For One Night Only & Baby’s No Fun

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Another quickie and following on from The Skids and The Moon Kids, two more songs in the key of Fife (© Vic Galloway).

First up is the new single from King Creosote which might just be the finest thing he’s ever recorded. For One Night Only is taken from his upcoming album From Scotland With Love which will be available on Domino from the 27th of July.

I’m not normally a fan of found footage music videos but I’ll make an exception for this one, which is actually part of a poetic BBC Scotland documentary film also called From Scotland With Love. See what you think, this is For One Night Only:

 
And now for some Mike Geist. According to the bio he sent me, this Fife based songwriter was ‘recently awoken from suspended animation and genetically engineered by scientists to function as a killing machine, but he decided he’d prefer to write elevator music. He’s currently working on his debut album.’

This is Baby’s No Fun:

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Theme Tunes For War Movies and Romantic Losers

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Skids Glasgow Apollo June 1979

A quickie, folks.

Exactly 35 years ago to the day, The Skids headlined the Glasgow Apollo for the first time, but I didn’t get to see the show, having packed my bags and hitched hundreds of miles south to find a flat and a job a couple of months beforehand.

The singles charts in Britain during the early summer of 1979 was dominated by disco: Anita Ward’s Ring My Bell was #1 and acts like Donna Summer, Edwin Starr and Sister Sledge were all selling shedloads of records.

Surprisingly enough, The Skids made their way into the top twenty at this point with a track that they’d been happy themselves to describe as ‘disco’ although I never really understood why and doubt the song ever troubled many DJ playlists at the likes of Studio 54.

My own favourite description of the music of The Skids was when Stuart Adamson spoke to Harry Doherty in Melody Maker in the wake of recording Days In Europa and explained: ‘We write theme tunes for war movies and romantic losers’ although I’m not sure I entirely understand that either.

Produced by one time Be-Bop Deluxe frontman Bill Nelson, this is Masquerade:

 
If I had to choose a band to represent the sound of Young Dunfermline today I’d go for The Moon Kids, an act that Billy Sloan has been enthusing about recently on his Sunday night show on Radio Clyde. According to their publicity they make ‘Music made to blast out through the tannoy of the waltzers or maybe the PA in a nightclub owned by Billy Fury and Ringo Starr’ and they’ll be launching their new EP on Friday night at local venue PJ Molloy’s.

This is the official video for Luna Park which is definitely worth seeing even though the singer is wearing a Nike T-shirt:

 
July should be an even more exciting month for the band as they’re gonna play King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, T In The Park and the Wickerman Festival in Dundrennan. Catch their funfair pop if you can.

For more on The Moon Kids.

For more on The Skids.

Which Side Will You Be On?

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if Blu-ray Cover

if…. (1968)

Okay, something a bit different today, my first film review since Filth last September. Released this week on Blu-ray in Britain as part of Eureka!’s Masters of Cinema Series, if…. is a hymn to youthful rebellion directed by Lindsay Anderson, who in 1968 was still best known for his adaptation of David Storey’s novel This Sporting Life and for his work in London’s Royal Court Theatre.

The film stars a youthful Malcolm McDowell in his breakthrough role (as Mick Travis) and significantly, McDowell, like Anderson and writer David Sherwin were all products of a public school education themselves, although they each had very different experiences there; McDowell has described his time at a minor public school as ‘wonderful’ while Sherwin has compared his school to a ‘Nazi War camp’.

Judging from his film, Anderson definitely wasn’t much of a fan either and here he uses the tradition-ridden public school of if…. as a microcosm of post-war Britain with a clear class system in operation, its pyramid headed by the staff and then the Senior prefects known as Whips, the Seniors and at the bottom the underlings, the Juniors, or ‘Scum’, who are picked on and sadistically bullied for any real or imaginary reason.


The film tells the story of Travis and his roommates, Wallace (Richard Warwick) and Johnny (David Wood), from their return for the first day of a new term until the annual celebration of Founders Day towards the end of the academic year.

McDowell’s entrance is a memorable one. In fact, his whole performance is superb. From the moment we first see him he’s already rebelling albeit in the relatively minor form of having grown a rule-breaking moustache which he hides under a black scarf pulled across his face and soon shaves off.

The film starts naturalistically with Anderson insisting that it should appear as timeless as possible, hence none of the pupils listening to the pop music of the era on tinny transistor radios, so no Beatles or Rolling Stones, no psychedelia, no protest singers asking why we don’t believe we’re on the Eve of Destruction; instead we mainly get snatches of Sanctus from the Missa Luba, sung by an uncredited Congolese choir which had first been released around a decade earlier.

Indeed with the Victorian values embraced by the faculty members, we could almost be back at some point during the reign of Queen Victoria – although the collages assembled on his wall by Travis do hint at the world that he and his comrades are being cocooned from – long hair, the counterculture and far left politics.

The script remains in the same naturalistic vein for some time with Anderson utilising his experience in documentary film making to great effect in scenes such as the pupils being served gloopy stew by a matron who appears to believe this is a feast and a Junior named Biles (Brian Pettifer) being hung upside down over a lavatory and having his head flushed with water. Had Anderson chosen to make a documentary on the subject I’m sure it would have been fascinating although not as incendiary.

Unusually the film flits from black and white to colour at seemingly random intervals but this decision, at least initially, came down purely to economics – lighting the chapel scenes for colour would take much longer than they would if they were lit for black and white, putting further strain on an already tight budget. Anderson then took a subjective approach on which film stock to use on a scene by scene basis.

The headmaster might spout platitudes such as ‘Those who are given most also have most to give’, but our trio of Crusaders (this was the working title of the film) see through the hypocrisy of an institution where rules are rigid and where anybody daring to attack its authoritarianism will be disciplined with vicious beatings which, bizarrely, they are then expected to thank their assailant for administering to them.

Travis’s rebellious steak grows, signalled by his use of the sort of Situationist style slogans that would soon be spreading across Paris and beyond as student uprisings and insurrection stirred in the outside world.

‘When do we live? That’s what I want to know’ he rails. ‘Violence and revolution are the only pure acts.’

Around the half way mark there is a shortish interlude away from the school when Travis and Johnny travel on a motorbike into the local town where they meet a waitress (Christine Noonan) in an empty cafe.Here Anderson’s love of surrealism and, in particular, the Spanish director Luis Buñuel, begins kicking in and from here on in things just get more and more weird.

Before too long it’s hard to distinguish between the fantasy and non fantasy scenes. Does, for example, the Headmaster’s wife really wander naked down corridors? What is the audience supposed to make of the scene in the Headmaster’s office where a morgue-like drawer is opened to reveal the school’s chaplain?

if stilll

The largely dialogue free last fifteen or so minutes of the movie are remarkable in many ways, but I don’t want to say too much and ruin the ending for you just in case you haven’t already seen the film.

if…. is undoubtedly provocative, passionate and poetic and, almost fifty years on from being made, still surprisingly fresh although in the wake of the Columbine and Virginia Tech massacres, the climax of the film has become a much more uncomfortable watch than before – although McDowell himself argues that the only link between the film and atrocities like those is the fact that both happened to take place in schools.

Lindsay  Anderson's Which Side Are You On poster

if…. has remained both a cult and a classic film, the first with a British setting and cast to be awarded the Palme d’Or at Cannes; like Look Back in Anger and Anarchy in the UK, it’s a highpoint in British culture of the second half of the 20th century.

Unlike Osborne’s play though, which helped break the stranglehold of the drawing room dramas of playwrights like Terence Rattigan and ushered in the era of the ‘Angry Young Men’, and The Sex Pistols, who kick-started the whole Punk movement in London, Anderson’s film failed to ignite a similar revolution in British cinema.

Five years later many of those involved in its making were reunited for the very loose sequel O Lucky Man! – and later again on the vitriolic but woefully unfunny ‘comedy’ Britannia Hospital – but neither of these efforts had anything like the impact of if….

In fact, of the entire cast and crew, arguably only Malcolm McDowell would ever repeat the success and controversy of if…. when he was cast to play Alex, the droog malcontent of A Clockwork Orange, as a direct result of Stanley Kubrick’s enthusiasm for his portrayal of Mick Travis.

Extras:

Commentary with David Robinson and Malcolm McDowell and a 36 page booklet featuring a new and exclusive essay about the film by David Cairns and more.
 

Tonight At Noon / Forever More

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7x7-1977

THE JAM: TONIGHT AT NOON
 
Just out this week is Paul Weller’s More Modern Classics, a collection that features a selection of his solo work from 1999 to the present.

For some years now Weller’s been dismissed by many as a Dad Rock fuddy duddy, happy just to churn out drenched in nostalgia ditties with Britpop buddies like Steve Cradock and Noel Gallagher. According to one pal of mine, he’s divorced more wives than written truly great songs since his heyday as singer, guitarist and main songwriter with The Jam.

I disagree. Yeah, he did spend too long a time for my liking seemingly trying to recreate the ‘getting it together in the country’ type of sound that Traffic pioneered in the late 1960s but – very possibly coinciding with his decision to give up booze around four years ago – he now appears more eager to embrace new influences and experiment musically than the vast majority of artists of his generation, 2010’s Wake Up The Nation signalling something of a late period renaissance for the Woking man.

Two years later, Sonik Kicks took him even further out of his comfort zone and even witnessed him flirting with Neu! motorik rhythms, which certainly took me aback, kind of like hearing that Kate Bush is dabbling with Oi! or hardcore for her upcoming tour. Paul Weller goes Krautrock? Somehow though it worked and I’d rate Sonik Kicks a much better album than biggies like Stanley Road and Heavy Soul.

The final song of the new collection, Brand New Toy, a special Record Store Day release a couple of months back, is also worth seeking out, a superb slice of modern day music hall glam which I’m sure Ray Davies would have been proud to have penned.

Saying that, this is a far from perfect compilation.Sweet Pea, Sweet Pea is no more a ‘modern classic’ than One Direction are The Velvet Underground and, even worse, is his version of Wishing on a Star. Godawful stuff, Paul, in the hugely unlikely chance that you’re actually reading this, although I’m sure you wouldn’t give two fucks or even a damn about my review (of sorts) anyway.

In case you didn’t get it, that last line was a reference to a lyric of The Jams’ second single The Modern World, which also kicked off their second album This is the Modern World.

One day after school in the winter of 1977, I headed over to Rockabill Records in East Kilbride where I’d got to know a guy who had wangled a part time job there. He was playing the LP on the shop’s stereo and was pretty underwhelmed by most of it.

This reaction wasn’t entirely unusual. Critics tended to dismiss the album as hurried and ill conceived but most of the music immediately transfixed me, London Girl, I Need You and, most particularly, Tonight at Noon,a song that sounded almost magical and poetic.* At a time when punk was near its peak – and the week that This is the Modern World came out, Never Mind the Bollocks was Britain’s bestselling album – I thought the words and music of Tonight at Noon were beautiful, not a word I would have used to describe any other record I’d remotely liked that year up until this point.

This is Tonight At Noon:

 
I kept asking for it to be played again and again as I didn’t have the money to buy it, most likely because most of my pocket money had just been used to buy a ticket for the upcoming Jam show at the Glasgow Apollo.

The Jam - Glasgow Apollo ad November 1977 

Finally a mention for a new Edinburgh act who’ll be supporting Paul Weller at his sold out Forest Live shows later this month. Produced by Richard Hawley and released last Monday on Neu! Reekie! Records, this is Forever More:

 
For more on Paul Weller:
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And to hear Paul speaking with Billy Sloan on Radio Clyde last Sunday night click HERE.

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* The back cover of This Is The Modern World gave thanks to Liverpudlian poet and pop artist Adrian Henri ‘for foresight and inspiration’. Weller borrowed the title of a Henri poem (which Henri himself had borrowed from a Charlie Mingus track) for Tonight At Noon and also lifted lines such as ‘I will bring you night flowers / coloured like your eyes’ and ‘held for a moment among strangers / held for a moment among dripping trees’ straight from his poem In the Midnight Hour without giving him an actual writing credit.