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:


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/

The BAMS Are On Their Way & Rave Tapes Is Out Now

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The Scottish BAMS Album of the Year Award (BAMS standing for Blogs and Music Sites) was inaugurated in 2009 when Checkmate Savage by The Phantom Band scooped the prize – a bottle of vintage tonic wine.

Since then The National, Aidan Moffat & Bill Wells and Meursault have triumphed and this particular Blogger, or maybe that should be Bammer, has been invited to have his say on the outcome of the 2013 award.

No secret ballots to be calculated by some bigwig auditing firm sworn to secrecy until the moment that the name of the winner is revealed at some majorly swanky ceremony for the BAMS, so I’m allowed to reveal my top ten choices:

01. My Bloody Valentine: m b v
02. Boards of Canada: Tomorrow’s Harvest
03. Steve Mason: Monkey Minds in The Devil’s Time

04. Dot Dash: Half-Remembered Dream
05. Primal Scream: 2013
06. Franz Ferdinand: Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
07. The Pastels: Slow Summits

08. Edwyn Collins: Understated
09. Paul Haig: Kube
10. Lloyd Cole: Standards

For more: twitter.com/BAMS_Scotland

Mogwai’s latest album Rave Tapes comes out today in Britain on Rock Action on CD, LP, download and a box set version and I would guess, even after only hearing it once fully, that it could be a real contender for next year’s BAMS.

Then again, I thought Steve Mason might win the 2013 Barclaycard Mercury Prize – and in the end it didn’t even earn a nomination but you might agree that that reflects badly on the Mercury judges rather than on me.

This is the closing track of Rave Tapes, The Lord is Out of Control:

For more information on Rave Tapes: www.mogwai.co.uk

And finally if you don’t already know, Mogwai are playing a special live show tonight from Celtic Connections at the CCA Glasgow for Vic Galloway on BBC Radio Scotland which is being broadcast live on that station.

More details here


And the winner was….. The Bones Of What You Believe by CHVRCHES. Well done to them.

The Opening Act For The Apocalypse & The Amazing Snakeheads!


Alex Harvey NME Cover Oct 1974

Forty years ago The Sensational Alex Harvey Band were making headway in the charts with their second album Next and early in 1974, a single from that LP called The Faith Healer displayed the band at the height of their powers.

With their unforgettable stage act, they were fast on their way to establishing themselves as one of Britain’s highest grossing live bands. Critics loved them and they were increasingly forging a very special bond with their fans, who would often travel far and wide to see the band play at every possible opportunity.

A major part of that loyalty was down to the personality of the singer, the inimitable Alex Harvey, who claimed to be an ex-lion tamer and a street-punk and who, unlike many of his mid ’70s contemporaries, was not being tempted to go down the ever more common route of rock star self indulgence and complacency, this being the era of tax exiled musicians happy to flaunt an excessive champagne and cocaine lifestyle unimaginable to the vast majority of the people who bought their records.

In fact, in interviews of the time, Harvey predicted a forthcoming new wave of rock that retrospectively sounded a lot like Punk. ‘Round about now, some little young guy is going to come out with something and freak everybody out,’ he informed NME’s Charles Shaar Murray. ‘If it isn’t this year it’s got to be next year…’

At a point when many musicians and, indeed, music fans were getting used to the idea of rock music revolving more around musicianship than originality, he foresaw that: ‘Somebody’s got to come along and say to all of us: “All your ideas about rock-and-roll, all your ideas about sound, all your ideas about guitars, all your ideas about this and that are a load of wank. This is where it is!” ’

By the heatwave summer of 1976, several SAHB fans, such as Paul Simonon of The Clash, Rat Scabies of The Damned and Johnny Rotten and Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols were playing a vital role in fulfilling the forecasts of the man who would go on to be dubbed the ‘Godfather of Punk’.

As for Harvey’s band themselves, well, they carried on developing their own ideas about rock-and-roll, sound and guitars with much aplomb while touring and recording extensively. SAHB Stories came out in July, ’76 and as Allan Jones in Melody Maker put it: ‘Currently they are performing so devilishly that one imagines they’re the opening act for the apocalypse.’

Boys and girls, this is The Sensational Alex Harvey Band on The Old Grey Whistle Test early in ’74 with their version of Jacques Brel and Mort Shuman’s Next.

And doesn’t Alex completely inhabit the song?

Just as it can be dangerous to liken footballers in the early stages of their careers with one-off maverick geniuses like George Best, so too it can often be a bad idea to mention any new band in connection with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

In recent months though, one band from Glasgow have prompted such comparisons, with BBC Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway describing them as ‘Alex Harvey meets the Gun Club’ while ‘like the bastard offspring of Jerry Lee Lewis and Alex Harvey’ is another quote I’ve spotted on their own publicity material.

See what you think. Here’s the official video for the fierce and spellbinding second single by The Amazing Snakeheads, Flatlining, shot rather stylishly by Alan Parks in Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry on Govan Road, which, coincidentally, is remarkably close to the birthplace of Alexander James Harvey.

And you know what, I think Alex would have approved of The Amazing Snakeheads.

For more on The Amazing Snakeheads, and I’m guessing that if you hadn’t heard them before, then after watching that promo that you will almost certainly want to find out more about them:




Flatlining will be available from 20th January 2014 (RUG564D), with an exclusive B-side track, The Bullfighter but if you can’t wait for that, Flatlining is also available to purchase digitally now from iTunes, HERE.