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Goodbye, Robert Young

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As you’ll probably already know, former Primal Scream guitarist Robert ‘Throb’ Young died yesterday, aged 49, in Hove.

Bobby Gillespie, Andrew Innes and Primal Scream paid tribute in a statement that noted: ‘We have lost our comrade and brother Robert Young. A beautiful and deeply soulful man. He was an irreplaceable talent, much admired amongst his peers.’

‘Robert ‘Throb’ Young was a beautiful human being and a genius musician,’ Alan McGee told Louder Than War, before adding: ‘He was not just the lead guitar player he was a huge creative part of the Scream.’

Many thousands of tributes appeared too on Twitter. Irvine Welsh, for example, observing: The man was more rock n roll than rock n roll itself.’

This is Come Together:

New Talent Alert – An Interview With Tess Parks

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Tess Parks 359 Music

Tess is a true believer in the church of rock’n’roll. She’s got great taste and is really sharp. I got lucky again!

Alan McGee

A native of Toronto, aged 17 Tess Parks made the decision to move to London, where she briefly studied photography at the University of the Arts before dropping out – although she is still a compulsive snapper. Tess did, however, stay on in London for three years afterwards, sporadically gigging as a solo act without making any major inroads into the business. Or so she may have thought.

Tess had though made an impression on one industry legend – step forward Alan McGee, albeit the timing of their meeting could hardly have been less ideal; McGee was no longer involved in music and Tess wasn’t even supposed to still be resident on these shores due to her visa expiring some months previously (see interview below).

An enforced return to Canada followed where she decided to augment her sound by getting a band together with guitarist Andrew McGill, bassist Thomas Huhtala and multi-instrumentalist Thomas Paxton-Beesley.

The Good People as they call themselves have now been wowing audiences for around a year, including a very well received spot at last month’s CBGB Music & Film Festival in New York – by which point, of course, Alan McGee had fortuitously decided to re-enter the music business and launched a brand new label. In the early days of planning 359 Music, he’d phoned Tess in Toronto to ask if she would like to be a part of the venture.

She did. She absolutely did.

Tess is currently back in Britain in the run up to the release of her album Blood Hot, an event that she describes as being ‘the project my whole life has been leading up to.’

This might sound as scary as it is exciting but if the bulk of Blood Hot is anywhere near the standard of the couple of tracks I’ve heard so far, then Tess is surely on to a winner.

The sound?

Absorbing, sensitive and evocative. As a rough guide think Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval fronting Slowdive – if they were from the other side of the Atlantic rather than Reading – with a little dreamy modern day psych folk thrown in for good measure.

The look?

Harper’s Bazaar or Vogue cover model from 1968.

And the outlook?

You’ve guessed, McGee did get lucky again.

With a compelling, melancholic sway, here’s the lead single, Somedays, which for my money might just be the most mesmerizing three minutes or so of music released all year.

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I’m guessing right now must be like a dream for you, a single just out with an album to follow on the new label of the guy who once signed your favourite band, Oasis?

Haha yes, it’s a dream!

You couldn’t tell from the music that you’re such a massive Oasis fan, could you? What other singers and bands do you most admire?

I don’t want to be too obvious stealing from my favourite band! I love Bob Dylan, I love the Rolling Stones, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spacemen 3…

The tale of how you met Alan for the first time is an interesting one.

Yes, I met Alan very serendipitously at 12 Bar in Denmark Street. I wasn’t even supposed to be living in London anymore.

Was being signed to 359 destiny or just good luck?

I couldn’t tell you! It feels like destiny… but it could just be a lot of good luck.

And speaking of luck, due to a lapsed immigration visa you had to leave London a few years ago and return home to Toronto – I might have suggested jokingly that you should have went down the fake marriage routine in order to stay in the UK but back in Canada you teamed up with a shit hot group of musicians who totally complement your songs so it looks like it turned out for the best.

Haha, I was SO sad to leave London, but it turned out for the best. Everything happens for a reason.

Looks like there’s a thriving music scene in Toronto at the moment. Ostrich Tuning are very different from you but sometimes have the same kind of hypnotic quality and BB Guns must be a great band to see live.

Yes! I love those bands so much! They’re some of my favourite people and best friends! Ostrich Tuning are insanely good live also. BB Guns are like a modern day sexy sixties girl band.

The reaction to your music so far seems to be routinely positive. Even on YouTube the video for Somedays hasn’t even had one person press Dislike yet.

No dislikes! Thank goodness! It’s cool yeah, I haven’t heard any bad words yet!

One of the tracks on the album is called This Time Next Year, so do you have an idea of where you want to be in November 2014?

I just want to be happy. And stay happy!

Thanks, Tess and good luck with Blood Hot!

Tess Parks (Luis Mora )
© Luis Mora

Blood Hot will be released on Monday, 18 November.

For more on Tess:

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Newspeak and the Dawn of Creation

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This week saw the first release from Alan McGee’s new 359 label, John Lennon McCullagh’s North South Divide, and with FMO about to start a new An A to Z of Scottish Fanzines feature, I thought now would be the ideal time to run a live review of one of McGee’s early bands, Newspeak, from Fumes fanzine #4 – and look out for the mention of Peter Capaldi’s band The Dreamboys dancing along to the band as they played.

Newspeak (Fumes)

A couple of years earlier, the young Alan McGee had joined local outfit H2O as bassist but was never really at home there so left along with their guitarist Andrew Innes to form Newspeak, who gigged frequently on the Glasgow area circuit in venues like the Countdown and Doune Castle during 1979 and 1980.

According to David Cavanagh’s epic The Creation Records Story (My Magpie Eyes are Hungry for the Prize): ‘McGee made 35 copies of Newspeak’s demo tape and sent them to all the English record companies he could think of. None of them replied.’

Future Primal Scream guitarist Andrew Innes then decided that the best way forward for Newspeak would be relocating to London and singer Jackie Reilly agreed. McGee staying in the band and in Glasgow was impossible so the bassist, reluctantly, agreed to move south, his employer British Rail transferring his job. After about a month he realised he’d made the right decision.

In the capital, Newspeak became, with an altered line-up, The Laughing Apple and before 1980 was out, they had recorded four tracks back home at the Sirrocco Studios in Kilmarnock, which came out early the next year as The Ha Ha Hee Hee! EP on their own Autonomy label in an edition of 1500.

H2O also set up their own independent, Spock Recordz, to release their debut, Hollywood Dream. Recorded at CAVA in Glasgow and produced by Kenny Hyslop, this picked up airplay on Radio Scotland and Clyde and helped win them a deal with RCA.

Their commercial breakthrough then came with Dream to Sleep, a soothing, would-be sophisticated, slice of slickly produced synthpop which made the UK top 20 in the summer of 1983.

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Listening again to Dream to Sleep it’s hard to imagine that H2O could once have been loosely described as punks or that Alan McGee could possibly have ever been a member of the group. I bet he detested the single.

By this point, he was coming to the conclusion that he was never going to be a success as a bass player although he wasn’t yet ready to give up and quit.

As Top of the Pops and Smash Hits beckoned for H2O, a double A-side flexi disc shared with The Pastels was to be The Laughing Apple’s fourth and final release, which McGee put out on a label he christened Creation Artifact and this was soon followed by the very first official Creation release, 73 in 83 by The Legend!

Going back to 359 Music, I can’t claim to be a fan of North South Divide as it’s undeniably Dylanesque and I’m undeniably allergic to Bob; I should also point out that McCullagh is only 15 so I wouldn’t want to be too harsh on the lad, therefore I’ll just say on the plus side that it is unquestionably a much, much better listen than CRE 001 ever was, as is, now I think of it, Dream to Sleep.

A Beginners Guide to 359 Music

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359-logo

You’re likely already aware that ex-Creation and Poptones head honcho Alan McGee is back with a new label called 359 Music, a joint venture with long established independent Cherry Red, which he’ll be running from the bedroom of his Hay-on-Wye home on his Blackberry and MacBook with help from Cherry Red’s London based Iain McNay, who McGee has been pally with since he was a young band member himself on the lookout for a record label deal.

In May, McGee invited MP3 submissions from unsigned bands, declaring that he would listen to each and every submission. Maybe if he’d known in advance that he’d be inundated with music from around 2,500 acts he might not have made that promise but he maintains that this wasn’t any kind of chore, claiming instead that hearing all those demos reminded him of just how much he loved new music.

So far he’s has signed over two dozen new acts with more to come and the first raft of releases have been announced with albums by John Lennon McCullagh (his real name and not a McGee invention), Chris Grant and Mineral all coming out in October and then a second batch of albums by Pete MacLeod, Gun Club Cemetery and Tess Parks following on in November. Interestingly, MacLeod, a Glaswegian singer/songwriter is the man credited with helping persuade McGee to get back into the business.

Radio Clyde’s Billy Sloan and Radio Scotland’s Janice Forsyth have been saying very nice things in recent weeks about him and if you fancy seeing what the fuss is all about he’s going to be playing at Glasgow’s ABC2 on the first of November.

Don’t expect 359 to be a Creation Mark II as Alan’s been keen to stress that he isn’t going out of his way to find another act that can replicate the success of Oasis (I’d far rather he found a My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream or Jesus and Mary Chain myself anyway). ‘I’m doing this for me more than anybody else,’ he told the Daily Record earlier this week. ‘I think people will like them [the artists] but I have no idea if people will buy them because I haven’t put a record out since 2006. All I can say is the quality is high and I have only ever put out what I like. If that happens to hit the zeitgeist, brilliant.’

If you’re wondering about the name, 359 works on several different levels. 359 is one degree less than a complete revolution, Christmas falls on the 359th day of the year, and maybe most significantly for the man who has spent much of his spare time in the past few years studying the occultist Aleister Crowley, 359 is also, so I’m told, the secret name for the Egyptian God Horus according to Crowley’s The Book of Law.

Alan is additionally launching a regular 359 night in Liverpool’s District Club and the first of these is scheduled for the sixth of September.

Expect more on the man and 359 here in the run up to the label’s first releases and the publication early in November of McGee’s autobiography Creation Stories on Pan/MacMillan.

And finally, doesn’t that 359 logo remind you just a wee bit of this, the Postcard logo which itself is based on an illustration by famous Victorian cat artist Louis Wain.

Postcard Logo

Doctor Who and The Dreamboys

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Image

The idea of writing about Doctor Who in my first blog isn’t something I would ever have imagined doing until last week when Peter Capaldi, who unlike me, is a lifelong fan of the show, was confirmed to be replacing Matt Smith in the lead role. 

I first became aware of the new Doctor back in the late 70s and early 80s when he sang and played guitar in a Glasgow new wave outfit called The Dreamboys, who for a while could also count in their ranks as drummer Craig Ferguson, currently one of America’s most popular chat show hosts.

Nowadays Peter tends to downplay the idea of him ever having any chance of making a success of his musical career when he discusses his days as a Dreamboy and jokes about them being the only Glasgow band of the era not to be invited to do a John Peel session but back then I’d guess he took the band idea very seriously; they certainly gigged across Glasgow on a very regular basis and several fanzine writers tipped them for big things including a guy called Daniel Easson, who edited a very fine fanzine that he ran from the south side of the city called Fumes.

Unfortunately my copy of #4 from April 1980 doesn’t score too highly in the legibility stakes, especially the photos, but I’ve reproduced a page anyway, with a review of a show The Dreamboys played in March 1980 in a Glasgow venue called the Doune Castle, a hastily arranged gig where the lads replaced another local act Newspeak – who I was actually hoping to see that night – after they were forced into cancelling owing to their drummer catching glandular fever.

Obviously the situation wasn’t ideal and some of those there to see Newspeak left before or during The Dreamboy’s set (but not me, honestly!) which must have pissed off the future Malcolm Tucker, who didn’t, though, explode into a potty mouthed tirade at those joining in the exodus.

Gradually many of the audience were won over and the cheering increased as the set progressed, or at least I seem to remember that being the case but it was a long time ago.

If only I had a Tardis style time machine to take me back to that night.

‘If you have not seen them yet get to the next gig,’ the Fumes reviewer concludes, ‘and in particular look out for ‘cowboys’ ‘peggie sue’ and iggy pops ‘passenger’… you should not be disappointed…….’

As for Newspeak, if anybody’s wondering what happened to them, I’ll have to inform you that like Capaldi’s group, they also failed to make any kind of significant breakthrough. Come to think of it Peelie never invited them in for a session either.

I’m told, however, that a combo that the guitarist later joined are still proving pretty popular and that the former bassist is currently putting together a new music label which is currently gaining more than a little media attention.

So well done to Andrew Innes for his part in Primal Scream’s recent More Light album and good luck to Alan McGee with his new 359 Music label.