Rendezvous on Champs Elysées/Leave Paris in the morning on T.E.E.

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Kraftwerk: Trans-Europe Express

In anticipation of tonight’s Kraftwerk documentary on BBC Four, I’ve been leafing through Tim Barr’s book Kraftwerk: From Dusseldorf to the Future With Love and very good it is too although I disagree with his claim that the band had more in common with Stockhausen and Russian Constructivism than Chuck Berry and Andy Warhol. Well the Warhol bit anyway as he famously declared: ‘I want to be a machine.’

A quote that could have come from Ralf Hütter at any point in just about the last forty years.

The single Trans-Europe Express came out in Britain in April 1977, just as a trickle of punk and new wave records was about to become a deluge and the record failed to take off.

Not that I’m suggesting that Kraftwerk were being seen in the same light as the self–indulgent dinosaurs of the mid–seventies.

Yes, they came from affluent backgrounds, key members Hütter and Schneider both trained at the Düsseldorf Conservatory and the track they were best known for at this time, Autobahn, lasted over twenty minutes in its album version but it would have been absurd to believe any of these facts meant they could easily be aligned with the so-called ‘progressive’ groups of the time.

Kraftwerk really were progressive.

Trans Europe Express Original ad

Nor did they possess much in common with Punk, although when questioned years later about any similarities between his music and punk, Ralf Hütter did note that both favoured simplicity and shared a minimalist attitude.

Kraftwerk stood apart from just about everyone back then, even their German contemporaries like Can and Cluster. In fact, in 1977, a highly successful ad used to promote Bowie’s album Heroes: ‘There’s Old Wave. There’s New Wave. And there’s David Bowie…’ would have been equally appropriate for the German act – and of course Bowie and Iggy get name-checked on Trans-Europe Express and Bowie talked up Kraftwerk at just about every opportunity around this time.

 
Before the seventies were out the influence of Kraftwerk could be seen and heard everywhere in British music, think The Human League, OMD, Gary Numan and Simple Minds for starters – and also from Glasgow, Berlin Blondes and Teutonic Veneer (anybody old enough and into the obscure enough to remember those guys?)

Released five years after TEE, the track Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force nicked its snake charmer melody from the Kraftwerk song and combined it with a TR-808 beat that is copied from Numbers, an under-rated track from 1981’s Computer World, although Bambaataa himself also likes to credit Yellow Magic Orchestra as a crucial influence on Planet Rock too.

Here it is:

 
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Brown Eyes and Living Fiction (Again)

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The New Southern Electrikk Brown Eyes

Where do you discover new music nowadays?

Through radio shows like Vic Galloway? Bloggers or internet sites? Podcasts? Spotify playlists? Word of mouth? MySpace? (really?) NME? Investigative current affairs documentaries that expose some of the tricks that Cameron and Co. are currently using to help manipulate unemployment figures in Britain down for the benefit of big business rather than those on benefits?

I first saw The New Southern Electrikk when they featured very briefly on last week’s Low Pay Britain edition of Dispatches on Channel 4, where they were having some photos shot by a guy who had been encouraged to become a self employed photographer seemingly to help cut the jobless statistics of his local job centre.* The programme is still available to see here for the next twenty or so days.

They’re a new act from Manchester consisting of vocalist Monica Ward, Zack Davies on guitar, Steven Tajti on bass, keyboard player Rikki Turner and Jim Correy on drums and collectively they cite such impeccable influences as The Shirelles, Krautrock and The Gun Club.

Newly signed to Louder Than War Records, their debut single Brown Eyes is out digitally on Feb 14, with a live launch at the Roadhouse in Manchester the night before. A vinyl release will follow on in March.

I’m perfectly aware that it’s a music blogger cliché to say that some track heard in January might just turn out to be the best song of the whole year but I think this is entirely possible in this case. I absolutely adore Brown Eyes. Enjoy.

 
2015 is destined surely to be a great year for The New Southern Electrikk and I can say the same for White, who easily sold out their upcoming two February shows at the Poetry Club in Glasgow.

I did post their debut single Living Fiction with another video here last year but this is the more visually imaginative official promo directed by Roxy Agogo. Enjoy again.

 
* But a very talented guy though as you can see here.

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Frankly, Mr. Morrissey…

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The Smiths 18 May 1984

Last week I started re-reading John Robb’s The North Will Rise Again – Manchester Music City 1976–1996 and, coincidentally, a day later one of the great music figures of that city announced a set of six British dates that will kick off at Nottingham’s Capital FM Arena on 13 March and also take in dates at Bournemouth, Cardiff, Leeds, Glasgow and Birmingham, with the Glasgow leg of the tour taking place at the Hydro.

Morrissey Hydro Tweet

I’m a Morrissey fan but, like some other bloggers, won’t be going to the Glasgow date, or any of the other shows. Over fifty quid for the cheapest ticket including fees and over seventy quid for the most expensive! No wonder he’s smiling in that photo, although to be fair, maybe it was taken in the wake of the Mexican bullfighter being gored to death that he found so amusing.

Back in 2004 I seem to remember my ticket for his Edinburgh Corn Exchange gig nudging just over £30 including my booking fee so I’m guessing that even Npower and EON might be looking on enviously at Morrissey’s price hikes since then.

Taking price comparisons further back, a couple of minutes research at a site called This is Money revealed that, in Britain, there has been approximately a three-fold increase in retail prices in the last thirty years.

Now look at my Smiths ad from 1984 at the top of the page. A fiver to see Morrissey’s much superior band of the time.

Frankly, Mr. Morrissey, how are young fans on minimum wage and zero hour contracts or some music fanatic who is unemployed and living in a Whalley Range bedsit supposed to be able to afford to see you nowadays?

*

John Robb’s book features some astoundingly talented acts including, of course, The Smiths, Buzzcocks, Magazine, Joy Division/New Order, The Stone Roses and The Fall. Although it claims to end at the height of Britpop fever with Oasis packing out Knebworth in 1996, it does include a short two page ‘encore’ at the end, where he rounds up a bunch of acts based in the city such as Doves and I Am Kloot that have continued to produce fine music since then.

If Robb ever gets the time to update the book he would surely find a place for LoneLady (AKA Julie Campbell), a Manchester lass, who as many have said before me, displays influences from both ESG (from the South Bronx but at one time signed to Factory) and A Guy Called Gerald (from Moss Side).

Signed to Warp in 2009, her debut album, Nerve Up, was released the following year. This is her recent single, Groove It Out.


LoneLady today announced that her second full length album, Hinterland, will come out on 23rd March.  According to the artist herself: “It’s channelling Parliament/Funkadelic, Stevie Wonder, Rufus, Prince, Arthur Russell…among others. A strange – but nonetheless real – meeting of funk and… me from Audenshaw, Manchester.”

Hibou are from Seattle, another city with a strong music tradition, but this sounds far more Factory than Sub Pop. Accompanied by footage from 70s surfer documentary Crystal Voyager, this is Glow:


And if you liked that, this is the new-ish single When The Season Ends:


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Goodbye, Kim Fowley

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Back in September 1976, an issue of NME confirmed an upcoming tour of ten British shows for five Californian teenage girls heralded as ‘America’s latest punk-rock sensation’. The first date, which would also be their British debut, was scheduled to take place on the 23rd of the month at the Glasgow Apollo.

The Runaways Glasgow Apollo 1976

Punk rock, I should mention was a bit of a fluid term at this point and The Runaways, despite being covered in Sniffin’ Glue and playing CBGBs, were, in reality, more of a glam rock/heavy metal hybrid, a fact that didn’t stop many of the leading lights of British punk, including Johnny Rotten, making their way to their Roundhouse set and party later on in the same tour.

At this point for teenagers, The Runaways appeared almost impossibly glamorous and the Apollo crowd for their show on the night apparently largely consisted of hordes of overexcited male teenage Heavy Metal fans.

Afterwards, according to Mick Farren in his NME review, many of these fans crowded outside hoping for another glimpse of the band as they left the venue. Supposedly fire hoses had to be turned on some of the mob eventually in order to let the girls get into their waiting cars. The Runaways were also pestered all night long in their hotel by a scattering of young fans waiting outside.

Did fans really have to be hosed down?

Maybe they did but it does sound to me like the kind of the thing that their manager at the time, Kim Fowley, might have made up in order to further hype the band. Maybe some reader of this blog was there that night and can confirm or deny the story.

Co-composed by Joan Jett and Kim Fowley, this is Cherry Bomb:

 
Pop genius/svengali Kim Fowley is still best known for his association with The Runaways, although over the years he also collaborated with a slew of other acts. He co-wrote for Alice Cooper and KISS and had some kind of involvement with everyone from Slade (when they were known as The N’Betweens) to Frank Zappa, as well as being a recording artist in his own right.

I can’t claim to have been at that Runaways concert – I wish I had but don’t think I’d heard them yet then although I soon would. Almost twenty years later, though, I did manage to see Kim himself play at the 13th Note in Glasgow, where he was accompanied by various BMX Bandits and, at different points, many members of the audience.

A very mad, entirely unpredictable night that was definitely fantastic fun.

Here’s Kim aka Jimmy Jukebox with Motor Boat. Listen to him rrrrrrrrrrrrr:

 
Kim Vincent Fowley: July 21. 1939 – January 15. 2015

When The Girl Comes To Town

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If you have been reading Scottish music blogs such as Charity Chic Music and Spools Paradise recently you might come to the conclusion that the management of Chris Devotion & The Expectations have been offering up some serious payola in order for us bloggers to write very nice things about the band. This obviously isn’t really the case although any artists that want to bribe this particular site can feel free to get in touch and we’ll see if we can come to some kind of arrangement.

I’m joking. Or at least I think I am.

Anyway, last week I featured some Power Pop and if you had to choose a genre to fit The Expectations into then that would be as good as any.

Consisting of singer and guitarist Chris Devotion, Colin ‘Rock-A-Bye’ Reid (Guitar/Vocals), Michael Wright (Bass/Vocals) and Graham Christie (Drums/Vocals), the band sound like they might be some recently rediscovered act from Baltimore or Boston who once toured with The Rubinoos back in 1979 but never really met with the success they deserved.

In reality, they’re actually from Glasgow and have only been on the go for two or three years. They definitely have a way with writing and performing impeccable two and a half minute pop ditties and here is one of the best of them. Shot in and around the Roxy in Glasgow’s Great Western Road, this is When The Girl Comes To Town from last year’s album, Break Out, a track that you could easily imagine finding its way onto the soundtrack of some American indie movie like The Perils of Being a Wallflower or Young Adult.*

 
And speaking of the soundtrack of Young Adult, this is a song that was pretty central to that film, The Concept by Teenage Fanclub:

 
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* You know the kind of scene where you’d hear it. A normally nerdy female glams herself up and ends up looking more gorgeous than you could possibly have imagined. Wow. Cut to the entrance of the local bar/club/prom night as she glides her way in. Suddenly everybody that usually ignores her gaze on open–mouthed, then turn to each other to discuss her remarkable transformation.

Not that she’s interested in any of them. The guy she is aiming to impress is on the dancefloor bopping around to When The Girl Comes To Town when suddenly he catches her eye in the crowd.

I’ll leave you to guess the rest.

We’re Talking about Rich Kids (& Martha)

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As January 1978 dawned many music critics, already fed up with punk, began banging on about Powerpop, an idea that at this point I had little understanding of, although I did have a copy of the Vertigo compilation New Wave, that had Shake Some Action by The Flamin’ Groovies on it.

Back then I bought one music paper per week, basing my choice not on any big allegiance but more on which of them looked to have the most promising cover. Mostly it would be NME or Sounds, although Melody Maker might occasionally win out; very, very occasionally I might even go for Record Mirror but preferring that to the big three was a bit like believing Ringo was the most talented Beatle.

When NME went for their Pleasers, Stukas and Boyfriends front page I certainly would have went for one of the others even though for ‘nostalgia freaks’ they were also featuring The Sex Pistols and Rich Kids that week.

NME Jan 21 1978

Elsewhere, The Rich Kids often found themselves being tagged Powerpop, which in Britain then was being seen largely as a reaction against the rawness and unpredictability of 1977, although The Rich Kids had little in common with the slew of guitar bands in suits such as those on the NME cover, whose their sole mission seemed to be to make music that sounded not only pre-punk but that you might think had been written and performed by Gerry and The Pacemakers in 1964. As a homage to Merseybeat, The Pleasers even tried to brand their sound as Thamesbeat.

Okay, Glen Matlock, famously, wasn’t averse to bit of Beatles and of course, Malcolm McLaren falsely claimed that he was sacked from The Sex Pistols for going on too much about Paul McCartney (Glen’s favourite Beatle) but the sound of The Rich Kids still had more in common with The Sex Pistols than it did with The Searchers and The Swinging Blue Jeans. They even did a cover of Pretty Vacant when they played live at Satellite City in Glasgow early in ’78, although Midge made it clear that night to punters that if they’d come to see a punk band they’d come to the wrong place.

Although he had been referred to as the Pete Best of Punk, any new band involving Glen Matlock was always guaranteed to send the music biz hype machine into an almost demented overdrive and during the first weeks of 1978, The Rich Kids were repeatedly tipped as the band most likely that year. In Sounds, for instance, Pete Silverton asked, ‘How can they Fail?’, adding that so pre-ordained their success looked to be that, like the Clash a year earlier, anything but complete triumph would be seen as a failure.

*

Last year in the Observer, Glen speculated on why The Rich Kids failed to live up to expectations. ‘In many ways, the Rich Kids were ahead of their time,’ he said. ‘I always believe if you try to copy what’s going on, by the time you’ve written some songs and put a record out you’re going to be a year too late.’ He also made the point: ‘I think we went wrong by being too hasty – or rather, we were pushed into being too hasty, and we should have taken a bit more time out to make our album.’

After all the buzz and build-up, that album, Ghosts of Princes in Towers, amazingly stalled just outside the UK Top 50, although I’ve always remained very fond of it.

Performing the title track on the pilot of the ITV show Revolver, here are The Rich Kids:

 
Martha describe themselves as a four-piece powerpop ensemble from the North East of England. I’ve only come across them in recent weeks but have been impressed by their fine album Courting Strong. Think Arctic Monkeys if they’d emerged in Belfast during the Troubles and been signed to Good Vibrations as a quick reference point.

According to the Independent, the group are ‘tearaway DIY super-vegans’, while Drowned in Sound describe their songs as ‘clever but not smart-arsed, fun but completely serious, catchy but lusciously enriching.’

The band will be playing the Pop South Weekender in Glasgow’s Glad Cafe next month – a great wee venue incidentally – along with upcoming acts local acts like The Just Joans and TeenCanteen. Should be fun.

Pop South Festival Glasgow

This is 1967, I Miss You, I’m Lonely:

 
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