’s review of Jennifer She Said for NME from January 1988.

NME 2.1.88

I’m currently reading Stanley’s Yeah, Yeah, Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop, where he only gives Lloyd and The Commotions the merest of mentions – observing how, along with other British bands like The Smiths and The La’s, they fitted neatly into the template of America’s college-radio of the time.

His thoughts on The Commodores? Three Times a Lady is described as a ‘grandparent-friendly ballad’ which just about sums it up, although I might have substituted the word sickly for grandparent-friendly.

Getting back to the aforementioned Uncut piece, Lloyd also recalled loving early Orange Juice and going to see them as often as possible.

So it’s highly likely that he was at this very gig, one of my very favourites of the time: Orange Juice supported by Fire Engines at the old Roseland Ballroom on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street – not too far actually from the ABC (which back then was a cinema).

Here’s my rather crumpled and not terribly well scanned poster from the night:

Orange Juice & Fire Engines Glasgow April 1981

This is Period Piece from Lloyd’s best album in years, Standards, released last summer on Tapete Records. And if the boy in the promo reminds you of anyway, it might just be his father, the one and only Lloyd Cole.

 
And finally, I couldn’t resist ending with an entirely predictable choice, Camera Obscura’s Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken:

 
For more on the two acts playing tonight:

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Three And A Half Bands From Toronto

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Back in November when I interviewed Tess Parks, the Toronto based singer tipped me off to some exciting talents in her home town. Since then I’ve managed to discover a couple more bands from that neck of the woods myself and it appears that Toronto is forging itself a reputation as one of the most vibrant music cities on the planet.

I’m not remotely claiming to be any kind of authority on Toronto bands and I’m aware that I’m only scratching the surface here but thought I’d briefly mention some acts that have impressed me in recent months.

Tonight at the Bovine Sex Club, that’s right, the Bovine Sex Club, Poppy Seed & the Love Explosion play a show to celebrate the release of their second album, Beyond the Seventh Sun, which is without doubt worth seeking out, especially if you’re a fan of dreamy pop flavoured psych.

The band is led by vocalist, songwriter and guitarist Steven Bromstein, who is something of a Toronto scene veteran, performing and promoting gigs since the first half of the 90s – he was responsible for setting up the legendary Sedated Sundays residency at El Mocambo Tavern – a club best known for a surprise show by The Rolling Stones which made headlines for the attendance of then Prime Minister Trudeau’s wife, Margaret back in 1977 when that sort of thing was very much frowned upon.

Beyond the Seventh Sun, like its predecessor, Days Dream of You, has been a long time coming, recorded over a decade long series of separate recording sessions which have involved a transient assortment of collaborators such as Eddie Kalwa of Rain Parade and Glenn Milchem from local favourites Blue Rodeo.

Pulsing and mesmerizing, Bales of Pot kicks off proceedings nicely and I do like Steve’s gentle but assured vocal style – and the funky clavichord sound. The eight songs that follow on don’t stray too far from the template of this track’s hypnotic space-rock groove, which is no bad thing.

If I hadn’t mislaid my reporter’s notebook, references such as The Beta Band and Spacemen 3 might have been scribbled down as I listened and I would likely have noted a trace of several early 80s Liverpool bands such as Teardrop Explodes and The Icicle Works (well I have now anyway) and on tracks like Look at You and The Spell, the rippling guitar definitely recalls Will Sergeant of Echo and the Bunnymen.

Beyond the Seventh Sun is one of those albums that you can easily play once then happily play again straight afterwards and from it, here’s the radiant and more than a little trippy In The Real:

 
Talking of trippy, the peculiarly named Ostrich Tuning – as the band use the D ‘Ostrich Tuning’ developed by Lou Reed for his early song Do the Ostrich apparently – obviously share a love for psychedelia but with a slightly skewed shoegazing feel, what they call psychgazedelic.

They released their last album, In Her Highest Moon, the very same week as my favourite album of 2013, My Bloody Valentines’ m b v, came out and comparisons have made between the two bands, although I reckon they sound more like Slowdive than MBV – a more experimental Slowdive with a little Spacemen 3 (again) and Velvet Underground thrown in for good measure.

Like Beyond the Seventh Sun, it’s a collection of songs without anything remotely resembling a failure and one that keeps getting better with each subsequent play.

Droney and sometimes almost disorientating, this track, Oakville to the End of the Line, has a weird but rather wonderful despondency:

 
Of course not all Toronto bands have a dreamy psych/shoegaze influenced sound, indeed the word that maybe best describes Toronto’s scene is diversity.

Rap superstar Drake is a native of the city, as are heavy metal legends Anvil – and if you have never seen the documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, you should, even, if like me, you’re not a fan of the music. Somewhere in between there’s the likes of Caribou, Crystal Castles, Deadmau5, Broken Social Scene, Feist and Fucked Up along with highly rated newer acts like Fresh Snow, Odonis Odonis and The BB Guns.

The BB Guns, according to Tess Parks are ‘like a modern day sexy sixties girl band’ and I wouldn’t argue with that assessment although I should maybe point out that the band does contain a couple of guys. Think Kenicke meets The Shangri-Las as a quick reference point.

Last year they released their Baby I Hate You EP, four feelgood, bouncy toe-tappers with fizzy, ravishing riffs and great choruses chock-full with honeyed harmonies.

They recently supported 60s soul artist Gino Washington (not to be confused with Geno! Geno! Geno! Geno! Washington) at the famous Horseshoe Tavern and you can bet your bottom dollar, Canadian or otherwise, that the night must have been a whole lot of fun.

This is Pennie Lane from the EP:

 
Finally, tomorrow night I’m off to see a Toronto based act myself as The New Mendicants take to the stage at the Arches in Glasgow as part of Celtic Connections 2014.

The band consists of an American, Joe Pernice (Pernice Brothers) and a Scot, Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub) who are both married to Canadians – the reasons behind their relocations to Ontario – along with The Sadies’ drummer Mike Belitsky, who is actually Canadian but hails from Halifax, Nova Scotia originally.

Hence the title of the post.

Poppy Seed & the Love Explosion:
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Ostrich Tuning:
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The BB Guns:
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The New Mendicants:
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The BAMS Are On Their Way & Rave Tapes Is Out Now

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The Scottish BAMS Album of the Year Award (BAMS standing for Blogs and Music Sites) was inaugurated in 2009 when Checkmate Savage by The Phantom Band scooped the prize – a bottle of vintage tonic wine.

Since then The National, Aidan Moffat & Bill Wells and Meursault have triumphed and this particular Blogger, or maybe that should be Bammer, has been invited to have his say on the outcome of the 2013 award.

No secret ballots to be calculated by some bigwig auditing firm sworn to secrecy until the moment that the name of the winner is revealed at some majorly swanky ceremony for the BAMS, so I’m allowed to reveal my top ten choices:

01. My Bloody Valentine: m b v
02. Boards of Canada: Tomorrow’s Harvest
03. Steve Mason: Monkey Minds in The Devil’s Time

 
04. Dot Dash: Half-Remembered Dream
05. Primal Scream: 2013
06. Franz Ferdinand: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
07. The Pastels: Slow Summits

 
08. Edwyn Collins: Understated
09. Paul Haig: Kube
10. Lloyd Cole: Standards

 
For more: twitter.com/BAMS_Scotland

Mogwai’s latest album Rave Tapes comes out today in Britain on Rock Action on CD, LP, download and a box set version and I would guess, even after only hearing it once fully, that it could be a real contender for next year’s BAMS.

Then again, I thought Steve Mason might win the 2013 Barclaycard Mercury Prize – and in the end it didn’t even earn a nomination but you might agree that that reflects badly on the Mercury judges rather than on me.

This is the closing track of Rave Tapes, The Lord is Out of Control:

 
For more information on Rave Tapes: www.mogwai.co.uk

And finally if you don’t already know, Mogwai are playing a special live show tonight from Celtic Connections at the CCA Glasgow for Vic Galloway on BBC Radio Scotland which is being broadcast live on that station.

More details here

EDIT:

And the winner was….. The Bones Of What You Believe by CHVRCHES. Well done to them.

The Opening Act For The Apocalypse & The Amazing Snakeheads!

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Alex Harvey NME Cover Oct 1974

Forty years ago The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were making headway in the charts with their second album Next and early in 1974, a single from that LP called The Faith Healer displayed the band at the height of their powers.

With their unforgettable stage act, they were fast on their way to establishing themselves as one of Britain’s highest grossing live bands. Critics loved them and they were increasingly forging a very special bond with their fans, who would often travel far and wide to see the band play at every possible opportunity.

A major part of that loyalty was down to the personality of the singer, the inimitable Alex Harvey, who claimed to be an ex-lion tamer and a street-punk and who, unlike many of his mid ’70s contemporaries, was not being tempted to go down the ever more common route of rock star self indulgence and complacency, this being the era of tax exiled musicians happy to flaunt an excessive champagne and cocaine lifestyle unimaginable to the vast majority of the people who bought their records.

In fact, in interviews of the time, Harvey predicted a forthcoming new wave of rock that retrospectively sounded a lot like Punk. ‘Round about now, some little young guy is going to come out with something and freak everybody out,’ he informed NME’s Charles Shaar Murray. ‘If it isn’t this year it’s got to be next year…’

At a point when many musicians and, indeed, music fans were getting used to the idea of rock music revolving more around musicianship than originality, he foresaw that: ‘Somebody’s got to come along and say to all of us: “All your ideas about rock-and-roll, all your ideas about sound, all your ideas about guitars, all your ideas about this and that are a load of wank. This is where it is!” ’

By the heatwave summer of 1976, several SAHB fans, such as Paul Simonon of The Clash, Rat Scabies of The Damned and Johnny Rotten and Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols were playing a vital role in fulfilling the forecasts of the man who would go on to be dubbed the ‘Godfather of Punk’.

As for Harvey’s band themselves, well, they carried on developing their own ideas about rock-and-roll, sound and guitars with much aplomb while touring and recording extensively. SAHB Stories came out in July, ’76 and as Allan Jones in Melody Maker put it: ‘Currently they are performing so devilishly that one imagines they’re the opening act for the apocalypse.’

Boys and girls, this is The Sensational Alex Harvey Band on The Old Grey Whistle Test early in ’74 with their version of Jacques Brel and Mort Shuman’s Next.

And doesn’t Alex completely inhabit the song?

 
Just as it can be dangerous to liken footballers in the early stages of their careers with one-off maverick geniuses like George Best, so too it can often be a bad idea to mention any new band in connection with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

In recent months though, one band from Glasgow have prompted such comparisons, with BBC Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway describing them as ‘Alex Harvey meets the Gun Club’ while ‘like the bastard offspring of Jerry Lee Lewis and Alex Harvey’ is another quote I’ve spotted on their own publicity material.

See what you think. Here’s the official video for the fierce and spellbinding second single by The Amazing Snakeheads, Flatlining, shot rather stylishly by Alan Parks in Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry on Govan Road, which, coincidentally, is remarkably close to the birthplace of Alexander James Harvey.

And you know what, I think Alex would have approved of The Amazing Snakeheads.

 
For more on The Amazing Snakeheads, and I’m guessing that if you hadn’t heard them before, then after watching that promo that you will almost certainly want to find out more about them:

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Flatlining will be available from 20th January 2014 (RUG564D), with an exclusive B-side track, The Bullfighter but if you can’t wait for that, Flatlining is also available to purchase digitally now from iTunes, HERE.
 

Wire & A Band Called Dot Dash (The Sequel)

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A few months ago while I was just about to start work on a post on Wire’s Three Girl Rhumba for my 7×7:77 series, I was contacted by a Washington DC band who’d taken their name from another Wire track, Dot Dash. Well, coincidences happen, don’t they?

The band got in touch again last week, asking me if I would like to share a track from their Half Remembered Dream album on the blog.

The email arrived just as I was thinking of a new post that would include a couple of tracks that hadn’t made my 30 Favourite Tracks of the Year list but which maybe should have.

And the tracks that I’d been thinking of posting?

One I’ll feature in my next post after this; the other, again by coincidence, was Wire’s very fine Re-Invent Your Second Wheel from their tenth album Change Becomes Us.

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With a sonic palette that straddles power-pop, post-punk and indie rock, Half Remembered Dream was one of my favourite albums of 2013, an impressively lean collection of ten immaculately crafted nuggets that seldom nudge past the three minute mark. The album is rich with hooks, punchy riffs, bristling basslines and plaintive melodies and it’s a mystery to me why it didn’t make far more Best of the Year lists.

Here’s Shopworn Excuse available as a free download from Bandcamp.

And this is The Past Is Another Country from their second album, Winter Garden Light, released in 2012 by The Beautiful Music:

 
And finally, some more live Wire from thirty five years ago when they appeared on the long running German TV music show Rockpalast. No, not the track Dot Dash but instead the hypnotic French Film Blurred from 1978’s Chairs Missing:


 

Nina Antonia with Peter Doherty ‘Exiled In Paradise’ – A Unique Collaboration

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Peter Doherty Photo

Since I last spoke with the author Nina Antonia, she’s been working on a new project with Peter Doherty. The book, Exiled in Paradise, is based on Nina’s first hand observations of Doherty over the last seven years and will also draw from his extensive diaries which she has been given full access to and which, from what I have seen, look like works of art in their own right, filled with ideas, doodles, snatches of lyrics and more than a few inkblots.

Nina agreed to answer some questions on the project and I’ve included a link at the bottom of the page for anybody who might be interested in finding out more.

Nina Antonia

You’ve already written biographies of Johnny Thunders, the New York Dolls, Peter Perrett of the Only Ones and Brett Smiley, why now choose Peter Doherty?

It’s important for me to have met the people I write about and to be able draw from first hand experiences, otherwise how can you get to understand the person and what moves them? Ironically, I got some flack on a pro-Thunders page about this project. Now Thunders and Doherty are two very different characters, but what people are forgetting is that back in the day, Johnny T was even more controversial than Doherty.

You’ve never wanted to write about ‘safe’ comfortable subjects, have you?

I’m interested in people that figuratively speaking throw ‘spanners’ at society and what motivates them to do so. Yes, Peter has enjoyed mainstream success whilst poor Johnny is really peaking now in terms of popularity more than twenty years after his death, which he anticipated. What are we to do, shy away from writing about talented artistes who have drug issues? The history of classic rock n’ roll is littered with damaged icons. We also forget now, what a furore the New York Dolls generated in the early 1970’s, they really messed with traditional beliefs about machismo and paid the price for their louche antics. So in answer to your question, I don’t see writing as taking the easy way out……. I’ve always worked with subjects who some might construe as the grit in the establishment’s eye. Peter is the boy who should have been golden, who had everything in place to the take the world…… what happened?

I’ve just read Alan McGee’s autobiography and he claims Doherty still has the potential to be the biggest star in the world if he cleaned himself up. But that doesn’t seem to interest him, does it – being the biggest star in the world I mean rather than quitting drugs?

I’m not sure that Peter does want to be the biggest star in the world; that might be more to do with Alan McGee’s perception. Peter has created his own niche as a musician and artist and it’s admirable that he wants to remain true to his vision rather than becoming a corporate persona which is what mega-stardom is about. It would appear that he has found a level of success that he is comfortable with and that’s what matters; besides which he’s not someone that is easily contained, which is what mega-stardom is all about. As for the drugs, people only stop using when they are ready and that is their decision alone to make, no matter how frustrating or worrying the situation may be for those around them.

How are you finding the crowd-funding route to bringing out books?

Crowd-funding isn’t the easiest route but the company who are supporting the project ‘Unbound’ are the best at what they do. They have also worked with James Endicott, Simon Napier Bell, and Julie Burchill amongst others. The pledge ethos is all about creating awareness of the project but there is a danger of people not realising that there is a deadline, which is March, so rather than simply ‘liking’ the book idea and hoping to buy a copy further down the line, time is of the essence.

Didn’t Danny Garcia’s Johnny Thunders documentary that you’re appearing gain its funding in a similar way?

Danny’s much anticipated documentary ‘Looking For Johnny’ was indeed crowd-funded and I’m happy to say that it worked wonderfully well. Thunders is much loved and greatly missed.

It’s coming out shortly, isn’t it?

I believe that the documentary should be on general release by early Spring, if not sooner.

Speaking of which, any news on the Johnny Thunders film that we discussed last time around?

In regards to the as yet untitled feature film, LAMF Productions are still busily working away, finalising the script, as per the director, Alex Soskin’s request. By the end of January, I’m hoping that casting can commence, which should be really exciting.

And finally, why should people pledge towards your book? It’s not just a copy of the book that they would get in return for their money is it?

People should pledge on the Peter book because it’s a unique portrayal of a gifted yet controversial artiste, that draws from his own journals and my observations. It’s also about divine folly and fractured dreams. He’s probably one of the most complex people I’ve ever met. Peter Doherty provokes extreme reactions in people, why? and why does he court the beast? There’s a fine line between high society and the nether-world. Plus, in glossy hard-back format, it will also be a visual treat and everyone who pledges gets their name listed in the book.

Thanks for taking the time to talk, Nina and good luck with the book and the film!

For more information and to pledge for a copy of ‘Exiled in Paradise’ by Nina Antonia With Peter Doherty follow the video links.

Peter Doherty Diaries

And here’s Nothing Comes to Nothing from the 2013 Babyshambles album Sequel to the Prequel:

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