Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The struggle continues ...

The struggle continues ... Your Heart Out activities are still very much alive and thriving. Two research projects are underway, and findings being shared on a daily basis.
The London Nobody Sings is a year-long project to collect together great songs about or related to London. You can read more about the thinking behind this here, and at the present time you can hear more here.
The other project is Anywhere Else But Here Today. This is an attempt to share some sounds from around the world which will hopefully challenge conceptions. At a time when popular culture is presented as a stark choice between X-Factor and Rage Against The Machine, and people retreat into their comfort zones in despair, it’s a joyous task to feature fantastic things which are out there and freely available thanks to the liberating effect of technology whereby we no longer need to rely on critics to inform us of options, and we can instead seek and chance upon things which will make us punch the air with joy.
The journey very deliberately starts in Eastern Europe. Messing around on YouTube one thing led to another, and more and more brilliant pop emerged which with the exceptions of outfits like Finders Keepers and VampiSoul was not being celebrated. The new site provided the perfect opportunity to collect together some of the wonderful clips/sounds. Here are two examples which are not featured in the project but which make you believe in the magic of pop in a way the official media chooses not to. It’s no wonder we’d rather be anywhere else but here today ....

Sunday, 20 September 2009

A South London Story ... part three

And it’s almost a year since Your Heart Out began to take shape. Just trying to remember the reasons and aims at the time of starting out ....

Well, there was an enforced amount of leisure time, a lack of money, a growing frustration at not finding a music magazine worth reading or if there was one worth reading (Wax Poetics) it would be a little too specialist. I wanted the Mo-Dettes, Marcos Valle and the Soulful Strings together. There was also something about giving something back. Over the preceding months I’d been totally inspired by the time and trouble bloggers were taking to share their passions, to give new life to lost musics. They had opened up so many new vistas, and I owed them.

So it was the old punk impulse of get up and do it for yourself. On a practical note, historically I’d been hopeless at IT, but I’d taken some free courses and acquired the rudimentary skills to enable me to create a magazine of sorts. It had to be a magazine too, as I loved reading in odd places away from computers, and liked the idea of something that had structure as opposed to the randomness of blogs. I liked structure, and the discipline of doing something regularly. I had a bit of a track record with previous projects (as John Carney) kindly published by the Tangents site where I’d been providing weekly instalments as part of a year-long series or three.

So, the aim with Your Heart Out was to produce something monthly. And for ten issues this challenge was met. It even expanded into a blog, with regular posts that gave a little more detail and colour in a lopsided way. The feedback on YHO has been fantastic, which has meant a lot, but overall for something ‘freely’ available the download stats are not encouraging. It was easier to reach people with cumbersome fanzines. Work that one out! Anyway, circulation figures aside, and that doesn’t really matter because if you’ve got something to say you’ll say it anyway, the real point is all this YHO activity became ridiculously time consuming, and took over many aspects of daily life.

I think a point has been made with YHO. It’s been proven that pop writing can be fun, passionate, informative, that you don’t have to write about the usual suspects, and so on. It’s been shown it’s possible to do something a little different. Thus, for now, it’s time to take a breather, park YHO, and get some other things up and running. Perhaps not quite ‘stop the world I want to get back on’ but along those lines. In the meantime, the London songs project will continue relentlessly. So, please support that and spread the word. And participate!
The infamous YHO library on the left will remain open. And that just leaves me to thank all the people, new friends and old comrades, who have stood up and waved a clenched fist in support of YHO. Oh, and in case you wondered, the name came about because I had this song on my brain ...

Saturday, 19 September 2009

A South London Story ... part two

It's 20 years ago today-ish that the Manic Street Preachers played their first London show, which was at the Horse and Groom in Great Portland Street. I've read quite a lot about this, including the group's own account, but I don't remember being asked about it. Odd really.

At the time I was running a small record label called Esurient, with a fantastic roster featuring The Claim, Hellfire Sermons, and Emily. Richey from the Manics had made contact in his inimitable and persuasive way, saying he'd loved Hungry Beat, loved The Claim, hoped I'd love the group he was involved with, that their name had come from the Jasmine Minks' All Good Preachers mini-LP. A passionate correspondence ensued, with lots and lots of quotes from Kevin Rowland and Paul Weller and William Wharton and Jack Kerouac. I don't remember him mentioning Guns 'n' Roses or Public Enemy. He sent rehearsal tapes, photos, poems, diatribes. All of which led to this show, with the Manics supporting The Claim in this quaint upstairs function room, where once mod/soul nights had been held. It cost £10 or so to hire. The West End at that time was dead on a Friday night, strange as it now seems.

It had been booked as a jazz night, which I'd forgotten to tell the Manics. So they were a bit confused when they got there, and were waiting outside in the van when I rolled up. I wish I'd taken some photos. They looked brilliant. They had these matching blue jackets, with arrows stencilled on, like prison uniforms. Very short hair. Tight, white Cavern jeans. The shirts were the infamous slogan ones. They were overwhelmed at the response, and refused to take any money saying it should be put towards a new Claim single as the world needed more of their sense of attack. And the rest is history, or is it?

I doubt if there was anyone in the room that night who doubted that of the two groups playing The Claim were the ones who were gifted and special. But the Manics, lovely lads and all that, were shockingly determined and driven. They wanted to be heard and to get on. They wanted to play an Esurient show every week, to be noticed, but the whole point of these events was to create a sense of occasion. To do something different. The best shows were at the Covent Garden Community Centre. One had The Claim, and a play by Vic Templar, and northern soul disco. The other had The Claim plus Billy Childish reading some of his poetry, though I thought he'd never shut up and we were as a consequence running dangerously to going over the allotted time and losing our deposit though the day was saved when the whole audience pitched in to help clean up the hall. Punk rock eh?

I guess I could have done a Manics single on Esurient. I had a sense it would have sold well. But it didn't really seem the thing to do. Instead they did a record with Damaged Goods, because it would lead to more gigs, and in time signed with Heavenly. Me, I never got the hang of pragmatism or expediency.

Esurient had started with ridiculously rough recordings of Hurrah! and the Jasmine Minks. This was a political protest, or strop, because the Hurrah! on Arista was not the Hurrah! I'd fought for, and because Creation was not agreeing to put out a Jasmine Minks 7" to go with the Another Age LP. In fairness, despite my stroppiness, both Kitchenware and Creation gave their permissions, and it all seemed very neat. A protest against gloss and polish, but with quite beautiful sleeves to make up for the 'organic' straight-from-tape recordings.

Then all hell broke loose. The music weeklies all ran big stories about Esurient putting out this illegal Hurrah! bootleg, and there were suitably mortified quotes from Keith Armstrong at Kitchenware. I couldn't work out what was happening. I had a letter from Keith giving his consent, and suggesting it should be an LP rather than the cassette I had proposed. The original idea had been along the lines of The Fall's Chaos tape or ACR's Graveyard and the Ballroom. Anyway a few days later Keith rang up to apologise, and explained he'd simply stirred things up to generate publicity for me. Oddly Alan McGee had suggested that this was what was going on. I couldn't get my head 'round it. The nedia had taken Keith's words at face value, not even contacted me, had no interest in seeing the letter, didn't apologise afterwards or print a retraction as it was old news. Then while this was going on James Brown asked if I fancied doing some writing for the NME. Hmmm ...

Anyway, Keith was right. The records sold like hot cakes, and we made enough money to be able to release an LP by The Claim, which was called Boomy Tella. Listening to it again after many years, I still feel proud to have been part of something so special. Anyway, the deal was that Rough Trade and The Cartel paid for manufacturing then distributed the records and claimed back their money through sales. The only trouble is they didn't actually get any records into the shops, because they were concentrating on the records that would sell well. The Smiths, Creation, etc. Fantastic logic. So piles of records languished in warehouses. The Stockholm Monsters wrote a song about all this. Personally I called it censorship. People deciding what others could buy. If my records were in shops and people didn't buy them, then fair enough. But when they're not making it to the shops because of a policy decision, that can't be right.

So future Esurient releases were self-funded and self-distributed. Unintentionally the process of putting out records had again become something of a political act or protest, when really all I'd wanted to do was be as special as Postcard. Somehow Esurient put out another six or so singles over the next few years. Initially this was through money I got as a grant for going to the London College of Printing to do their prestigious journalism course. Don't ask me what I lived on. The groups all paid for their own recordings, and never got a penny in royalties. I am amzed they still speak highly about being a part of something significant. They weren't very good at compromising themselves though so I suppose the major label thing would never have worked for them either. I do still have nightmares about not doing enough for the groups involved. They deserved to be heard, and our contrariness can't have helped that cause.

To cut a long story short, I called it a day with Esurient for an accumulation of reasons. One of these was a desire to pursue my own writing projects. This in turn led to a book, Something Beginning With O, which Heavenly published. The book was intended as a sort of blueprint, primer, or something for an imaginary group that was part of a continuum. That group may just have been what I'd desperately hoped the Manic Street Preachers would become. The book dealt with my own feelings of betrayal by an industry that had turned its back on things I'd believed in. It was originally far longer in length, but using skills learned on the journalism course I'd stripped it down to the bare bones because I hated all the drooling over Jon Savage and Greil Marcus. I wanted it to be more like the Terry Rawlings Small Faces book Paul Weller put out on Riot Stories. A pop single as opposed to a concept LP. Ironically the Jon Savage edited Faber Book of Pop features a quote from my book about pop being all about singles ...

So those Esurient singles. Well, when you're emotionally close to something you can get to a stage where you become estranged from something you love. So for years I didn't listen to any of the Esurient releases. A friend then posted on his blog a track by Emily, and I thought wow! Then by chance I was able to introduce The Claim to the Cherry Red salvage empire, which has resulted in a compilation which is all but out. Caught up in the excitement about this, I came across a YouTube clip of the final Esurient single from The Claim. Well, one side of it, and it was on the sort of day when you doubt yourself, and I played this clip and thought well it was worth it ...

Friday, 18 September 2009

A South London Story ... part one

Readers of a certain age will remember comedian/mimic Mike Yarwood would finish his shows with a song which he'd introduce with the line: 'And this is me ...' Well, in a similar vein a flurry of online activity which has focused on ancient fanzines reminded me that it is pretty much 25 years to the day that the first issue of Hungry Beat appeared. I had been involved with fanzines before, but this was the first thing I'd done on my own. Actually that's not strictly true because three of the articles in that first issue were written by one Pete Whiplash, who in some circles is better known as Bobby Gillespie. I'd met Bobby the previous summer, just after he'd left The Wake, and we'd struck up a fevered correspondence, swapping tapes, real you've-gotta-hear-this type stuff, as you did. Actually there's a funny story where someone came up to me at a Bodines/Laugh show and asked if I was Pete Whiplash, and said well no, but he'd dashed off in shame before I could explain. The funny thing is hardly anyone knew Bobby was a contributor, which we thought was quite funny, especially when he wrote about the Mary Chain in the second issue. And why not, he was a fan. But I'm sure I could have sold many more copies if I'd used the 'Bobby' factor. Just didn't seem the thing to do though.

That first issue seems odd now. It reminds me of that old song about Camp Granada. Things did look grim, so we were writing about old music. Lovin' Spoonful, Love, Fire Engines, Vic Godard. I hated pretty much everything else, with the exception of Felt, Go-Betweens and my beloved Hurrah! Then gradually in the summer of 1984 things began to get interesting again, with the Jasmine Minks, June Brides, The Loft, Mary Chain, Primals, Biff Bang Pow! all beginning to come good. That was reflected in the fanzine.

There is a tendency to lump everything together. So naturally there is a view that the fanzine world was one big happy family, that the underground music scene in the mid-'80s was a big happy family, and so on. No chance. There were more schisms and factions than you could shake a stick at. I didn't help. I pretty much hated everyone and everybody. I actually hated the fanzine tradition. There had only ever been a few fanzines I thought worth reading. I hated interviews, local focus, jokes, cartoons, bad spelling, poor punctuation. I hated most of the groups most of the fanzines featured. I had definite ideas that writing about pop music should aspire to be as special as the music being written about. I am sure I didn't succeed. But some people were extraordinarily enthusiastic about Hungry Beat. I particular treasure a comment about it making someone wanting to go out and buy records they already owned. I am very proud the fanzine popped up on the front of the first Biff Bang Pow! LP. I am grateful it brought me into contact with people I love dearly to this day.

There were two further editions of Hungry Beat. I honestly haven't seen them in years. Lawrence (a celebrity fan) suggested severely limiting the numbers of the second issue to make it a cult collectors' item. Inadvertently this turned out to be the case because of a bit of a mess up on the printing front when the coloured backgrounds went horribly wrong, and I couldn't afford to get the thing reprinted. The third edition if I remember rightly focused heavily on Dexys' Don't Stand Me Down and the accompanying live shows which made most underground pop outfits seem pretty daft.

Abandoning the Hungry Beat brand for some reason a fourth fanzine came out under the name The Same Sky. This featured the Happy Mondays around the time Freaky Dancin' came out and a number of very poorly attended live shows in London just blew me away. I hope I mentioned Sweet Tee and Jazzy Joyce's It's My Beat. I certainly mentioned in passing a group called The Claim who I'd seen support the Jasmine Minks at the 100 Club. They played to about six people, but were magnificent, and seemed to have that spark, clout and difference-ness that the underground had been missing. So would begin another chapter. The Same Sky also dealt with disappointment about Hurrah! not turning into the group I selfishly needed them to be. Take a few of those things together, and you'd have the ingredients for the next part of this story. In the meantime, here's a reminder why we used to get so excited about Hurrah! The eagle-eyed among you will recognise stills from single sleeves. "Take it Dee Dee ..."

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Less lolly in our pop ...

I can never get my head around the way this music industry thing works. But what do I know? Anyway, if you have been following our London songs project you will be aware that Saint Etienne were handed a three match ban early on in the season. Although there was an appeal there original decision was upheld. What wasn't widely reported at the time was that a further ban was imposed when the disciplinary committee realised that the Finisterre film omitted Soft Like Me from its soundtrack. What was that all about? Soft Like Me was the Etienne's finest moment. It's the song I imagine our readers like most of the Etienne's work. And Wildflower's rap is just sublime, and works perfectly with the acoustic setting. Cor you could win a Mercury wotsit with that sort of thing.

Except that, as we point out in the tenth issue of Your Heart Out, which oh yes you can download in the library on your left gratis, Wildflower hasn't had the breaks. As far as we can tell she's not even had a record out of her own. Oh I hope I'll be proved wrong. But given the fact it's 10 years or so on from her scene stealing appearance on Roots Manuva's debut it's a pretty sad state of affairs. It makes Vic Godard seem prolific. I have no idea of what went on or wrong. But I have strong thoughts about the injustice of it all. But then in her appearance on Skitz's Domestic Science she has some wise words about the way things are.

So to celebrate some of the collaborations Wildflower has been part of, here's some treats, starting with The Herbaliser and Good Girl's Gone Bad, which was Wildflower's last appearance on record.

This gives some suggestions about what we're missing, and what complete idiots there are out there in the music industry who can't recognise something special. Grrr ... It's just the way things are Joe ...

Sunday, 13 September 2009

I haven't got any money so I always have to pay

If someone tells you that the most important person in the 1980s Manchester music scene was a guy called Wilson just don't assume they're talking about a Factory owner. Chances are they'll be talking about a DJ named Greg who played in clubs like Legends, had a show on Piccadilly Radio, championed early electro funk in the clubs, was the first person to 'scratch' live on UK TV, and so on. People like A Certain Ratio say that they would have preferred to have a track played by Greg Wilson than be in the NME, or words to that effect. Others like A Guy Called Gerald cite Greg Wilson as the number one catalyst for what happened with house music.

Wilson in 1984 seems to have disappeared from the DJ game. His interest in electro though led to his management of Manchester's first b-boy crew Broken Glass and the next step would be actually making music for the Streetsounds UK electro compilation. With electro mutating into hip hop Wilson would start his own label Murdertone, and elements of Broken Glass would evolve into the Ruthless Rap Assassins, an outfit whose back catalogue is celebrated in the tenth issue of Your Heart Out (which can be downloaded in the library on your left).

Another fantastic example of Manchester's hip hop is MC Buzz B's Never Change. I would urge anyone reading this to check out Buzz B's work by hook or by crook.

And finally because it's great fun, and because you can impress loved ones by knowing which Manchester hip hop oitfit had a video featuring guest appearances from Noddy Holder, Frank Sidebottom and the Ruthless Rap Assassins, here's Kiss AMC and their Docs.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Stealing Stereotypes

There was a bit of a theme going on in the tenth issue of Your Heart Out (which you can download for free in the library on your left) about cities and compartmentalisation. Fitting in with the theme of celebrating UK hip hop we looked at Manchester. And how you know there's this thing where at the end of the '80s into the '90s you have downbeat Bristol, rare groove and acid jazz in London, and Manchester's your house nation. Simples. Yet one of the great downbeat acid jazz classics is Black Whip by Chapter and the Verse, a Manchester outfit. So Manchester in fact its classic debut LP would be called Great Western Street, with a classic track about Claremont Road. Moss Side locations. The LP itself, from 1991, is a wonderful mix of hip hop, jazz, house, soul and more. The clue's in the opening lines which refer to legendary Manchester DJs Hewan Clarke and Colin Curtis, who were among those that played their part in shaping Manchester's musical map. But you might not know that if you read the official Madchester stories. When was the last time someone reeling off a list of Manchester classics mentioned this Chapter and The Verse moment?

The vocals on that track are by Beverley Bygraves, whom the Chapter production team also worked with as part of The Bygraves, producing soulful house (swing bleep?) tracks such as this:

And this track. You'll have noticed The Bygraves' connection to Rham! The same label that released the early Chapter & The Verse records. I guess if Rham! is known for anything it is for its A Guy Called Gerald releases, including the Hot Lemonade LP.

And the Chapter production team had close links to A Guy Called Gerald, performing with him live and so on. But despite that what do we know about Rham! as a label? Well, apart from the fact that it was based on Merseyside, put out records by Manchester's crown prince (what was going on with Factory and other Mcr-centric concerns?) and had a wonderfully diverse repertoire.

That track record included this wonderful piece of home grown techno which if it had been released on Warp would have been legendary. One of the other tracks on this EP, Veda, appears on a tape of a Grooverider set from '91, but I can tell you little else. I really am intrigued. Does anyone know the story and people behind Rham!?

Monday, 7 September 2009

Recognition overdue

In the tenth issue of Your Heart Out, which you can download for free in the library on the left, there was some thought given over the question of perception and the way the official media works. On one hand if you say something often enough it seems to stick. I guess that's why the 20th anniversary of the Stone Roses' first LP is celebrated so vigorously. But what about the flip side of that? Why are things under valued? Why do people persist in peddling falsehoods? You know, like the perennial underwhelming UK hip hop scene. Then for whatever reason you go back and listen to some of the rap records made here over the past 20 odd years, and you think eh? Underwhelming? Nah. You just lack the imagination to create a context where some of the best and most vital sounds are suitably celebrated.

Lie number one about UK hip hop (and here there is a tacit acknowledgement that in music as Alex Fergusson's Cash Pussies said 99% is rubbish) is that it is a pale imitation of its US relation. Some on the scene did strive to use their own voice, their native tongue. The London Posse and the Demon Boyz were among the first to use their own accent, to bring in Jamaican influences too from the reggae/dancehall scene. And the Demon Boyz would come through with what is now in certain (but not enough) circles as a bona fide hip hop classic LP in 1989's Recognition, which is now available on CD. Its youthful zest is totally infectious, and if you need a nudge here's Vibes.

There is to this LP the same sort of gauche cockiness that was present in early punk recordings. Indeed watching rare footage of the young Demon Boyz it's impossible not to break into a goofy grin the way you do watching The Jam or Orange Juice.

Funnily enough Recognition didn't take off in the way the Stone Roses did. And by the time they made a second LP, which came out '93ish, the lyrical content was a lot harsher, the rhythms much rougher, more in line with what was happening with jungle. Ironically by that time the pirate radio stations were awash with MCs spouting freeform nonsense and the Demon Boyz disappeared from view.

And the great thing about the proliferation of digital outlets is that there are so many opportunities for long term fans and new converts to share passions, so YouTube and the blogosphere is rife with references to the brilliance of the Demon Boyz with material posted to back these claims. Thus outside of the official media channels new truths take root. Maybe in time they will be repeated enough for momentum to grow and recognition to flow ...

Friday, 4 September 2009

Some call me MC. Some call me DJ

Back in the real world I used to want to run and hide when people started to talk about joined-up thinking. So I'm wary of saying that in a rare burst of joined-up thinking the tenth issue of Your Heart Out (which you'll be wanting to download for free in the library on your left) referred to its companion site, the London songs project.

The reason for this cross-referencing was to explain how in collating contributions for The London Nobody Sings ... a lot of fun had been had digging out old forgotten records, following up half remembered links, and generally following odd leads. It's a useful discipline actually to approach music from a different perspective. And it's keeping me out of mischief. And it's interesting watching which tracks are getting the most attention. Among the front runners are Bridget St John's I Like To Be With You In The Sun, Weekend's View From Her Room and You're Nicked by Laurel & Hardy. Intriguing.

The quest for London songs has, on a personal level, reignited a dormant passion for the UK's reggae and hip hop traditions. This was reflected in the tenth issue of YHO where a case was put that we undervalue the achievements in these areas, constantly missing opportunities to celebrate classics and innovations. Early on in the process of putting together The London Nobody Sings it became clear the MC or DJ or toasting or chatting cuts made particularly in the early '80s would be a rich source for songs. And to date we've been able to use the aforementioned You're Nicked by Laurel & Hardy, Fare Dodger by Papa Benjie, New Cross Fire by Raymond Naptali & Roy Rankin, Cockney Translation by Smiley Culture, and Shot Gun Wedding by Ranking Ann. And there're more on the way.

A number of these tracks have links to the south London based Fashion label, which had considerable success as a reggae independent in the early/mid '80s, and had real crossover appeal with Smiley Culture. From its ranks another local star would be Asher Senator, whose story is told in an excellent post at the dependable Uncarved blog. One of Asher's early hits, Fast Style Origination, tells the tale of how the UK fast style of chatting developed. And I think I'm right that Fashion's first LP would be a UK vs JA soundclash featuring Asher and Johnny Ringo. There is an argument to be put forward that some of that era's MCs like Smiley, Asher, Tippa Irie, Laurel & Hardy used humour to make some serious points in an almost music hall way. Asher's Talk Like Animal is a brilliant example of this. And if you want to hear some long lost Laurel & Hardy at the BBC then pay a visit to our comrade at Fruitier Than Thou.

While wonderful souls have been busy posting long lost 12"s on YouTube the fact remains this area of musical brilliance is poorly served salvage wise, but some of the Mad Professor related works are being excavated, and there can be little excuse for not investigating Ranking Ann's works. Her A Slice of English Toast is a real favourite and particularly recommended if you're looking for something in a more militant style. We will return to Ranking Ann both in Your Heart Out and at The London Nobody Sings ... So in the meantime here's some wonderful footage of the Saxon Sound System with Papa Levi in action on the mic ...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Which side are you gonna be on?

There was metaphorically speaking a bit of waving of ye olde stars 'n' stripes going on in the tantalising tenth issue of Your Heart Out, which has become known as Folklore (and can be downloaded for free in the library on the left). So, yeah, we were celebrating some great Americans. Pete Seeger, Helen Merrill, Leadbelly, Jo Stafford, and so on. And Tav Falco. Tav got full honours for introducing us to the Bourgeois Blues, which he mixed in with a bit of Ginsberg's Howl! One thing I like about Tav is that he's not afraid to wear his passions on his sleeve. And it's not all Memphis either. He's a big tango fan. Now I have to confess I'm not that familiar with the world of tango (yet) but one book I do recommend is The Tango Singer by Tomas Eloy Martinez, which is a fantastic story about searching for this elusive singer that sings these lost tango numbers in spectacularly secret locations around Buenos Aires. And talking of Tav and the tango ... fades in slowly as dear John would say so talk among yourselves for the first minute or so.

Another of the great Americans in the tenth issue of YHO was Jonathan Richman, and the case was made for Rock 'n' Roll With The Modern Lovers being the most subversive album ever. Revolutionary in its content. In the context of punk. Kids' songs. Folk and traditional numbers from around the world. Rockin' minimalism. Reggae influences. And a massive instrumental hit. Check that on YouTube and if you're not distracted by egyptian reggaeton (well I was) then you might stumble across the bizarre Top Of The Pops interpretation of the song that is more Carry On Up The Khyber than Wilson, Keppel & Betty's old music hall turn. Spectacularly surreal!

And a third great American mentioned in passing and indeed quoted in the tenth issue was Ian Svenonius. I guess it's de rigeur in these troubled times to carry a copy of Ian's Psychic Soviet in your shirt pocket to whip out and rifle through in search of inspiration. A real all-rounder is Ian. Go on tell me you've seen Ian's interviewing technique and in particular that one where he gabs with Bobby Gillespie. If you've not seen it, go seek! And here's to Bobby by the way. It was he who got me to listen to the Panther Burns. And as for Ian ... well, lest we forget how special the Make-Up was, this is what pop music's all about.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Here's Jo ...

There seems little excuse for any household not possessing a copy of the Dusty Springfield Live At The BBC DVD. But just in case there are any lapses that was the great lady referring to another great lady. The Jo Stafford version appeared on an LP of American Folk Songs which is incredibly beautiful. It also fits neatly in with the Folklore theme of the tenth issue of Your Heart Out (which can be downloaded for free in the library on your left). Among the songs perfectly performed by Jo, with Paul Weston's orchestral accompaniment, are Shenandoah, Barbara Allen and The Nightingale. A couple of the other selections, which are related to the remarkable John Jacob Niles, wander into the territory of are they traditional, are they adaptations, appropriations, and does it really matter? These include the ballad Black Is The Colour Of My True Love's Hair. There have been many lovely versions of this song, but this is a particular favourite.

It seems absurd to make a case for Jo Stafford as an overlooked singer because in her time she was spectacularly successful. And wonderfully defied categorisation in those post-WW2 pre-rock 'n' roll years. She seems to have been particularly strong-minded too. Sadly little survives of the TV shows she hosted in the UK in the early '60s but this is an intriguing glimpse at the sort of strong supporting cast she attracted.

Unless I'm missing something not even our old reliable YouTube resource has many clips of Jo in performance but this one is pretty special. So here's Jo ...

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

A Shade of Difference

Aha. Postcard Records related cuttings. That'll grab their attention won't it? They'll all be downloading that folder. And there'll be some new visitors. Kindred spirits new to the fold. They'll know what was meant about Postcard and its world view being the catalyst that sparked a unrelenting passion for seeking out less familiar corners of the musical universe. And thus that particular post being in the proximity of ones relating to Antonio Adolfo and Arthur Verocai, Brazilian musical magicians, then they'll soon be downloading the lovingly put together mixes relating to those two maestros. I mean that's much more in keeping with the spirit of Postcard than ... well, don't start me on that one.

Anyway, Folklore, the tenth issue of Your Heart Out, which our corporate sponsors say can be downloaded free for all in the legendary library on the left, starts out with a couple of pages relating to Helen Merrill, who has been dominating the archaic music players chez nous. If as is suggested Postcard, or more precisely its patron saint Vic Godard, did stimulate an interest in vocal jazz, then I am eternally grateful that this road led me to Helen. She has made numerous exceptionally beautiful records. Sets in the mid-'50s with Clifford Brown, Quincy Jones, Gil Evans, and Bill Evans. Wonderful sets in the '60s with Dick Katz. And the brilliant turn of the millennium Jelena Ana Milcetic as she entered her 70s. And my particular favourite which is The Artistry Of ... where ballads are delivered in a strikingly stark folk-like setting.

There is a small selection of some of Helen Merrill's most wonderful recordings here, which I have no doubt will prove as popular as the Postcard cuttings. Missing from the mix are tracks from Helen's early '60s Italian recordings with Piero Umiliani, but then I refuse to believe that people haven't read Your Heart Out and rushed out to buy a copy of Parole e Musica. But just in case you need a prompt ...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Sound of Young Scotland - The Face archives

Before we delve deep into the contents of Folklore, the tenth issue of Your Heart Out, here's some background colour courtesy of our comrade PC. It's an archive of cuttings from The Face relating to Postcard Records, The Sound of Young Scotland, its satellites, tributaries and repercussions.
There are a number of reasons I begged PC to allow us to include this archive in our library. One is that the archive is a quite valuable part of pop history, shedding as it does light on some overlooked corners of familiar rooms. Among the many things the archive proves is that the 'official' post-punk/new pop histories that established this hegemony of Morley/Savage/Penman are so wrong.

Secondly, on a personal level, my teenage self knew many of these articles pretty much off by heart. And many is the time I have regretted losing my back numbers of The Face. Seeing these cuttings again is quite eerie, and a little like having one's own youth revalidated and restored to life.

Thirdly, in these cuttings you see the seeds of Your Heart Out, and how beyond punk an interest in jazz, folk, bossa, to add to the soul and funk and reggae, may have been propogated. Not just that. In Postcard's contrariness lay the inspiration to challenge orthodoxies. Some things you can't give up!

I have no idea about what happened to Glenn Gibson, or many of the writers who helped shape me (Dave McCullough, Chris Westwood, Chris Burkham, Leila Sanai, etc ...) but here's a toast to them. And to PC. We owe him. So I suggest a quick visit to his Sad Gnome home and supporting the splendid Remodel.

Friday, 21 August 2009

YHO 10 - Folklore

Into double figures already (you mean readers? Oh behave ...). The tenth issue of Your Heart Out is now available to download for free. Affectionately known by the codename: Folklore. That's folklore as in the study of traditional beliefs or at least beliefs popularly held. That's folklore as in new perspectives, invectives and necessary mischief. Or to put it in more conventional terms, the new issue features Postcard's last stand, UK hip hop's winning hand, folk, blues, bossa and beyond ...

The front cover is a still of rapper Wildflower from the video for Domestic Science by Skitz. The back cover is a shot of Vic Godard from his performance at London's Town & Country Club, September 1992.

And between the covers? Well, in a climate where culturally the shutters have come down, and accepted truths remain accepted truths, hopefully YHO has a role to play in shaking things up a little. So please spread the word, before they run us in.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Viva Verocai

Before we bid an emotional farewell to the ninth issue of Your Heart Out (which, cue fanfare and flashing lights, can be downloaded for free in the library on your left) we must mention Arthur Verocai, whose work is mentioned with reference to Far Out records. What I hadn't realised was that Arthur's classic early '70s LP (and you must buy this ... trust me) was performed live in LA earlier this year. And judging by the clips on YouTube it was a pretty special occasion. Here's a sample ...

In the ninth YHO there is mention too of the special music that an interest in Arthur Verocai had led us to. With the best will in the world there's not much in terms of information to add, so let's allow the music to do the talking. There are wonderful Verocai-related tracks here by Anamaria & Mauricio, Celia, Eduardo Conde, O Terco, Karma, Hareton Savanini and Gal Costa. Beautiful, uplifting sounds. So grab this mix. And as a treat here's a bit more Gal Costa ...

Sunday, 16 August 2009

A date with destiny ...

One of the main themes of the ninth issue of Your Heart Out (downloadable for free in the library on the left ...) would be independent labels. There was an attempt to glimpse past the curtain of punk and the myths that are propagated to different times and different places. There was quite a bit related to Bob Thiele, and I suppose it was painfully obvious that I’d been reading Bob Thiele’s autobiography and the Impulse Records story. Fair enough. Thiele was quite a character, and has some great tales to tell.
Issue 9 also touched upon The Numero Group and the important salvage work it’s been doing with its Eccentric Soul series, highlighting the role of small and local labels in the development of soul and funk. Then looking toward the present day there would be a tip of the hat to the labels that fight their corner in a changing consumer climate.
Far Out was a label highlighted, and readers were pointed in the direction of its recent release of Joyce’s Visions of Dawn, a beautiful set salvaged from 1975. Other Far Out releases by Arthur Verocai and Antonio Adolfo are also heartily recommended. I have to say that when I bought Antonio Adolfo’s Destiny I didn’t know much about his music or his story. But that’s the beauty of labels like Far Out, the role of signpost, directing people to sounds not generally known.
In the same way that a Far Out Milton Nascimento salvage operation sent me scurrying in search of more of Milton’s angelic output, so similarly I went in search of the Antonio Adolfo e Brazuca recordings referenced on Destiny. Some will know these beautiful recordings better than me. For others, there is a real treat in store. If you have any interest in Brazilian music of the late ‘60s into the early ‘70s, post-bossa, post-tropicalia, then this will be for you. Choral vocal arrangements, funky Fender Rhodes, and all that. So here’s a selection of tracks from Antonio Adolfo e Brazuca. With love.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Abbey is blue ...

I’ve finally managed to get a copy of Iain Sinclair’s Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire out of the local library, and am very much looking forward to settling down for a good old read. One way and another totally unintentionally Sinclair seems to haunt the pages of Your Heart Out, and his notion of disappearances and being reforgotten was very much a part of the ninth issue (which, oh yus, you can download for free in the library on the left).

One of the things about disappearances that fascinates me is being able to stop what you’re doing and vanishing from that scene. For ‘collectors’ like Sinclair (and me? Yup ...) that might be hard. It’s difficult to imagine Sinclair shutting up shop. But some cease and several of the stars of our ninth issue did just that, even if it was only for a while.

Among those would be Abbey Lincoln. If you have seen the preceding post you will be aware of her astonishing performances on We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite. She would at the start of the ‘60s also appear on Percussion Bitter Suite and It’s Time, the other parts of that remarkable Roach holy trinity of records. And then there were her own essential Abbey Is Blue and Straight Ahead sets. But, after that, apart from those live appearances with Max’s outfit, she would not record for another decade or so. Intriguing.

She didn’t disappear completely. She got more involved with acting. Starred with Sidney Poitier in For The Love of Ivy. Starred in Nothing But A Man, with its Motown soundtrack. Then when Abbey did reappear in a musical context it would be in 1973 when she released the fantastic People In Me set. A few songs are available for you here as an inducement to track it down. It’s such a wonderfully inventive and uncompromising set, which avoids the full-on fusion pitfalls of the time, and includes Abbey’s adaptations of numbers by John Coltrane and Max Roach. One of her compositions, Living Room, would later be covered by YHO idol Mark Murphy.

Abbey has continued to perform and record, and to illustrate that here’s a much more recent reworking of People In Me which you sense should be compulsory viewing in every classroom around the world ...

Saturday, 8 August 2009

We Insist!

I’ll tell you why I do this, and why I’ll keep on doing this. It’s about coming across things, being stopped in your tracks and shaken to the core and so excited and enthusiastic that you want to tell the world but then think ‘ang on a moment why isn’t everyone else going on about ... I’ll give you an example. I’ve just finished reading a book I borrowed from the local library, The Green Gauntlet by R.F. Delderfield, the final part of the A Horseman Riding By trilogy. Bawling my eyes out at the end I was, manfully pretending there was something in my eye, honest. I recently read his cracking crime caper, Come Home Charlie And Face Them. Borrowed that from the library too. Fantastic stuff. But when was the last time someone sidled up to you and suggested reading some Delderfield? Quite.
R.F. Delderfield did get a passing mention in the ninth issue of Your Heart Out (which can be downloaded for free here). But there was a lot more about Abbey Lincoln, a particular favourite of ours. Now, I do have to confess to having a real soft spot for the film The Girl Can’t Help It. Love all the old rock ‘n’ roll stuff, and Julie London singing Cry Me A River, and can’t resist Abbey Lincoln’s cameo. Yet I can fully understand why she was uncomfortable about being poured into that red gown, and all power to her for the way she had the courage to resist that stereotyping and gradually change the way she performed so that within a few years she was working with Max Roach and Oscar Brown Jr, giving her all singing on We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite which harnesses all the power of and purposefulness of the civil rights movement, and Abbey certainly scorches the earth and the roots with her extraordinary execution.
I have loved that record for some time now, but it is only recently that I have discovered on YouTube the presence of a surprising number of pieces of footage of Abbey performing songs from We Insist! The Max Roach outfit seems to have made a number of European TV appearances in the early ‘60s and the intensity and grace of these can still make the viewer sit up with a jolt every time they are viewed. I wonder if this time next year we’ll be celebrating the fact that it’ll be 50 years since We Insist! was recorded with quite the same vigour that twenty tedious years of the Stone Roses have been thrust upon us.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Freefalling ...

Ok. Collywobbles under control, and normal service resumed. The ninth issue of Your Heart Out had a bit of a jazz theme that was introduced via the great actress Ida Lupino which was the name of a Carla Bley composition beautifully recorded by Paul Bley on his Closer LP. Confessing that I'm not the world's leading authority on Carla Bley's work this led quite nicely onto Carla's work with Charlie Haden on the Liberation Music Orchestra record put out by Impulse at the end of the '60s.

It's a record I first came across as part of that life-changing series of Impulse reissues in the '90s. The Liberation Music Orchestra record is a particular favourite, capturing the protest or rebel tradition perfectly, veering from the austere beauty of Song For Che, which Robert Wyatt fans should be aware of, to the oh dare I say the wonderful cacophony of the suite of Spanish Civil War songs . Haden took the Spanish Civil War thing seriously during the recording, even inviting surviving members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade to be present during the sessions.

This kind of led on to some thoughts about the nature of free jazz and improvisation, and the Jimmy Giuffre 3 LP Free Fall (featuring Paul Bley) which has developed into being one of my all-time favourites but it takes some getting used to but that's the beauty of it I guess. Anyway, by coincidence the other day scratching around for connections, following up leads, I came across this clip of an earlier incarnation of the Jimmy Giuffre 3 featuring the great Jim Hall on guitar. It's just so beautiful and you can lose yourself in it ...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Throwing logic out of the window

Up until now this blog has been pretty structured. An edition of Your Heart Out is put together. You are encouraged to visit the library on your left and download it for free, print it out, put it in your duffel bag and head out to your favourite cafe or park for a good old read. Then between issues certain themes in the latest edition would be examined in a slightly different way, with a bit of a musical or visual bonus. But that's worried me for a while. Is it patronising? Can't people go off and do their own exploring? Do they need everything on a plate, spelled out? This ain't alphabetti spaghetti. And the handful of people who read this know more than me anyway.

And then a little while ago, to help spread the good word, I gave in and joined Facebook. Oh boy, that's a strange old place. It's a bit like being in a shooting gallery or something. Things come flying atcha like mad. One of the things the technology allows is the sharing of YouTube clips, and they come thick and fast. Sometimes you think, what the heck do we want to see that rubbish for. Sometime you think, wahey, I'll have me some of that. But my memory is rubbish, and there's too many things on the go. And yet you can understand the urge to share. That was after all what the printed word version of Your Heart Out was all about.

So, throwing logic to the wind, and for no reason other than the fact that it made me smile on a soggy day in London Town, here's the very great Johnny Nash ...

Saturday, 1 August 2009

The Point of Perfection

A commercial break. Our comrade in arms over at the Fruitier Than Thou blog has posted a recording of Hurrah! live at Keele University, in November 1983, when their shows were often akin to religious revival meetings, and it wasn't unusual for audiences to be so fired up after their performances that they would take to the streets and march under a red banner to the local citadel of civic corruption or perhaps the local radio station and overthrow the fakers or words to that effect. Of course the authorities soon clamped down on such proceedings and Hurrah! and their followers had to disappear underground and regroup on the quiet, live surreptitiously as sleepers, waiting for the day when the revolution would arrive, and the insurgents would be awakened with the code word: Keele ... Well, that's what it sounded like.

Friday, 31 July 2009


There was something of a New York thing going on in the ninth issue of Your Heart Out (which can be downloaded for free here). The trouble is round our way when anyone mentions New York is has to be the imagined New York that comes from watching Downtown '81 too many times. Well, partly that. But more from being a kid and trying to piece together a New York read about in magazines and heard through music. And that music would be from the New York cauldron of the turn of the '80s.
And that's why it's no surprise that the cover of our ninth issue was of an 8 Eyed Spy record, where Lydia Lunch would front a back-to-basics outfit that supposedly was Creedence meets Al Green but sounded like nothing on earth. This followed hot on the heels of her LP for Ze, Queen of Siam, that twisted jazz noir masterpiece with its gorgeous cover. And that was the point because it all got very confusing trying to unravel who was recording with whom for whom. That mess was part of the attraction. A brief snippet on Cristina here. A page on Lydia there. Something on Rosa Yemen or Lizzie Mercier Descloux somewhere. Something on August Darnell somewhere else. A few paras on James White. A few paras on James Chance.

Of course things got more fragmented. Members of the Contortions popped up in 8 Eyed Spy. George Scott would start up the Raybeats with more ex-Contortions. he would tragically die, but his vision woud be seen through. And The Raybeats would go on to make some wonderful instrumental recordings that evoked both the spirit of surfing and exotica but hint at the future with some experiemntation with electronic rhythms. Their records are surely ripe for rediscovery.

In the meantime as our own London songs project continues it's very appropriate that a New York songs project should get underway to complement it. The latest post is a particular delight as it features a video for the Bush Tetras' Too Many Creeps, one of our very favourite songs, which oh yes features another ex-Contortion Pat Place doing some very special things on guitar. That actually provides the perfect opportunity to share more Bush Tetras footage ...

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Ambition still calls our every tune ...

Continuing with the literary theme of the ninth issue of Your Heart Out, which can be downloaded for free in the legendary library on your left, hearty shouts of approval were given to Nick Tosches' Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll. One of our very favourite music books, it consists of a number of pithy pen portraits of the pioneers who shaped what would become r'n'r but somehow didn't get their dues. Written at a time when hardly anyone gave two hoots about the likes of Wanda Jackson, Johnny Ace, Ella Mae Morse, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and so on, it's irreverent and argumentative and captures something much more about the spirit of r'n'r, the immediacy, the urgency, than any number of scholarly books ever could.

Of course the world of journalism and music publications has changed a lot since the early '80s when Tosches wrote the articles that make up Unsung Heroes. Now there almost seems to be a natural career progression, a defined trajectory to follow. Get a degree. Start out somehow, somewhere with a blog or an independent publication, graduate to the music monthlies, the broadsheets, get contacts, get a publishing deal, stick some vague thoughts together, and hey presto your mates will give you some good reviews and you'll do a signing session with some friends DJing. Pah!

Do you mind if I get personal for a moment? Drop the old royal we thing? Years ago now, many years ago, I did a fanzine. I wrote it because I felt I needed to. Needed to communicate how strongly I felt about certain groups who were not getting written about elsewhere, or who perhaps were being written about in a way that would put their own mums off them. I wasn't looking for fame or recognition. I just needed to say certain things. The great thing was these fanzines reached far and wide (nigh on impossible in the digital age ...erm?) and people started getting in touch who seemed to feel the same way, seemed to feel as desperate as me. Among those people were two kids who were I think at college in Bristol or was one in Sheffield? Their names were Mark and Matt. They were crazy about Hurrah! and the Jasmine Minks. They loved what I was writing and wrote long, wonderful letters. In time they started a fanzine called Are You Scared To Get Happy? It became a real success, though we lost touch, moving in quite different musical directions. I only ever met them once. Appropriately it was at a Creation/Kitchenware night at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith. The Jasmines were scary that night. Adam had his kilt on, fastened with a Ramones badge. Jim had his hair cropped, and went mad at a heckler. Anyway I remember Matt and Mark saying they felt like country bumpkins among the London hipsters, which I never understood.

A lot happened. Matt ran the Sarah label with Clare. He later put together the wonderful London mag Smoke, with Jude whose career trajectory subsequently followed quite orthodox paths. Matt meanwhile as far as I know is not a best selling author. He may write under a pseudonym as a romantic novelist selling millions worldwide. I hope so. But I doubt it. Nevertheless, despite differences in taste, I was always a huge fan of his way with words, and his wit, but instead of being able to enjoy his writing we instead are subjected to the kind of idiot who graduates from a blog to The Wire or New Statesman or Mojo or The Observer. And don't worry I'm not bitter and twisted. I've been lucky in a way. People have been exceptionally kind. I just wish more of them would tell the world about Your Heart Out. Sometimes you feel like someone standing on a corner trying to give away fivers. Sometimes you wonder if it's worth carrying on.

Nick Tosches thankfully did carry on writing, becoming the Peter Ackroyd of rock and the rackets. Among his books is a biography of The Killer, which gives us an excuse to upload this. Just watch those mod girls dig Jerry Lee ...

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Pledging My Love

There was a bit of a literary bent to the ninth issue of Your Heart Out (which is available free for all to download in our legendary library on your left. Always on the left ...). Naturally for folks who, in the immortal words of John Miles, have music as their first love there was a bit of an inclination towards books related to pop culture.

One of the delights of life for those of us without many brass farthings to rub together is chancing upon inexpensive books and falling totally in love with them perhaps unexpectedly. I found a copy of Tove Jannson's A Winter Book for £1.50 yesterday. And The Holiday by Stevie Smith last week for the same price in the same charity shop. Bet they came in together!

And one recent discovery was Suze Rotolo's A Freewheelin' Time. Now at a higher price I might suggest the last thing the world needs is another Dylan book. I would have been wrong. It's a lovely book. Perfectly complements Chronicles. And while I'm not the world's most manic Bob fan, I do believe the world would have been a far worse place without him. All that stuff about Donovan over Dylan. Do me a favour!

What I particularly like about Suze's book (apart from the gorgeously atmospheric photos) was the sense of searching. The hunger to discover. Music, books, films, theatre, politics, whatever. To absorb everything. To tap into the knowledge that's around them. And as the quest Bobby and Suze seemed to be on was so special and far reaching and necessary people seem prepared to share what they knew.

So, okay, that story is about the New York of the early '60s. But it's one that's easy to identify with, regardless of where we grew up, or when. And to me the essence of life is about continuing that quest. I don't give two hoots about religion, but this is as close as I'll come to spirituality. The searching. It's why we keep scouring the junk shops, searching the internet, adding arcane nonsense which just might change our world to our store of knowledge.

And the image to take away from Suze's writing is that of her and Bob privately dancing to all sorts of music in the privacy of their apartment. Then it's easy to make the leap to Bob's Theme Time Radio Hour series which kept us entranced with its charm and wisdom, and such a wonderful mixture of sounds of every possible variety. It certainly set me off down some strange roads I'd not previously explored, like western swing and the blues. Now I worry that with these shows disappeared from our airwaves, the powers-that-be are resting more comfortably, being able to go back to their cosy pigeon holing, and keeping everything neat and tidy within their schedules. But the archives of Theme Time Radio Hour are out there still to entertain and educate us. And I'm grateful to the wonderful Dusty Sevens for pointing us in the right direction.

One of the songs Suze makes particular reference to in her book is Johnny Ace's Pledging My Love, and as it's such a beautiful song I'll dedicate it to anyone who supports Your Heart Out's continued resistance ...

Wednesday, 22 July 2009


The ninth issue of Your Heart Out is now available to download for free in our library on your left (£12 for a music mag? You'd have to be loopy!). Among the central themes of A Restorative (as it's affectionately known) are the acts of reclaiming and returning from exile. The Concise Oxford Dictionary used to have words for such things.

Now, while some inspirational sounds continue to be reclaimed or welcomed back from the dead (thank god!) others remain forgotten. That's stating the obvious. But it did at least offer an opportunity to focus on The Decorators, a lost group of the early '80s, mainly active in London and never quite fitting in despite being well ahead of the game with their beautiful big guitars, quiffs and shades. Their output was fairly weighty, but they're still waiting for their time to arrive. Singer Mick Bevan had a way with words, and an unusual way of phrasing, and a knack for knocking together haunted, dramatic, twisted torch songs.

If you like the Saints' Prehistoric Sounds and the OJs' third LP then The Decorators will tickle your fancy. While they remain ripe for rediscovery, here is an introduction to their irregular ballads and romantic gestures, including Red Sky Over Wembley, the number that precipitated our London songs project ...

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Tending to restore ...

A Restorative is the ninth issue of Your Heart Out and can be downloaded for free in our library. This particular excursion takes in The Decorators and Dylan, Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach, Raybeats and 8 Eyed Spy, Arthur Verocai and Joyce, Carla Bley and Charlie Haden, Barry Gifford and Nick Tosches, and many places of interest and intrigue along the way. So print it off, pack it in your tote bag, head off to your favourite cafe or park, and lose yourself. And then please tell the world all about us. It's good to share ... and don't forget to visit our companion site at

The front cover, by the way, this time around is one of Neville Brody's fantastic Fetish creations, and as 8 Eyed Spy are particular favourites, and there seems to be something of a noir theme going on, it had to be used. Abbey Lincoln with Max Roach's combo is on the back cover in a still from one of surprisingly several clips of performances from We Insist!

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

My Canary's Got Circles Under Its Eyes ...

We couldn't possibly bid a bientot to the elegant eighth issue of Your Heart Out (which oh yes you can download for free in the library on the left) without sharing this little story.

There was at the end a bit of a Dennis Potter thing going on, with references to Pennies From Heaven and The Singing Detective, the music of the dancebands of the '30s, Al Bowlly, Lew Stone, and all that. Well, it's spooky how these happen. No sooner had the virtual presses begun to roll than we came across the excellent blog, Another Nickel In The Machine, which is officially our favourite place on the web, and a superbly timely post relating to the death of Al Bowlly where Mr Nickel In The Machine admits to a fascination with Bowlly that originated with the Potter plays. But that's not the 'alf of it.

On the day YHO8 hit the streets I was on a train into town when at Falconwood a group of senior gents got on. All very dapper, if a little red in the face. Judging by the black ties and bulging collars they were coming from the crematorium. They had obviously had a drink or two. They sat down near me. And before you knew it they had burst into song. On The Sunny Side Of The Street. Very nice singing too. A nice bit of harmonising. Even a touch of scat. Apologising for disturbing the peace, one of the party explained they'd just been seeing an old colleague off, and that he loved that song. Then before I could say anything they were off again. Singing something about a canary with circles under its eyes.

So just as things start to get surreal the train pulls into Kidbrooke and a young girl with an accordian and Eastern European gypsy get-up gets on. And oh yes my good companions can't believe their luck. "Come 'ere darling. Come and sit by us and give us a nice tune ..." She is not sure whether to be scared stiff or thank her lucky stars. But she soon realises they are genuine, and so she smiles a lot, plays a few sad old folk tunes while the old codgers wipe tears from their eyes. Then it's Lewisham, and she's off, several pounds richer.

The old boys incidentally were all ex-Thames river boat captains, and yes there really is a song called My Canary's Got Circles Under Its Eyes. Al Bowlly is among those that sang it, of course. And given the theme of this story here's an appropriate clip ...

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Big deal I'm still alone ...

It doesn't get better than this does it?

In the aching eighth issue of Your Heart Out (which can be downloaded for free in our library on the left) there was definitely a bit of a Johnny Thunders thing going on. It was all Bobby Gillespie's fault, mentioning an old edition of Zigzag with Johnny on the cover which came out around the time So Alone and the exquisite You Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory came out late '78ish.

I loved that record. The only other Johnny Thunders record I have loved anywhere near as much is Copy Cats which he made with Patti Palladin. Patti is one of the greats. And it's nothing short of criminal that her work as one half of Snatch remains out of circulation. About all that is freely available is this clip.

But at least there is a promo video of Patti and Johnny doing Crawfish ...

Friday, 10 July 2009

Put the needle on the record ...

There was a bit of a culture of dusty old vinyl thing going on in the enticing eighth issue of Your Heart Out (The Historical Romance, which can be downloaded for free in the library to your left, printed off, packed in your bag and taken down the park to read in the sun). Not just the Solesides crew heading off en masse to dig in the crates of a hidden record store, but a perfect excuse to heap more praise on Luscious Jackson who still do not get enough credit for being the best group of the '90s and there's no question about that when you see performances like this.

One of the great things about Luscious Jackson was that they'd received their education when the mythical NYC downtown thing was at its peak and all the sounds were getting mixed up, with the punk, reggae, disco, early hip hop, african sounds, whatever getting mixed up, and that all came out in their sound at a time when you could get some pretty strange looks in the street for mentioning the Delta 5, Ze, Bush Tetras, On-U Sound.

The whole thing of the Solesides crew taking their portable turntable down to the basement of the store with them while they were crate digging conjures up a lovely image. It makes you think of old issues of Grand Royal when they'd have pages of old portable record players, and you'd be drooling. It also makes me think of the video for the LJs' Jill Cunniff and her shoulda been a massive hit Lazy Girls where she's got her turntable and takes it for a spin on the subway and then down to the beach which I take it is the one at Coney Island which she'd ben campaigning for. The whole City Beach is quite lovely too in a mixed up way if you like a bit of bossa, a bit of Janis Ian or Laura Nyro and some of the more adventurous contemporary r 'n' b sounds that never seem to make the charts like this classic from Sunshine Anderson ...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

What does your soul look like ...

During the perambulations that were part of putting together the edifying eighth issue of Your Heart Out (The Historical Romance, which you can download for free here), there was definitely something of a Mo' Wax thing going on. And why wouldn't there be?

This particular diversion was prompted by re-reading Jeff Chang's excellent Can't Stop Won't Stop 'dub history' of the hip hop generation. And being aware of Chang's part in the Solesides scene with the Blackalicious guys, the Shadow, Latyrx, and all that, it seemed too tempting not to make the connection to the central role those guys played in the Mo' Wax years.

That stuff really stands the test of time too. The Dan Dan the Automator Man stuff too. And in particular the Dr Octagon stuff with Kool Keith, like Blue Flowers. Not a track you hear every day on the radio, but the world would be a better place if it were heard more often.

But twist my arm and force me to pick just one Mo' Wax release then I guess I would go for Nia by Blackalicious which in terms of the label's timeline is supposedly when it was past its best efore date but forget that. Nia is one of the best hip hop records, full stop. Great cover. You see why Blackalicious worked so well was the balance between a love for the music, having something to say, and a gift for putting all the elements together in a vital way. That ain't easy ...

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Picture me gone

There was a bit of a Chip Taylor thing going on in the engaging eighth issue of Your Heart Out, The Historical Romance (which can be downloaded for free in our library on your left). What I hadn't realised at the time was that in the very near future the good people at Ace would be releasing a round-up of Chip Taylor songs as part of their essential songwriters/producers series. That will definitely be worth getting hold of.

In the meantime there is an excellent interview with Chip at the Spectropop site, which makes for great reading. And don't all those photos of the original 45s just make you drool. It was particularly pleasing to see a mention of Kathy McCord, Billy Vera's sister. Seems Kathy was the one who just might have got to record Angel of the Morning first. And they say Evie Sands was unlucky ... And if you haven't a spare $100 you might want to check out the CTI Never Sleeps page on the LP she made for the label. Beautiful record. Maybe we should petition Rev-ola to release it. And it should be made a capital offence for any record to be described as acid folk!

I don't think there are any unexpected videos of Kathy McCord on YouTube but there are a number of wonderful performances by the godlike Evie Sands. Like this piece of pure punk rock ... But before we go, a question for you. One of Chip Taylor's songwriting and production partners was Ted Darryl ... what can you tell me about him?