Archive for the ‘LPs’ Tag

Join Hands 11.11.1918-11.11.2018

In 1979 I went to see Siouxsie & The Banshees playing at Hammersmith Odeon – it remains one of the best gigs of my life. Just before the tour half the band had gone AWOL so new musicians had to be drafted in including Budgie on drums (formerly the token man in The Slits, one of my favourite drummers – Stewart Copeland considers him one of the most interesting drummers for his “very economical and offbeat” playing, that offbeat being what I most like about him) and John McGeoch on guitar (formerly of Magazine). That tour marked the release of the LP ‘Join Hands’. The hands joining are those of four bronze WW1 Tommies on the war memorial between Horseguards Parade and St James’s Park (the Guards Memorial) – I passed it regularly when I was working at Channel 4 and it always brought me back to that music and excitement. The LP opens with the tolling bells of a 2-minute track called Poppy Day.

In the same way that Punk (especially The Clash) introduced me to reggae, through this track it introduced me to the First World War poetry of John McCrae, a typical example of the less known poets who emerged in the Great War, the one-hit wonders and offbeats. McCrae was a high-ranking Canadian army doctor serving on the Western front. In Poppy Day the resonant bells give way to the distinctive driving guitar wailing of The Banshees and then just a few short lines, delivered in a distorted Siouxsie voice:

In Flanders fields
The poppies grow
Between the crosses
Row on row
That mark our place
We are the dead…

I don’t think McCrae is credited for the lyrics which are very close to the opening of his In Flanders Fields, in fact every word is derived from the poem:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Siouxsie & The Banshees filtered out the patriotic and the warmongering/cheerleading to open their record with the zombie or heroic or haunting dead, we don’t know which. What we do know, two years after the Silver Jubilee and the Pistols’ God Save the Queen (the Fascist regime), with rubbish piling up in the streets of strike-bound London, is that these dead were neither glorious nor patriotic in the establishment way.

The band were inspired not only by the chaos and crapitude of the late 70s Home Front but also by conflict witnessed on their suburban Kent TVs, particularly in Iran. (Plus ça change).

siouxsie and the banshees join hands vinyl record album LP cover design

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The LP cover was extracted from this shot – L to R Steve Severin (bass), John McKay (guitar), Siouxsie Sioux (vocals), Kenny Morris (drums) – before McKay and Morris went AWOL

Banshee stalwart, bassist Steven Severin in the wake of watching the two minutes of silence in memory of the war dead on TV on Sunday 12th November 1978 explained about Poppy Day: “We wanted to write a song that would fittingly fill that gap”. On the inner sleeve of the record (which sits still in the room just below me, alongside its vinyl sisters The Scream, Kaleidoscope, Juju and A Kiss in the Dreamhouse) beside the lyrics of the song is specified (with echoes of John Cage): “2 minutes of silence”.

So here we are on Sunday 11th November 2018, 40 years after Severin watched that broadcast, 100 years after the world watched that bloodbath, that futile wiping out of a generation, and we are still all struggling to join hands. The irony of The Banshees brooding in the studio while recording this masterpiece of an LP and splitting up in its aftermath is as nothing to the irony that we mark this centenary at a time when the world’s international institutions are being deliberately dismantled, Europe re-fracturing and the zombie voices of patriotism, nationalism and fascism wailing more discordantly than John McKay’s guitar. We are the Dead. We are turning in our graves row on row between the poppies.

siouxsie and the banshees paris 1980

Reinforcements arrive: L to R John McGeoch (guitar), Budgie (drums), Siouxsie & Steve – Paris (1980) where 70 world leaders are arriving this morning to mark the centenary of the Armistice including Macron (accordion), Merkel (tuba), Trump (mouth organ) and Putin (triangle)

 

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1978 in Music

I wrote about 1971 as the key year in music this time last year and this week David Hepworth has released a book on exactly the same theme. I started thinking about this in 2013 when I had a discussion at BAFTA with Malcolm Garrett, designer of the covers of Another Music in a Different Kitchen and Love Bites (referred to below) – Malcolm argued for 1970. Today my friend & best man Stuart Rubenstein proposed 1978 as an alternative. I don’t really buy it as the most significant year but it was a landmark, dynamic one.

Here are a dozen of the LPs that got my blood racing that pivotal year of my youth and I write this listening to Stuart’s 1978 playlist.

1978 was the year I fully got the punk bug thanks to Buzzcocks who released 2 great LPs during those palpitating 12 months. So in no particular order:

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(1) Give Em Enough Rope – The Clash

I trudged through the snow to Loppylugs in Edgware to buy this. I saw the tour at the Electric Ballroom in Camden Town with Mikey Dread and Joe Ely supporting, one of the greatest gigs of my life.

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(2) The Scream – Siouxsie & the Banshees

Was transfixed by this band, not least the track Switch. Saw them at Hammersmith Odeon and the Music Machine in Mornington Crescent around this time.

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(3) Another Music in a Different Kitchen – Buzzcocks

Got this as a Christmas present (at my own request) from someone I didn’t much like. The single from it (which I got first from Smiths in Chichester), What Do I Get, was what opened me up to Punk. The sleeve design was really striking with its silver and fluorescent orange. It was a kick years later to meet its super-talented designer Malcolm Garrett through work. My copy now bears his signature.

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(4) Easter – Patti Smith

I was transfixed by the hairy armpit in the cover photo by Robert Mapplethorpe.

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(5) Plastic Letters – Blondie

I had a crush on Debbie Harry as Debbie had on Denis. I saw them for my 2nd ever gig at Hammersmith Odeon, as well as outside their record label, Chrysalis, near Bond Street.

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(6) Stage – David Bowie

One of the few things outside of punk to catch my attention.

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(7) Handsworth Revolution – Steel Pulse

Can’t recall how I came across this but it will have been thanks to the Punk-Reggae axis.

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(8) Public Image – Public Image Ltd

How could Johnny Rotten transcend the Pistols? With a single as startling as anything those bad boys did.

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(9) An American Prayer – Jim Morrison & The Doors

I still reckon Jim was a significant and talented poet.

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(10) Here My Dear – Marvin Gaye

As intense as records ever get – I pictured Marvin alone in the studio in the dark, laying his voice over and over itself.

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(11) Moving Targets – Penetration

Something a little exotic from the regions

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(12) Power in the Darkness – Tom Robinson Band

My very first gig at Hammersmith Odeon with PJE. I used the stencil which came with this on my school bag.

A parlour game for Easter

This has flown in from Dan McKevitt in Carlingford (via Facebook). A musical parlour game for the holidays.The emphasis is on records that have meant a lot to you rather than the all-time greatest.

“Here are the rules. Post up 12 albums on to your timeline that have stayed with you for whatever reason. One album per Artist/Band. Tag 12 friends and get them to do likewise, include me so I can see your choices. Don’t overthink it. Enjoy. No Compilations.”

1 Kind of Blue – Miles Davis [how to become tranquil in 5 easy steps/tracks]


2 Jesus Christ Superstar [as a young teen I used to spend hours and hours drawing and colouring to this]


3 What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye [I played it the night my fist born made his appearance]


4 Another Music In a Different Kitchen – Buzzcocks [my route into punk]


5 A Love Supreme – John Coltrane [took me somewhere higher]


6 Hot August Night – Neil Diamond [the first LP I bought myself – helluva jean jacket]


7 Let’s Dance – David Bowie [helped me find the joy in my first year away from home]


8 Glorious Fool – John Martyn [prompted me to recognise that JM was the greatest singer of them all …ever]


9 Give ’em Enough Rope – The Clash [trudging through the snow to get this from Loppylugs the day it came out – there’s never been such anticipation]


10 Moondance – Van Morrison [contains my eponymous wedding dance]


11 The White Album – The Beatles [teen memories of discovering the Fab Four and others with JRT]


12 The Scream – Siouxsie & the Banshees [will life ever get more exciting?]

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By the way, here are the Best Albums ever

And here are some more music lists

Long Players Revisited

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Slight change of rules since I put together the best 75 LPs of all time on Long Players 7 years ago – no compilations rule still holds but I’m upping it from one to two titles max per artist/band (to allow for those with a long career which has seen substantial changes) – and I’m not sticking to 75, just as long as the list wants to go…
[I’ll also add in the best track off each album when I get round to it, in square brackets]

Beauty Stab – ABC
The Stars We Are – Marc Almond
Living in the Flood – Horace Andy (reggae LP for late night sessions)
The Last Waltz – The Band
Two Suns – Bat for Lashes
The White Album – The Beatles
Post – Bjork
Go Tell It on the Mountain – Blind Boys of Alabama
Plastic Letters – Blondie
Space Oddity – David Bowie
Love Bites – Buzzcocks
Push the Sky Away – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
The Clash – The Clash
London Calling – The Clash
* A Love Supreme – John Coltrane
If I Could Only Remember My Name – David Crosby
Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me – The Cure
* Kind of Blue – Miles Davis
Don’t Stand Me Down – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
One Day I’m Going to Soar – Dexys
Hot August Night – Neil Diamond
The Doors – The Doors
The Soft Parade – The Doors
Pink Moon – Nick Drake
Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan
Slow Train Coming – Bob Dylan
Ocean Rain – Echo & The Bunnymen
The Nightfly – Donald Fagen
Tiger in the Rain – Michael Franks
* Stay Human – Michael Franti & Spearhead
The Score – The Fugees
So – Peter Gabriel
L’Histoire de Melody Nelson – Serge Gainsbourg
* What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
Flesh – David Gray
Guys & Dolls movie ST
Passenger – Lisa Hannigan
To Be Continued – Isaac Hayes
Are You Experienced – Jimi Hendrix
Come get it I got it – David Holmes
Gentlemen Take Polaroids – Japan
The Melody at Night, With You – Keith Jarrett
Praise & Blame – Tom Jones (gets to his essence)
Tapestry – Carol King
The Miseducation of – Lauryn Hill
Yarona – Abdullah Ibrahim trio
All Mod Cons – The Jam
Jesus Christ Superstar
Unknown Pleasures – Joy Division
On Song – Brian Kennedy
Steps in Time – King (a guilty pleasure with DMs)
Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin
Imagine – John Lennon
Cinquieme As – MC Solaar
Candy McKenzie – Candy McKenzie (a Lee Scratch Perry Black Ark LP from 1977 that got lost somehow)
The Snake – Shane MacGowan & the Popes
Madness – Madness
Correct Use of Soap – Magazine
Exodus – Bob Marley & the Wailers
* Solid Air – John Martyn
Glorious Fool – John Martyn
New World Order – Curtis Mayfield
Sings Big Blues – Little Milton
Monk’s Dream – Thelonius Monk quartet
* Poetic Champions Compose – Van Morrison
A Night in San Francisco – Van Morrison
Blues and the Abstract Truth – Oliver Nelson
Tribute – John Newman
Nevermind – Nirvana
Throw Down Yours Arms – Sinead O’Connor
Meddle – Pink Floyd
Water – Gregory Porter
Dummy – Portishead
Metal Box – Public Image Ltd (in the metal box)
O – Damien Rice
Some Girls – The Rolling Stones
England’s Newest Hitmakers – The Rolling Stones
Diana – Diana Ross
Stranded – Roxy Music
Rumblefish OST (Stewart Copeland)
The Crack – The Ruts
WomanChild – Cecile Mclorin Salvant
Abraxas – Sanata
Gymnopedies – Eric Satie
Beyond Skin – Nitin Sawhney
Bring ‘Em All In – Mike Scott
Never Mind the Bollocks – The Sex Pistols
* Songs for Swinging Lovers – Frank Sinatra
The Scream – Siouxsie and the Banshees
Six Days in June
Easter – Patti Smith
The Specials – The Specials
* The Rising – Bruce Springsteen
We’ll Never Turn Back – Mavis Staples
Tea for the Tillerman – Cat Stevens
Brilliant Trees – David Sylvian
* Remain in the Light – Talking Heads
Sweet Baby James – James Taylor
Kilimanjaro – The Teardrop Explodes
Soul Mining – The The
Quick Step & Side Kick – Thompson Twins
Power in the Darkness – Tom Robinson Band
Under Milk Wood – Stan Tracey
Joshua Tree – U2
Signing Off – UB40
Hand on the Torch – US3
Live in Leeds – The Who
Rhythm & Sound – With the artists (a reggae gem from unlikely quarters)
West Side Story movie soundtrack
Talking Book – Stevie Wonder
Harvest – Neil Young
* Road to Freedom – The Young Disciples
Hot Rats – Frank Zappa

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List of Lists

I’ve been thinking about updating some of the lists that punctuate this blog (usually around Christmas when I’ve got a bit of time on my hands and am in a playful as well as reflective mood) so I’ve gathered a few here by way of preparation…

Best Songs

Best LPs

Best Song Lines

Magical Musical Moments

Inheritance Tracks

Best British Films

Blasts from the Pasts (musicians)

Bowie

Doing the Box 1 (singles)

4 Tracks really worth a listen

I’m thinking of doing next a Best Movies list and revisting Best Songs.

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