Manchester 22. 05. 17

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Around a dozen or so years ago, my ex-partner’s teenage daughter was delighted when she managed to get her mitts on tickets to see Beyoncé and Christina Aguilera at what I seem to remember being the MTV Music Awards. This was something I would have paid good money to avoid but she was hugely excited by the chance to attend and when the time arrived she enjoyed her night thoroughly.

Of course, it made me happy to see her obvious joy before and afterwards.

Relatively speaking, I’m usually pretty good at shaking off national tragedies but the events on Monday night at the Manchester Arena were so inhumane that it’s proved almost impossible to get the tragedy out of my head and the very thought of what unfolded means my mood shows no sign of lifting – reading about Eilidh MacLeod, a fourteen year old schoolgirl from the Isle of Barra, who in the past few hours has been confirmed as dead is simply heartbreaking and how her family or the families of any of the victims cope with their losses is just about beyond me.

‘Eilidh was vivacious and full of fun,’ her parents said in a statement. ‘She loved all music whether it was listening to Ariana or playing the bagpipes with her pipe band.’

Just to make things even more depressing, it’s hard not to suspect that similar massacres will take place in concert venues across Britain in the future with shows by the likes of Ariana Grande being the most likely to be specifically targeted due to their appeal to mainly girls and young women.

As James Harkin noted yesterday in a Billboard essay on Islamic State’s hatred of women and war on western music: ‘To them, the empowered sexuality of a singer like Ariana Grande appears to have been a dangerous, godless combination — one which their self-appointed witch-finder went to murderous lengths to put back in a box.’

*

Manchester is a town that I have only a few connections with, I once had a short play showcased there at the Contact Theatre on Oxford Road and I review films for a website based in the city. I’ve only visited three times but on each of these occasions I’ve had a fantastic time and found the locals, like Glaswegians, to be a friendly bunch. Manchester is also, pound for pound, my favourite British music city from big names like The Buzzcocks, Fall, Smiths and Stone Roses through to less widely known acts such as Easterhouse and King of the Slums.

Come to think of it, during the 1980s, you could argue that more good music originated in Manchester and its surrounding area than anywhere else on the planet.

Here’s something from that decade. Recorded over the course of two days back in June 1988 at Manchester’s Moonraker Studios and featuring a very brief Derek and Clive sample, this is Moss Side born A Guy Called Gerald and Voodoo Ray:

 
RIP The victims of Manchester Arena.

Initials BB, FG, VS & EB (Yé-Yé Sunday)

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Ye-Ye_book

After featuring the track Bonnie and Clyde in my last post I searched out my copy of Yé-Yé Girls of ‘60s French Pop by Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe, a book that will appeal to anyone with a liking for the golden age of Gallic grooviness (that’s me) or just a liking for photos of pretty young Parisiennes wearing very short dresses and kinky boots (that’s me again).

The book really will do nothing to dissuade people like me that everybody in 1960s France looked like they had just walked on to the set of À bout de Souffle. We are talking tres, tres chic here.

First up today is Serge Gainsbourg, who as someone pointed out in a comment last week, once made an arse of himself live on French TV, telling Whitney Houston that he wanted to fuck her.

Sadly for the clearly pished up, ageing Lothario, the feeling wasn’t mutual.

Back when Serge was at the top of his game, his affair with Brigitte Bardot was put on hold when the actress flew off to film Shalako along with Sean Connery in Almería in Spain, the home of the spaghetti western.

Saddened by the situation, Serge penned Initials B.B.

With some vocal help from Bardot, here is that track, the opener on his 1968 album also titled Initials B.B., with a little of Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 thrown in for good measure:


The 21st century has definitely witnessed a revival of interest in Yé-Yé.
For starters Belle & Sebastian and The Arcade Fire have both covered Poupée de cire, poupée de son while TV and film have also embraced the movement with Zou Bisou Bisou making an appearance on Mad Men and Françoise Hardy’s Le Temps de l’Amour being included on the soundtrack of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.

Maybe the most high profile ye-ye moment, though, came via Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof.

This would be his first film to prove, at least in relative terms, a commercial and critical failure,* although few would complain about the quality of its soundtrack, with music ranging from Jack Nitzsche to T. Rex; Ennio Morricone to Joe Tex. The film closes with a version of Serge Gainsbourg’s composition Laisse tomber les filles, re-named Chick Habit with English lyrics supplied by April March.

But here is the original and superior version by France Gall:


Next up is Victoire Scott and her single 4ème Dimension.

The video is taken from her appearance in 1968 on French TV show Au Risque De Vous Plaire and includes surreal artworks by Belgian surrealist Paul Delvaux and Dutch graphic artist M. C. Escher occasionally superimposed in the background.

Here’s the Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe verdict:

‘ “4ème Dimension” is a baroque pop masterpiece, a Paris Existentialism-meets-American psych rock kind of thing. Its string arrangements, atmosphere, and texture created a unique vision.’


And finally Clothilde, or Elisabeth Beauvais to give her birth certificate name.

The career of Clothilde was short and sweet with the teenager apparently never enjoying her brief spell in the spotlight, disliking the clothes that she was told to wear and the songs given to her to sing. Which surprises me as Fallait Pas Ecraser La Queue Du Chat is a crazily catchy slice of frothy 60s pop with a tinny harpsichord (I think) riff that’s unlike just about anything I’ve ever heard before and a fantastic arrangement that includes French horns presumably played by Frenchmen or French women – which is pretty, um, French.

The Jean-Emmanuel Deluxe verdict: ‘Her two EPs were like a beautiful Hollywood set hiding a desolate landscape, or a nice little semi-detached house in a very cozy suburb, in which a desperate housewife has just turned on the gas and is hesitating before striking a full box of matches.’


* I put this down at least partly to the Jungle Julia character being nowhere near as cool and charismatic as Quentin obviously wanted her to be – and if you’re gonna make a case for Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich being a better band than The Who, it might help if you didn’t repeatedly call them Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mitch & Tich.

Some Mostly Inconsequential Writing & Three of the Finest Duets Ever Recorded

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Last Saturday, on the way to see The Skids in Glasgow, conversation after a couple of pre-show bevvies turned to the greatest duets ever recorded. A couple of tracks by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell were mentioned as were a couple of tracks by Marvin and Kim Weston including, of course, It Takes Two. Good shouts.

William Bell and Judy Clay’s Private Number was also quite rightly praised as was I’m a Fool For You by James Carr & Betty Harris.

It didn’t take long before someone suggested Morrissey and Siouxsie and Interlude but I must admit, that was a track that probably promised slightly more than it delivered. Not a view that everyone agreed with. Then again, not everyone was happy about me rubbishing Bowie & Queen and Under Pressure.

Thankfully no one brought up the even worse Bowie collaboration with Mick Jagger.

The Pet Shop Boys & Dusty Springfield and What Have I Done To Deserve This? coulda been a contender but only if just about anybody other than Neil Tennant had been partnering Dusty on vocal duties.

If a vote had been taken then Some Velvet Morning would likely have edged it as our favourite ever duet: a hypnotic and surreal masterpiece that’s even a little disorientating and also to my mind a lot more psychedelic than anything the likes of The Grateful Dead ever recorded (not that I’ve ever spent much time listening to that particular band).

 
Up there for me is Serge Gainsbourg & Brigitte Bardot with Bonnie And Clyde, a track that somehow managed to be just as supercool as Arthur Penn’s movie of the same name that helped kickstart that whole, very wonderful era of New Hollywood cinema.

I think this is taken from a special edition of the Brigitte Bardot Show, broadcast on New Years Day, 1968:

 
Not surprisingly the debate on Serge/BB led on to Je t’aime or to give it its full name Je t’aime… moi non plus, a track that Serge composed the lyrics to while he was having an affair with Bardot, although the later Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg version is far better known. Being banned by the Vatican probably helped.

Inevitably, irony reared its head around this point with Frankie Howerd and June Whitfield and Up Je T’aime being thrown into the hat, followed by Arthur Mullard & Hilda Baker’s You’re The One That I Want.

Once a degree of seriousness returned to proceedings there was mention of Aerosmith and Run DMC and numerous others including Sheena Easton and Prince – cue a discussion on when two of us saw Sheena perform on Glasgow Green at an event to mark my hometown becoming European City of Culture in 1990. Sorry Sheena but we did boo.

I forgot to put forward Bob and Marcia’s Young, Gifted and Black and Tramp by Carla Thomas and Otis Redding – well I was on the Stella with the odd whisky chaser and my head was moving swiftly towards befuddlement on the way to oblivion. I did, though, remember to nominate northern soul classic I’ll Hold You by Frankie and Johnny.

Frankie was Maryhill’s Maggie Bell though Johnny’s identity remains something of a mystery with the general consensus on internet soul sites believing him to be a Scottish singer called Johnny Curtis (also known possibly as Frankie Kerr just to confuse matters slightly).

If you’ve never heard this one then prepare yourself for a absolute treat:

 
Actually Maggie Bell and B.A. Robertson and Hold Me was acknowledged to be a guilty pleasure by one of us and fans of obscure music trivia might know that Timi Yuro, who sang the original version of Interlude once covered Hold Me too.

Not that we discussed this at the time, the conversation being steered instead towards the subject of Taggart – Maggie Bell, of course, supplying the theme tune for that show back in the 1980s and 90s.

Some more duets were recommended but by this point fewer and fewer gems were being proposed and I’ve forgotten a big majority of them, although despite the fact that we were going to see the band that wrote and recorded The Saints Are Coming I’m sure nobody uttered the words Green Day and U2, their take on that song being in every way musically inferior to The Skids’ 1978 original.