The Return of Alvvays (with added Plum)

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YouTube has been known to provide me some strange suggestions on subjects I might like. Tonight, though, it was spot-on, alerting me that a new video is out today for the new Alvvays single In Undertow, the first taster for their upcoming album Antisocialtes album.

It’s alvvays good to get some new Alvvays, so here is the new video:

 
According to singer Molly Rankin: ‘This record is a fantasy breakup arc and my life nearly imitated art.’

If In Undertow is any indication of its quality then this looks like a must-buy album.

Since I first wrote about the band, Alvvays have went from strength to strength, even reaching the dizzy heights of having previous single Marry Me, Archie chosen as Song of the Day on Radio Scotland’s Off the Ball (Okay, if you’re not Scottish I am being slightly ironic here).

They have though played Coachella and toured North and South America and Australia and New Zealand, headlining shows and supporting the likes of The Jesus and Mary Chain, Courtney Barnett, Chvrches and Tame Impala.

Alvvays have also recently announced a new tour that will take in Britain including, as the keen-eyed among you will see, a date on 27. August at St. Luke’s in Glasgow, a venue that sounds ideal for the band. I hope to be there.

Alvvays Tour Dates 2017.jpg

Also out soon is Plum by Wand, an act that I really don’t know much about apart from the fact that Cory Hanson is their singer and guitarist – and here I would like to point out that since I somehow failed to include Hanson’s single Garden of Delight in my Best Of 2017 list, my head has largely been hung in shame.

Wand will also be coming to Glasgow in the not too distant future with a G2 date in January 2018.

Here is Plum:


For more on Alvvays click here and more more on Wand here you go.

It was 50 Years Ago Today

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Sgt Rutters

Exceptional bands often possess a history that is almost as intriguing as their music. Take The Sex Pistols: hooking up with Malcolm McLaren; swearing live on TV and making front page news; getting the heave-ho from EMI and later A&M; banned shows; God Save the Queen being denied official number one status; breaking up in America at the climax of a tour and the sad demise of Nancy Spungen and then Sid Vicious. All that in just a few years.

Compare that to the story of Coldplay where the most interest generated was a celebrity wedding to an over-rated actress.

Imagine trying to write a page turning book or make a gripping film about that lot.

The history of The Beatles was consistently fascinating: their residency at the Star Club in Hamburg; the infamous rejection from Decca; their first Ed Sullivan Show appearance; Beatlemania and Shea Stadium; MBEs and LSD; John Lennon’s ‘more popular than Jesus’ controversy; the death of their manager Brian Epstein and the retreat from playing live until the Apple rooftop concert – these are all just off the top of my head.

Likewise The Rutles stand firmly in the bands with an exceptionally engrossing history camp. And that history does parallel The Beatles to a spookily bizarre extent: just think of their Ratkellar residency in Hamburg; mass adulation in the shape of Rutlemania; their concert at Che Stadium; Nasty’s bigger than God controversy (when sales boomed as devout Christians bought their records just so they could burn them); the weekend near Bogner in the company of Surrey mystic Arthur Sultan and the Stig is dead rumours.

Released fifty years to the day, their phenomenally successful album Sgt. Rutter’s Lonely Darts Club Band undoubtedly had a seismic influence on music and popular culture and remains for many their high point. From it, this is the closing track, the achingly sad Cheese and Onions:

 
You remember the very awkward date between gangster’s moll Mia Wallace and hitman Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction? Mia telling him that: ‘There are only two kinds of people in the world, Beatles people and Elvis people. Now Beatles people can like Elvis and Elvis people can like the Beatles, but nobody likes them both equally.’

If the choice was between Beatles and Rutles people, I could claim that I’m actually more a Rutles man myself but claiming to prefer a spoof act (however talented) to the band that gave the world A Day in the Life, Revolution and Helter Skelter would border on striving to become the Katie Hopkins of musical opinions – even if I am happy to acknowledge that The Beatles also gave the world a number of rank rotten ditties like Rocky Raccoon, Wild Honey Pie and Ob-La-Fucking Di, Ob-La-Fucking Da.

I may well, though, honestly prefer The Rutles to Oasis.

From their Tragical History Tour, this is Piggy in the Middle:


Oh, I’ve just remembered something else about Coldplay which might be at least of some interest (and which you likely already know yourselves). Chris Martin once invited David Bowie to collaborate on a track that Coldplay felt would be perfect for the Godlike genius to contribute backing vocals to.

Bowie gave them a knockback, explaining: ‘It’s not a very good song, is it?’

For more on The Rutles, click here.

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.’

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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.

I’m a King Kong man, I’m a voodoo man, Oh I’m an apeman

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This week I got round to buying English Weather, the latest collection compiled by Bob Stanley (this time together with Saint Etienne mainstay Pete Wiggs). The album focuses on that post-Beatles, pre-glam early 1970s era of British music that is seldom remembered with any particular fondness.

Grabbing a copy of the album wasn’t one of my better ideas. There’s an awful – and awfully long – Daevid Allen track that begins: ‘I met a man, a wise old man’ and there’s also a band represented here called Aardvark.

Do I really need to say anything more about anybody that ever thought calling themselves Aardvark was a good idea?

Worse still is Til The Christ Come Back by Bill Fay, which has been described as ‘spiritual heavy rock’ and contains this couplet: ‘Alas, said the cloud, what have we here? I believe it’s the world and it’s covered in fear.’

Jesus wept.

Admittedly a couple of track are excellent: John Cale’s Big White Cloud and O Caroline by Matching Mole, and there are also a number of intriguing enough listens: Moon Bird by The Roger Webb Sound is nicely atmospheric and could have been lifted from a not very frightening English horror film where sexy lesbian vampires are never far away and there’s a pre-Pilot band called Scotch Mist with a song called Pamela, and oh, oh, oh it’s far from Magic. Or January.

But I much prefer this gloomy folk number to their lightweight pop though.

The dawning of the new decade might conjure up images of boys and girls in badly knitted tank tops; Please Sir!, Queenie’s Castle and Magpie and pints of mild served up in dimpled pint tumblers by an Alf Ramsey lookalike, probably known as something like Cyril or Selwyn. For me it’s when I began to develop an increasing interest in music, big chart singles like In The Summertime, My Sweet Lord and Spirit In The Sky.

Released towards the end of the year (and even better) was The Kinks’ Apeman with its catchy calypso tinged feel and amazing lyrics – ‘I’m a King Kong man, I’m a voodoo man, oh I’m an apeman’ and with one of them, John Gosling, dressed up as an ape while he pounded the piano on Top of the Pops.

This was as good as it got for an eight or nine year old.

From the snappily titled Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One here is Apeman:

 
Slightly before Apeman came out another single I loved was released: Ride a White Swan by T. Rex. This took it’s time to head up the hit parade, spending eleven whole weeks before peaking at its highest chart position, number two, by which time we were into 1971.

Ditching incense and Tolkien and embracing satin and tat (and electric guitars) proved a masterstroke for Marc Bolan and it wouldn’t be long before the term T. Rextasy was coined, reflecting the band’s phenomenal rise. Pop was becoming very important to me and my fellow children of the revolution, mainly thanks to Ride a White Swan, a ‘boogie mind poem’ that helped kick-start glam rock.

‘Over and done inside two minutes,’ Bob Stanley noted in his book Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop, ‘it was simplicity itself and genuinely exciting.’

Something that you couldn’t say about a single track on English Weather.

With the kind of crazily catchy three note riff that even the giants of rock and roll would have envied, here is Ride a White Swan:

 
For more on the The Kinks click here, and for more on Marc Bolan/T.Rex, here you go.

On Impulse

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Many of the vinyl buying brigade and even some record sellers have now turned against Record Store Day.

“Clearly it would be unrealistic not to have expected things to have gradually changed over the last ten years,” Kevin Buckle of Avalanche wrote this week in the Edinburgh Evening News, “but truth is, what was a very well intentioned idea has become commercialised and distorted to a point where it is unrecognisable from those early years.”

As I’ve said before, there’s no way that I’m ever gonna queue all night for the chance to buy some horribly overpriced records that I probably already own whether on vinyl, CD or MP3 and even if I don’t already own the tracks I want then I can always (in all likelihood) download them somewhere online but if RSD still appeals to you, then good luck finding whatever you’re after. To quote again from the same article: “Support high street record shops, support new music and if possible support new music in high street record shops.”

And here I’ll add my own far from original advice: On any day of the year you fancy.

By coincidence, while cleaning out a cupboard this morning, I came across a bunch of old albums collected together in a record shop bag from Impulse Records & Tapes, which certainly brought back some memories and prompted this rather impulsive post.

Carrier bags like this have over recent years – and for reasons that I can’t fully understand – started to become collector’s items and some apparently fetch reasonable sums of money when auctioned off on eBay although when I just looked none were going for anything above twenty quid. I seem to remember hearing that a book consisting of photos of old (and possibly some new) bags from British record shops had been published and a few articles have also appeared in the press about the phenomenon.

And so for anyone interested, here’s my old bag which is chanky to the extent that I really thought it best to set to a high contrast when assembling in Paint Shop Pro:

Impulse Records & Tapes bag

Impulse started out in Hamilton before adding a second branch in East Kilbride town centre in the summer of 1977, the grand gala opening involving a helicopter and several Radio Clyde DJs. I remember heading over in the early days during a school lunch hour and being given a Jam poster and badge – a very big badge from memory.

Before then in East Kilbride, records and cassettes were available in Rockabill (closed years ago) John Menzies (now WH Smith) and Boots, which is still Boots albeit there’s no racks of vinyl nowadays.

Saturday morning trips into Glasgow and shops like Listen, Bruce’s and Graffiti continued but it was good to have a record shop within walking distance and I did spend many hours flipping through the Punk and New Wave box on the counter, stacked with singles by the likes of The Adverts, The Damned and The Clash – and bands like Motorhead, The Count Bishops and even Loyd Grossman’s old band Jet Bronx And The Forbidden – in other words, records that didn’t really belong in a punk or new wave box.

Today, the unit – which I think is now a pet store that is actually set to move shortly – shares the same row as a carry-out shop, a chippy, a bookies and a boozer, so you never have to stray more than a few yards to keep the vice or carbohydrate levels up. Sadly though, if vinyl is your addiction you’re out of luck.

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Okay, here’s a track from one of the albums I found in the bag. From the disappointing No More Heroes album, this is The Stranglers and the far from disappointing title track:


Record Store Day 2017 will take place on Saturday, April 22.

For more on Mono click here and for more on Love Music Glasgow, here you go, although as I write the site is still about to go live so here’s the shop’s Facebook page too.

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