Archive for the ‘Music’ 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

Siouxsie_and_the_banshees_Join_Hands_war guards memorial

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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For the record

A relative in Ireland recently sent me one of those chain postings in Facebook – I don’t go for passing those on but since I did the thinking – about what my favourite records are – I’ll plop them in here for posterity.

Talking Heads Remain in the Light record album cover design music

marvin gaye whats going on record album cover design music

kind of blue miles davis record album cover design music

My funeral record (last track)

solid air john martyn record album cover design music

blood on the tracks bob dylan record album cover design music

the clash london calling record album cover design music

garveys ghost burning spear record album cover design music

van morrison a night in san francisco record album cover design music

songs for swingin lovers frank sinatra record album cover design music

john coltrane a love supreme record album cover design music

My other funeral record (first track)

David-Bowie-Station-To-Station record album cover design music

 

Coincidences No.s 208 & 209

13.ii.18 Theatre503

I meet the Creative Accountant, Sydney Levinson, for tea in Mayfair (Little House). At the end of the meeting he has to head for home to get ready to see the play of a friend of his at a small theatre in Battersea – Theatre503. I’ve never heard of the place.

I leave the tea with Sydney to go to a special preview screening of a documentary I’d recently commissioned, Sorry I Shot You. The screening is in Bermondsey in a back-street cafe run by an ex-offender. The director of the film, the protagonist, and various people at the gathering are also ex-cons. I meet an interesting and pleasant man called John who has done time in Liverpool for armed robbery. He is smartly dressed and articulate. He has recently written a play about his time inside which is about to be put on …at Theatre503.

10.iii.18 & 14.iii.18 Wildwood

I am walking from home to Crouch End through a string of woods. When I get to Queen’s Wood I read the information board at the entrance which explains that the woodland which covered England until 5,000 years ago was known as ‘Wildwood’. Not a term I have ever heard but I know a road called Wildwood near where I live, beside an island of woodland. I explain all this to my friend Roddy over breakfast at Banners.

An email comes through this evening about a newish band I’ve never heard of: Wildwood Kin.
A family trio – two sisters and their cousin – Wildwood Kin formed four years ago while in their mid to late teens. Their extraordinary debut album Turning Tides entered the UK charts in the top 40 and whilst it borrows from early folk influences, not least in their hypnotic three-part harmonies, it delves deeply into other genres, featuring both electric and acoustic instruments and boasts inventive electronics and spectral atmospherics.”

I’m listening to their inventive electronics and spectral atmospherics (out of Exeter) as I write this and it’s not unpleasant. Though I’d sooner have the band I saw last Monday (5th March) at the Imagining Ireland gig at The Barby, Saint Sister, a harp-keyboards duo (out of Derry & Belfast), not actual sisters but with a sisterly vibe. 

saint sister irish band

Gemma Doherty (Derry) & Morgan MacIntyre (Belfast)

Here’s a really striking song they performed, Corpses:

 

The State of NME

joy division nme newspaper magazine cover 1980 ian curtis tribute

Ian Curtis tribute edition (1980)

You never listened to a word that I said
You only seen me from the clothes that I wear
Or did the interest go so much deeper
It must have been to the colour of my hair

Public image you got what you wanted
The public image belongs to me
It’s my entrance my own creation
My grand finale, my goodbye

Public image
Public image
Goodbye

NEW

Today the last printed edition of NME is being published. It played a vital role in many British teens’ lives at a certain point, especially during the dynamic days of Punk and Post-Punk. In many ways it was our internet.

MUSICAL

It was the place to find out about gigs, get the latest band news, find upcoming talent, get hold of the most desirable records, get insights into the musicians that mattered.

EXPRESS

It also nurtured a generation of writers from Paul Morley to Danny Baker, from Julie Burchill to Nick Kent. My friend & former colleague from Channel 4, Stuart Cosgrove, was among their ranks. His latest book ‘Memphis 68: The Tragedy of Southern Soul‘ has just this week been shortlisted for the Penderyn Prize for Music Book of the Year, which the NME dubbed “The Mercury Prize of Books”. It’s the second book in the trilogy that began with ‘Detroit 67’ – he’s currently writing the third, ‘Harlem 69‘. It’s up against Cosey Fanni Tutti’s ‘Art Sex Music‘ which looks like formidable competition (though I haven’t read it yet).

Cosey Fanni Tutti was in Throbbing Gristle. I saw a then unknown Marc Almond perform a 15-minute version of the Throbbing Gristle song ‘Discipline’ at Hammersmith Odeon, supporting an emerging band called The Cure and headliners Siouxsie & The Banshees. Years later, down the road at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, I saw Marc Almond (son of Leeds) perform Wendy Rene’s ‘After Laughter Comes Tears’, a Northern Soul classic. Stuart is an aficionado of Northern Soul, it’s from that passion that ‘The Soul Trilogy‘ springs. These are the threads that made up the text and texture of NME in its heyday when it was ENeMy of the state and friend of new musical expression.

NME
NME
Goodbye

NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS (NME) Music Paper 28th MAY 1977 SEX PISTOLS GRATEFUL DEAD JOHNNY THUNDERS (NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS NME)

Changing of the Guards: The Pistols meet The Dead – May 1977

The original NME Cover of the Clash from April 1977 By Chalkie Davies

The Crossroads: The Clash meet Fleetwood Mac – April 1977

keith levine guitarist public image limited PIL NME cover

The Tangled Web: Keith Levine of Public Image and The Clash – 1980

undertones nme cover

The Threads: The Undertones meet Siouxsie meets PiL

nme cover the slits

The Slits – September 1979 (one was married to PiL’s John Lydon)

the specials nme cover two tone

Two Tone: The Specials – August 1979

Songlines #12: Call to Prayer / Adhan

 

The Question:

What piece of music means the most to you?

Farrah Jarral, dedicated GP and star of Osama Loves on Channel 4, comes up with a left-field choice (similar in some ways to Songlines #2) –  a religious song chosen by a not particularly religious person.

The Song: the Muslim call to prayer, the Adhan

 

 

And here’s the song in question:

 

 

Previous Songlines:

Songlines #11: Sheena Is a Punk Rocker (Aidan Murtagh of Protex)

Songlines #10: Bach to the Future (James Rhodes)

Songlines #9: The Flower Duet

Songlines #8: I’m Waiting for the Man

Songlines #7: Soul to Squeeze

Songlines #6 – Pakistan perspectives

Songlines #5 – NYC Blues

Songlines #4 – Thank Christ for the BBC (London Irish)

Songlines #3 – She Moved Through the Fair

Songlines #2 – Rich Mix

Songlines #1 – Hammertime

 

Bowie: Blackstar Rising

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Just beautiful

I heard about the passing of David Bowie about 15 minutes ago as the sad and unexpected news broke on Radio 5 Live. It had echoes of the news at a similar time on the same station almost exactly 3 years ago when the beautifully resonant song ‘Where Are We Now?’ was suddenly unleashed upon the world as a present on Bowie’s birthday – 8th January 2013. But this was the dark twin. It was only on Friday that the world was enjoying a similar event – the birthday release of Blackstar, Bowie’s last album, as surprising and novel as anything he has ever done. As a jazz lover it was a delicious prospect. Despite listening to it across this weekend sadly there hasn’t even been time to start to absorb it.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 07.33.02

I don’t normally feel such deaths in a truly personal way (with the single exception of John Martyn) but this one is very resonant in a different way. The passing of this great son of London without doubt makes the world a lesser place and I’ll spend today absorbing it. It is not totally dark in that it feels like he lived a beautiful life.

The love of music; the persistence getting his break; the innovation, success, boundry-pushing; the re-inventions; right up to the surprise re-emergence in 2013; the happy marriage; the prioritisation of children/fatherhood; the tranquil oasis in his third great city London > Berlin > New York, a suitably great metropolis to be the backdrop for his final ascendance.

While I absorb the sad&sudden news here are some Bowie bits from Simple Pleasures part IV over the last few years:

4 for 66 (Happy Birthday David Bowie) [9 January 2013]

Heddonism [11 April, 2012]

100 Greatest Songs [12 January, 2008]

 

Best of 2015

 

big-short

The Big Short: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling

Film:
The Big Short

Grandma
Me & Earl & The Dying Girl
The Hateful Eight
Chappie
Ex-machina
Amy

Male Lead:
Steve Carell – The Big Short

Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
Paul Dano – Love & Mercy
Samuel Jackson – The Hateful Eight
Oscar Isaac – Ex-machina

Female Lead:
Lily Tomlin – Grandma

Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Anne Dorval – Mommy
Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
Greta Gerwig – Mistress America

Male Support:
Christian Bale – The Big Short

Ryan Gosling – The Big Short
Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight

Female Support:
Jennifer Jason Lee – The Hateful Eight

Cara Delevingne – Paper Towns
Rooney Mara – Carol
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs
Julie Walters – Brooklyn

Director:
Adam McKay –The Big Short

Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight
Paul Weitz – Grandma
Xavier Dolan – Mommy
Asif Kapadia – Amy

Writer:
Adam McKay –The Big Short

Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight
Paul Weitz – Grandma
Greta Gerwig & Noah Baumbach – Mistress America

Editing:
Hank Corwin – The Big Short

Film Music:
Ennio Morricone – The Hateful Eight

Single/Song:
Long Strange Golden Road – The Waterboys

Listened to this year:
Where Did You Sleep Last Night – Nirvana

Album:
Modern Blues – The Waterboys

Van Morrison – Duets
Covered – Robert Glasper Trio
The Epic – Kamasi Washington

Gig:
The Waterboys – Roundhouse

The Waterboys – Colosseum, Watford
Van Morrison (No. 3) – Nell’s Jazz & Blues Club
Van & Tom Jones – Blues Fest – Millennium Dome
Marc Almond – Empire Shepherds Bush

Play:
Beautiful – Aldwych

Death of a Salesman – Noel Coward Theatre (Anthony Sher)
Guys & Dolls – The Savoy

Art Exhibition:
Peter Lanyon: Soaring Flight – Courtauld

Barbara Hepworth – Tate Britain
Frank Auerbach – Tate Britain

Book:
Purity – Jonathan Franzen

Read This Year:
The Long Goodbye – Raymond Chandler

A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Then Again – Diane Keaton

TV:
Humans

Walking the Nile
House of Cards S3
The Murder Detectives
And Then There Were None

Sport:
All Blacks in Rugby World Cup Final at Twickenham

Event:
Paris climate change agreement

Dearly departed:

  • BB King
  • Warren Mitchell (Alf Garnett)
  • Leonard Nimoy (Spock)
  • Ron Moody (Fagin)
  • George Cole (Arthur Daley)
  • Anita Ekberg (Sylvia, La Dolce Vita)
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Warren Mitchell as Alf Garnett

Best of 2014

Best of 2013

Best of 2012

Best of 2011

Best of 2010

Best of 2009

Long Players Revisited

whats going on - marvin gaye

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

kind-of-blue LP miles davis cover

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.

Child-bearing Lips

forgive me father

I just came home to this note from Enfant Terrible No. 1. It indicates that his Catholic education stuck to some degree, however little time he has for formal religion. It’s also a sign that his Music Education stuck to some degree because it refers to the borrowing without express permission of the paternal CDs (ranging from Curtis Mayfield to Siouxsie & The Banshees) in order to flesh out a newly broadened music collection. For nearly a decade we had wall-to-wall rap and then suddenly the dam has burst and The Enlightenment has flowed.

The beginnings of this are documented below in Passing the Baton.

I want to pick up the thread this day last week on Father’s Day, as good a one as ever occurred.

I get up relatively early (for a Sunday) to take said Enfant Terrible to his weekend job, teaching little kids rugby at a local school (the school where The Kinks went back in the golden era). Before leaving he handed me this home-made card:

continue-to-musically-educate-us-yesss-ive-won---a-fathersday-to-remember_19014775491_o

Inside are written the wondrous words: “continue to musically educate us”. In the meantime from The Cure to The Doors, from Diana Ross to The Boss, they’re working their way through the goldmine.

Once back to the house I go for a run in St Pancras & Islington Cemetery (do your jogging or you’ll end up in here), listening to Inheritance Tracks from Radio 4. Here are mine from 3 years ago, but I think de facto at this point the one I’ve bequeathed may be Sympathy for the Devil. I was listening to the lyrics the other day while watching Crossfire Hurricane with Enfant Terrible No. 2 and they really are brilliantly epic for a young man of Jagger’s then age.

When I get back from my run I clean the bird shit off the car and pick up all the litter on Maurice’s allotment beside my house (Maurice is rarely able to get here any more due to old age taking its toll and Luis, the Portuguese fella who looks after the massive plot for Maurice, just doesn’t get the idea of litter/rubbish – it’s a cultural thing, either OK for possible recycling or weirdly invisible.) So a couple of physical activities for the greater good, always feels good. The original Forgive-Me-Father was a great advocate of service as the path to happiness.

east finchley community festival 2015

In the afternoon we went down to our annual local festival, the East Finchley Community Festival in Cherry Tree Woods. I did a short stint on the stall of The Phoenix Cinema, where I am a trustee. Little kids were drawing discs to use in a Zoetrope type device, watching their work back as animation. The rest of the time I was mainly by the main music stage where the highlight for me was a bunch of geezers of my vintage playing tracks from my music collection, as raided above, like Song from Under the Floorboards and something by Talking Heads which now escapes my silver-fox vintage memory.

While I was sitting there the solution to a mystery came in over the airwaves. I’d bought a vinyl copy of Born to Run at Alan’s the day before. On the cover was a name that looked more like a signature than a name written to assert ownership of the record.

The Born to Run mystery

The Born to Run mystery

I whacked this photo online and drew it to the attention of my best man, a Springsteen veteran and connoisseur – he took 9 minutes to work out whose signature it was (he had a book signed by the same person) – it was Eric Meola, the photographer of the famously stark no-nonsense black&white Born to Run cover. So not a bad acquisition for £7. I told Alan the story on my way home from the festival on this beautiful summer evening and he shared the piquant addendum that the copy had come from the collection of singer Paul Young (of Q-Tips, Band Aid and solo fame).

In the evening the ETs gave me my Father’s Day present, a subscription to Spotify on which was prepared a playlist called ‘The Enlightenment’ consisting of loads of songs I’d shared with them over the years which they now really appreciated. It was clearly the product of many hours work, including the use of Shazaam to identify unnamed tracks I had put on early birthday compilation cassettes for them.

We went up to Highgate for dinner together, unbooked and last minute as I prefer. It was chilled, great larks. On our return we set up a collaborative playlist called ‘3-way Music Education’

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