Wednesday, 23 December 2009
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Friday, 21 August 2009
Tuesday, 18 August 2009
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
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
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
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
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
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
Friday, 31 July 2009
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
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
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
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
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
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
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
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
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
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?