Dressed to Kill & Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!

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Dressed to Kill

My Italian soundtrack composer kick is ongoing. Over the past few nights I’ve been listening to Pino Donaggio, whose soundtrack career started with his haunting score for Don’t Look Now, before he forged a close collaboration with Brian De Palma. Over the years he’s supplied the music for many of that director’s films including Carrie, Body Double and Blow Out.

Before all that, though, Pino Donaggio penned a tune that became one of the great pop classics of the 1960s, Io Che Non Vivo (Senza Te).

This song reached the top of the Italian charts in the Spring of 1965 and was also featured in Luchino Visconti’s award winning film Vaghe stelle dell’Orsa, which is sometimes known as Sandra, or in Britain, Of These Thousand Pleasures.

You might not think you know the tune from its Italian title, but you do and you most likely adore it, believe me, believe me! You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, as it was renamed with newly coined English language lyrics, becoming a British number one in Britain for Dusty Springfield in the Spring of 1966.

Italians Do It Better? Not on this particular occasion, this being one of the relatively few tracks where a cover version far surpasses the original. Here is Pino Donaggio anyway, performing the song on Italian TV.

Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill proved one of the most critically divisive movies of the 1980s. The movie is heavily influenced by Hitchcock’s Psycho and Italian Gialli movies – for starters, there’s a razor wielding killer in disguise, brutal murders and a pair of amateur sleuths, in this case the unlikely pairing of a nerdy and inventive Harry Potter lookalike and a high-end hooker.

The film is far from perfect – even when it was first released I found the whodunnit element easy to solve and Nancy Allen’s acting veers towards the flat but Dressed to Kill certainly grips you and, as always with De Palma, there are many virtuoso touches to enjoy. The long and wordless sequence in the museum is extraordinary, unpredictable and utterly dreamlike and brilliantly complemented by Pino Donaggio’s wonderful score.

The movie’s main theme accompanies the famous opening shower scene (where we see parts of Angie Dickinson’s body that I don’t remember ever seeing on Police Woman). Okay, it was actually a body double.

Donaggio’s music here is sumptuous and might come over as sentimental and even a little sickly but together with the visuals, it provides the ideal suspenseful counterpoint to a scene that makes for increasingly uneasy viewing.

Finally, some more music by another Italian maestro of scoring, Signore Berto Pisano.

From the soundtrack of a Italian/German/Spanish co-production from 1971, Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! that starred James Mason and Jean Seberg, this is a superb slice of bossa nova grooviness featuring that sometimes soaring, otherworldly soprano of Edda Dell’orso.

Another track that Stereolab would love, this is Kill (to Jean):

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Teenage Superstars – An Interview with Grant McPhee (An Updated Repost)

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Big Gold Dream Teenage Superstars

Tomorrow night (29/6/18) sees a screening of Teenage Superstars, the sequel to Big Gold Dream, in Glasgow’s Govanhill Baths.

The film, shown last week in Edinburgh as part of the Film Festival’s Documentaries Strand, follows on from where the Big Gold Dream left off. There’s plenty of fine music from The Vaselines, Jesus and Mary Chain, BMX Bandits and a host of other Scottish indie stalwarts with the likes of Jim Reid, Alan McGee, Edwyn Collins and Eugene Kelly all interviewed along the way.

For those lucky enough to be going along, the legendary Jowe Head (Swell Maps & Television Personalities) will be playing his first Glasgow gig in 20 years, with some Teenage Superstars, Duglas T Stewart and Rose McDowall, helping out on backing duties. Additionally there will be a Q&A with director Grant McPhee and you can BYOB.

The screening starts at 7 pm on the dot but there will also be a few Easter eggs being shown from 18:30, so get along early, folks. A percentage of the ticket price goes towards support for Dan Treacy of The Television Personalities. Booking information here.

The Original Interview (from Sept 2016)

What can we look forward to in Teenage Superstars?

Like Big Gold Dream there will be a lot of joining up of the dots. Most of the bands covered are better known to a wider audience but how interconnected they are is probably less well known, and probably very surprising; especially the Bellshill bands who are a very large focus of the film. There was a point where BMX Bandits, Soup Dragons and a pre-Teenage Fanclub Boy Hairdressers shared most of their line-ups simultaneously. This is really the story of those bands and the wider Glasgow scene which followed pretty much straight on from where Big Gold Dream ends. It starts with The Pastels and the vacuum in the Glasgow music scene left by Postcard imploding.

Did you always plan to make two films?

No, it was originally to be one film called The Sound of Young Scotland which was to be about Postcard and Fire Engines only. It actually does exist – to an extent in a 2010 film, but it doesn’t really make sense for it ever to be released now.

Why the decision to double up?

Two reasons. The main one being that a fuller story was beginning to emerge that went far beyond our initial Postcard only story. It became apparent that when we were speaking to some of the stars of the first film there was a direct continuation to a bigger story which warranted a film in itself. For BGD, when speaking to people such as Eugene (Kelly) and Norman (Blake) we realised it made sense to speak to them about both films at the same time rather than coming back at a later date.

Oh right, so to an extent both films were really shot at the same time?

Well, when the idea for TS came along and the scope became wider, rather than risk BGD being eaten up by itself again we just made the decision to make two films. Saying that, BGD was a two hour film that at a very, very late stage had 30 minutes taken out. Those 30 minutes now form a good part of TS. Like I said, it’s complicated haha. But we now start off with The Bluebells, Pastels and Strawberry Switchblade. It’s not fair to say it’s the Glasgow story but some parts of BGD are re-told from a West Coast perspective.

What stage are you at with Teenage Superstars and when would you envisage it first being premiered?

Teenage Superstars is very nearly complete. Things may change, but we have some really exciting offers for premieres. At the moment we can’t say too much, but we will be able to make some announcements towards the end of the year. The film is almost there but what takes up so much of our time is dealing with archive clearances – music and video and we need to finalise them first. We decided very early on that if we were to do the films properly we needed to use the best music and archive available – it just would not work any other way. I can’t imagine anything worse than using a series of ‘soundalikes’ or those cheap Beatles films without actual Beatles music.

That kinda thing really should be banned!

We also purposely decided to not allow the film-making to take precedence. Both films are very simple in terms of how they are made and told so we felt it would only take away from the story to try anything complicated. And to not have proper archive would just take away from the excitement. So collecting our archive is a long and expensive process which is going to take up a large part of the next few months. But we do have some exciting and unique footage found in people’s lofts and basements.

How would you pitch the film to a distributor or sales agent?

We’re in a lucky position where both films are at such a late stage where they are beyond a proof-of-concept so we don’t have to explain to anyone too much what it would be like, we can just show them the finished film. BGD did better than we ever could have imagined and with that as a track record it makes TS much easier to pitch. The downside is that because of a lack of initial track record they had to be made on our own which was very tricky. At a basic level it’s just a story about great music, regardless of where it came from or when. So really the pitch is if you love this music you will love the films.

Any theories on why Scotland has managed to consistently produce so many talented independent bands over the years?

I think there are a combination of reasons. One is Fast having a strong and driven personality who happened to be around at the right time to nurture some very talented people. Those people having an element of success inspired others to believe they could do something similar. And generations of others have been inspired to either try the exact opposite or something similar to those who came before.

Where do you end Teenage Superstars and – if it takes in the 1990s – do you include the reactivated Postcard?

TS really ends at the beginning of a new era and the end of the film is the end of Postcard 2 and the emergence of Britpop. But like BGD it ends on a positive note, or more positive than that sounds.

And will there be a third film bringing the story up to date?

There is a skeleton for a third film. The honest answer is that both current films have been so all-consuming and personally incredibly expensive that a third film would really have to be commissioned by somebody for it to get beyond where it currently is, so it’s likely to remain unfinished. It covers or would have covered Belle and Sebastian, V-Twin, 1990s, Franz Ferdinand etc. There’s so much left to do it likely won’t be released.

What was your technique when shooting the documentaries, carefully plan everything or go with the flow?

Pretty much go with the flow. There was little opportunity for technique due to time. The main objective at the start was making contact with everyone involved and forming relationships and essentially getting voices down onto tape, to document in the purest sense. Obviously the early years were asking questions to extract just information, then as a story emerged – and more contacts were made there would be a refinement of the questions. A big part of the entire process was building up trust with the cast. It’s a lot to ask someone who doesn’t know you to tell you their story and allow you to tell that story to someone else in your own way. Overall we didn’t have any ulterior motives other than attempting to make a great film, and without any previous experience it was difficult to convince everyone of that.

Well, judging by the interviewees, you didn’t do a bad job on that score.

After BGD was released it became a lot easier, mainly that we could show that the first film had serious prospects so this next one could be similar. We were very careful with how we handled the material and various personalities which we took great lengths to achieve and hopefully that would show. But absolutely over and above everything we had an amazing community built around the film. So many people were so open to helping us create the story and we’ve managed to get contacts, information, photos, posters and advice to get the films where they are. That’s really what a lot of time was spent on. Mike O’Connor in particular seems to have an amazing online community of Scottish Indie music by running FB pages for most of the bands involved and his help has been a fantastic resource.

Having that support must have given you some extra motivation to keep at it during the inevitable times when the going got tough?

Actually, it’s by no means an exaggeration to say that without all the music fans support, the films would never have been completed. Of course that also helped the film as expectations started to mount and we had to produce something that could live up to it.

You’ve been filming for a long time now; I would guess that process has speeded up as you’ve gone along?

In the early days things moved very slowly, equipment and time were expensive so we had to save up for a while to do each interview – and that was frustrating. Even a dozen interviews could take a couple of years. Towards the end we managed to cram many interviews into a single day to keep costs down, it wasn’t ideal but it was the only way we could finish the film. Erik (Sandberg) and Innes (Reekie) coming on board was essential with their knowledge and enthusiasm and again the films would not have been made without them. Angela Slaven, our editor was the backbone to the film. We just handed her the material and she managed to make it into a film. Without her it would be very different. Wendy Griffin, the producer elevated the film to places and contacts we just could not achieve on our own, and in terms of finding a place for TS, winning the EIFF audience award has been a significant help. So for the film, a major part was finding the correct behind-the-scenes people for the film and waiting until they were available as their contributions would make or break it. And we had a great team.

Since you’re obviously such a massive fan of the music you cover, it must have been enjoyable talking to your subjects.

That was pretty easy as I was genuinely enthusiastic about finding out about them. My day job is as a technician on larger, mostly American movies so I’m pretty comfortable being around famous actors so I was never starstruck; though to me someone like Norman Blake is a far bigger star than Brad Pitt – and far more interesting.

Definitely!

Angela just cut around my mumbling and tangential questioning and we just had fun speaking to people about records. Other than having to be your own producer and arrange the interviews it was by far the most enjoyable part, along with the editing. Everything after was something close to nightmarish and involved little sleep for two years, haha. But really any process was born out of a massive enthusiasm in the subjects so in that respect this was the simplest part. I just told our subjects that we wanted to make a good film and explained that I didn’t really know what I was doing so asking for their help to achieve this seemed like a good move.

Any plans for a Big Gold Dream TV screening yet or news of a DVD release or VOD?

Yes and yes and more. There is a network TV screening later in the year, and we will have a DVD, streaming and other things available. Our B-Side, The Glasgow School is one extra but we also have 70 odd hours of interviews that have not been seen.

How do you think current Scottish independent music stands up against the Sound of Young Scotland era acts?

It may seem contentious but I think Postcard was the best and worst thing that has happened to Scottish music. Because Postcard had more of a focus on Scottish based bands, unlike FAST it quickly became regarded as a Scottish label whereas Fast were a record label based in Scotland. This, combined with the great music associated with Postcard quickly set Glasgow as a focus for music and aspiring local musicians. The legacy that’s built around Postcard has been so great that it’s very difficult to escape it’s shadow, and the irony is that’s what Postcard was all about. But there are great acts around and some very talented people.

You also direct your own drama films, how is that going at the moment?

Very different to the documentaries. The documentaries are fairly conventional so the dramas allow me to be a little more experimental. There’s one coming out later in the year called Night Kaleidoscope, which has had some good previews and I’m hoping to do another one early next year. I’ve been working with Dave Balfe, who used to run Zoo Records, who’s now a fantastic screenwriter. We’re working on a couple of drama scripts at the moment, one a horror and one a little closer to Zoo history (but purely drama).

And finally, what’s your own favourite music documentary?

I think All You Need is Love is fantastic, some amazing ’70s performances by folk like Jerry Lee Lewis.

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

For more on Teenage Superstars here’s the Facebook page and here’s the link for Twitter.

A Map Reference, Two Virginia Plains & A Tea Painting in an Illusionistic Style

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Last week, on his Monday night show on Radio Scotland, Vic Galloway interviewed Wire’s Colin Newman and Graham Lewis. They spoke about supporting Roxy Music in 1979 and how it would have been a far more exciting prospect had it been the Eno era band. ‘That would have been something worth seeing,’ Newman commented.

A wee bit of an understatement I think.

Wire and Roxy’s former electronics maestro had a number of connections, from the days when the student Colin Newman cadged lifts to Watford College of Art from Eno, who was employed as a part time lecturer there at the time, through to Eno expressing an interest in producing Wire. A fascinating what if?

Issued by EMI’s Harvest subsidiary in October 1979 and named NME Single of the Week, here is a live version on German TV’s Rockpalast of Map Ref 41°N 93°W, these co-ordinates referring to the location of the supposed geographic centre of the U.S.A, Centerville in Iowa.

1972 was a year that saw my interest in music move up a gear or two. It was a good time to be ten even if, sadly, my young tastes hadn’t yet stretched to albums like Ege Bamyasi, Superfly, Pink Moon, Neu! or #1 Record.

Believe me, though, I was more than happy with the conveyor belt of amazing singles being released by the likes of T.Rex, Bowie, Slade and Mott.

When Virginia Plain entered the British charts early that August, it joined Starman, All the Young Dudes and Hawkwind’s Silver Machine. Number 1 was Alice Cooper with School’s Out.

Many people have called Virginia Plain one of the best debut singles of all time but you can ditch the word ‘debut’ and the claim is still valid. Three minutes of thrillingly inventive experimental pop with surreal lyrics that still make little sense to me, although I know now that Robert E. Lee was Roxy’s lawyer and that Baby Jane Holzer was a Warhol superstar.

In other words they make more sense to me than those Wire lyrics on the subject of cartography.

I also learned somewhere along the line that the song’s title comes directly from a painting that Bryan Ferry produced while studying art in Newcastle – where his tutor was Richard Hamilton, a man who could lay claim to being the inventor of Pop Art.

Many critics have mentioned Andy Warhol as an influence on this particular Ferry painting but although around this time he was pally with guys like Mark Lancaster, who’d been introduced to Warhol by Hamilton and seen The Velvet Underground perform as part of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia happenings in New York, I reckon David Hockney’s work from the early 1960s such as his Tea paintings are more likely to have been on Ferry’s mind when he got busy with his paint brushes. Loosely sketched human figure (check), product packaging (check) and hand drawn lettering (check).

Here’s Virginia Plain and A Tea Painting in an Illusionistic Style:

Virginia_Plain_&_Tea_Painting_in_an_Illusionistic_Style

To hear the Wire interview if you live in Britain (you have 22 days left to listen): https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b582s3

Bryan Ferry plays the Kelvingrove Bandstand in Glasgow on Tuesday 31 July. I think I’ll save myself the 77 quid price tag on the tickets though.

For more on Bryan Ferry: http://bryanferry.com/

Suneaters

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L-Space press-photo

Run by unpaid volunteers, Last Night From Glasgow is truly a label that is all about a passion for good music. In 2017, LNfG established itself as one of Scotland’s finest imprints with Sister John, in particular, winning over fans with their album Returned From Sea. Music bloggers uniformly loved it and the lead-off track, Thinner Air, made its way into my Best of the Year list.

This year looks like it might be even more fruitful with album releases earmarked for Bis, Radiophonic Tuckshop, Zoe Bestel and L-Space.

The latter act describes themselves as ‘a noisy dream pop band from the central belt of Scotland’ and their wonderfully woozy single Suneaters is just out and available on the usual digital outlets.

With a mesmerising sound that made me think of Dot Allison fronting a spacey Prefab Sprout, the track has already received a number of highly favourable reviews with Louder Than War, for example, hailing it as ‘a truly enchanting piece of work.’

Here is almost five celestial minutes of fragile vocals and misty clouds of noise accompanied with one of the most visually sumptuous videos you’re likely to see all year – directed and produced by Coconut Island Photography, Ben Rigley & Fabio Rebelo Paivo. This is Suneaters:

L-space will be playing several live shows in the very near future, to the extent they are even performing in Glasgow and then Edinburgh on the same day. Not quite Phil Collins’ journey from London to Philly for Live Aid I know but the music will assuredly be far better.

Here are some dates for your diaries:

11.03.18 (noon) – Glasgow, Art School (with Lake of Stars).

11.03.18 (7pm) – Suneaters single launch at Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh (with Pocket Knife and Beta Waves).

31.03.18 – Stereo, Glasgow. LNfG’s Bigger Birthday Bash (with Bis, Sun Rose and Stephen Solo).

28.04.18 – Snuffledown Festival, Larbert.

Look out too for label compilation The ABC of LNFG, which will consist of twelve songs from twelve different artists with a couple of remixes thrown in too. This will be released officially on 30/03/18 and available at the LNfG Birthday Party (see above).

For more on L-Space, click here.

& for more on LNfG, here you go.

Talking of a previous L-Space track Space Junk, Scots Whay Hae! speculated that, ‘If Nicolas Winding Refn is looking for a band to soundtrack his next movie then he should look no further.’

High praise indeed. And on the subject of that visionary director and going down the same road, if he’s on the lookout for some hypnotic sounds with an ominous edge to include in the forthcoming remake he plans to produce of Italian horror classic What Have You Done to Solange? I’ll throw Dirge by Death in Vegas into the hat for his consideration.

Featuring the aforementioned Dot Allison on guest vocals here is the track live on Later and wouldn’t this be perfect for a twenty-first century Giallo?

For more on Dot, click here.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Music (& Some Junkshop Glam too)

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Some Guida releases

Back when I was accepting music submissions, I would seldom go a day without some young band sending me details of their single along with a bio stating they were a punk band.

None of these tracks were ever featured on the site. Taking inspiration from punk, fine. Claiming to be punk in the 21st century? Isn’t that like saying you’re an impressionist painter or angry young man playwright?

Anyway, I mention this because not one single act ever approached me describing themselves as glam.

Giuda don’t use this description in regards to themselves and actively want to avoid being labelled as ‘glam’ but – certainly if you’re a child of the 1970s like myself – it’s impossibe to listen to their music without thinking back to a world of men in mascara, terrace terrors and monumentally high platform boots. Giuda did try out some stackheels themselves but found it too hard to walk in them so they were ditched. All the same they do sound like they’re on a five man mission to party like it’s 1973.

Inspired by junkshop glamsters like Hector and glitter titans such as The Sweet and Slade, Giuda have additionally mentioned Slaughter And The Dogs, Eddie and The Hot Rods and gritty early 1970s British guitar group Third World War as being among their influences.

Chock-a-block with crunching glam riffs and bucketloads of oomph, their last album Let’s Do It Again was hailed by Vive Le Rock as ‘hitting the right side of the line that lies between parody and homage with pinpoint precision’, awarding it 10/10, while Alex Petridis in The Guardian judged that: ‘They carry the very essence of guitar rock into the 21st century.’

Giuda are undoubtedly a great live act too as I found out a few years ago when I caught them in Glasgow and if you ever get the chance to see them onstage take it as you will be guaranteed a fun night out, which is always a good thing in our increasingly po-faced world.

Pronounced Joo-dah, the Italian five-piece outfit will have a new single entitled Rock ‘n’ Roll Music out in the very near future. No video as yet but to get you in the mood, here’s a stomper from 2015, Roll The Balls:

 
Giuda will be in Britain shortly, playing London’s Lexington on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th April.

Rock ‘n’ Roll Music is released on Rise Above Records! on March 30th.

For more on Giuda:

Official

Facebook

Some of the guys from Hector apparently dropped in one of Giuda’s previous London shows and gave the band their seal of approval afterwards.

Hector themselves have been called ‘the perfect introduction to anyone not familiar with Junk Shop Glam’ by ex-Barracuda Robin Willis, who seems to be familiar with every track that could possibly be associated with glam rock.

The band appeared on Lift Off With Ayshea, supported Slade and even had their own fan club but sadly Hector never got a sniff of any chart action.

Here’s their best known track, their debut single from the tail-end of 1973 that’s given its name in recent years to a book on glam – there was even talk of Hector reforming to play at the launch party although that wasn’t to be – and a fanzine. This is Wired Up:

 
Wired Up is available on the 2005 compilation Boobs: The Junkshop Glam Discotheque, which also features some top tracks by the likes of Angel, Screemer and Jimmy Jukebox. A highly recommended album obviously!

For more on Hector click here.

A 1978 Top Ten

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A 1978 Top Ten

1978 saw the Yorkshire Ripper claim his eighth victim. The Sex Pistols fell apart in San Francisco. Saatchi & Saatchi launched their Labour Isn’t Working campaign and Tory poll ratings immediately shot up. Keith Moon died. Dallas appeared on TV screens for the first time. Over 900 members of religious cult, the Peoples Temple, died in Guyana after drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide, in what became known as the Jonestown Massacre.

In Scotland, the World Cup In Argentina helped take people’s minds off all the misery but that feelgood factor didn’t last long. On the plus side, Space Invaders was launched, Ian McEwan’s The Cement Garden was published and on the big screen there was The Deer Hunter, Blue Collar, Jubilee, Midnight Express and Halloween.

Best of all there was plenty of amazing new music.

Aged sixteen, I left school and took on a job in a local factory. A lousy labouring job but it provided me with the money to get my hands on a Waltham music centre and a Lucky Hit Phillips cassette player. Home recording, we were warned, was killing the music industry, although I bought a shedload of vinyl that year, more than in any other year before or since. Go figure.

I also reckon I saw more live shows in 1978 than I have in any other year. There was The Clash and Suicide, The Buzzcocks and Subway Sect, The Stranglers, Skids, Magazine, The Banshees, Damned, Rich Kids, Rezillos, Jam, Television, Ultravox, Devo, Eddie and The Hotrods and many, many more.

 
Inventive new bands emerged on a weekly basis. Think the likes of The Cure, Joy Division, Undertones, Stiff Little Fingers, The Television Personalities, Gang of Four, Mekons and, of course, The Fall while some old wavers returned and proved they were still very capable of delivering. Lou Reed’s Street Hassle made a compelling case for his continued relevance. The Stones issued their last great album, Some Girls, with nods to punk and disco along the way and The Walker Brothers’ final album Nite Flights proved inspirational to David Bowie and many others.

There were many fantastic punk records released in 1978 including albums by The Buzzcocks, Ramones, Lurkers and The Adverts although, in many respects, you could say that 1978 was the year of Post-Punk with the launch of PiL and Magazine and Subway Sect, The Banshees and Wire helping suggest a whole new way forward for guitar bands.

 
Reggae scored big in ’78 with Althea and Donna’s Uptown Top Ranking securing a UK #1 slot early in the year while Is This Love provided Bob Marley and The Wailers with another big hit that summer. In Britain, Handsworth Revolution by Steel Pulse became one of the best reviewed albums of the year.

Then there was disco. Saturday Night Fever was a phenomenon in Britain at this point. I didn’t go to see it at the cinema but really should have. It’s a very accomplished movie even though the soundtrack does nothing for me.
Disco did tend to suck but the genre could also claim some real artistic triumphs, chief among these being Sylvester’s joyous You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) and the C’est Chic album, where the dizzying marriage of Nile Rodger’s infectious, choppy guitar licks and Bernard Edward’s muscular, masterful and soon to be much imitated basslines created a new blueprint for sophisticated disco.

From that album, here’s Le Freak, a dancefloor filler extraordinaire:

 
Electronic music continued to come to the fore around the globe, occasionally making real commercial inroads. Yellow Magic Orchestra formed that year and issued their self-titled debut; Fast released Being Boiled by The Human League while Midnight Express, Giorgio Moroder’s first commission to compose a movie soundtrack, went on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Score. Best of all, Kraftwerk (who were a highly prolific lot back then) brought out The Man-Machine, an album immediately proclaimed by NME as ‘one of the pinnacles of 1970s rock music.’

 
Also worth noting is that this was the year Brian Eno arguably invented ambient music with his Music For Airports. At the very least, this was the first album ever to be specifically designated as ‘ambient’.

And then there was the uncategorizable Kate Bush. Nowadays you can turn on 6 Music and it might not be too long before you hear a female artist like Joanna Newsom or Regina Spektor who obviously possess some Kate in their musical DNA. Back then, Kate Bush was a true one-off and hearing Wuthering Heights for the first time was an extraordinarily odd experience. Could I detect any influences? Not really, maybe a faint echo of Noosha Fox. I may even have wondered momentarily if this was some kind of novelty song.

Wuthering Heights was the big hit but I have a slight preference for this, single #2, written by an insanely precocious Kate when she was a mere thirteen years old.

 
Here’s my complete top ten in no particular order:

Kate Bush: The Man With the Child in His Eyes
Chic: Le Freak
Sylvester: You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)
TV Personalities: Part Time Punks
Kraftwerk: The Model
Walker Brothers: The Electrician
Wire: I Am The Fly
Brian Eno: 1/1
The Clash: (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais
The Only Ones: Another Girl, Another Planet

I’ve omitted any tracks like The Light Pours Out of Me and Ambition that I’ve featured before but still feel I have to include honourable mentions for a further ten. Lou Reed: Street Hassle, La Dusseldorf: Viva, The Cramps: Human Fly, The Undertones: Teenage Kicks, Steel Pulse: Ku Klux Klan, X-Ray Spex: Identity, Siouxsie and The Banshees: Hong Kong Garden, The Cure: Killing an Arab, Stiff Little Fingers: Suspect Device & Blondie: Heart of Glass.

Goodbye, Mark E. Smith

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The death of Mark E. Smith is unlikely to have come as a major surprise for fans of the band. I doubted at one point he would make fifty let alone sixty but it is still inevitably sad when someone blessed with his talent and originality finally passes away.

In the last five years or so, Mark had finally succumbed to something of a creative slump. Their final album, New Facts Emerge, proved to be a definite disappointment and I only listened to it three or four times. Since then I’ve had to come round to the conclusion that The Fall would never again scale the artistic heights of yesteryear such as Hex Enduction Hour and This Nation’s Saving Grace.

Even when nowhere near their best, though, The Fall continued to be a more interesting prospect than just about any band that has emerged in the last decade or so.

And as I wrote last March in a post celebrating Smith’s sixtieth birthday: ‘Length-wise, The Fall did enjoy a just about unparalleled spell of longevity as one of Britain’s most exciting and innovative bands.’

Staying relevant and artistically potent for over three decades with a massive discography of marvelously off-kilter, inventive, unpredictable and sometimes genuinely surreal music – that is an utterly remarkable achievement. And Mark is one of the few artists of any kind that I would ever describe as a genius.

He is appreciated and so he should be.

This is Mark guesting with Gorillaz at the main stage at Glastonbury in 2010 with the glam stomping Glitter Freeze:

 
Mark Edward Smith
5 March 1957 – 24 January 2018

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