Archive for the ‘vinyl’ 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.

Passing the baton

bob Dylan Desire record cover art work

I had the great honour and pleasure of explaining to Enfant Terrible No. 2 this afternoon how a record player works – and indeed how a record works. “So if you turn it over are there more songs on the other side?”

It reminded me of the time the four of us were in the car listening to a Sherlock Holmes story and I had to pause the tape to explain what a ‘typewriter’ was, as the mystery revolved around a typewriter with a dodgy E.

So I walked down to Alan’s record shop on our high street with the ETs and No. 2 bought his very first piece of vinyl, a Rolling Stones (later) hits LP – he was after the track Wild Horses. He asked me to show him how to play it in the shop. I demoed on the knackered old deck. “So the lines are different songs?”

I showed him how to check the record for blemishes, how to handle the disc, how to check the weight/thickness.

It’s interesting how they came to this place, to the point of being introduced to Alan as customers after one and a half decades of just being local kids. After years of wall-to-wall rap the younger one recently got into reggae, then Dylan and The Stones; the older one into The Doors and Dylan. When Snoop Dogg put out a reggae album as Snoop Lion he provided the bridge for ET2 into the rasta world. And Yelawolf’s Nashville connections prompted thoughts in the head of ET1 of Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. After years of Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa how amazing to get a text saying: “Just been listening to Bob Dylan’s song ‘Hurricane’ – the man’s a genius”.

What’s also interesting to see is how all the musical education/indoctrination did actually get in and get noticed. I used to make them tapes for their birthdays based on what they were interested in – so at 4 for example it was cops, robbers and superheroes – cue Police & Thieves, The Batman theme (The Jam), etc. Now tunes like Riders on the Storm (from the cowboys & Indians phase) are resurfacing in their consciousness.

This afternoon’s lads’ trip down the road was a real landmark and a deep pleasure.

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The Box

box of 50 records

So the idea was simple: 50 songs from 50 friends/family to mark 50 years. All in a box decorated by the Enfants Terribles. In short, Now That’s What I Call a Birthday Present 50.

Various people asked me what was in The Box so I’ve finally gotten round to listing the gifts, all 7″ vinyl singles. There turned out to be 65 songs in the box as some people decided to give one song per decade, some very naturally hedged their bets as choosing just one is tough as we all know from Desert Island Discs and the like. (There’s no special significance about the first nine, that’s just how WordPress decided to cut&paste and the wisdom of five decades dictates that life’s too short to tidy up such things.)

  1. She Loves You – The Beatles [Jonathan & Julie] (No. 1 the weekend after I was born)
  2. Righteous Man – Little Roy [Nigel]
  3. One by One – Ruefrex (Good Vibrations) [Conor & Aoife] (given to him by Terry Hooley)
  4. Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys [Meabh & Orla] (I gave them Pet Sounds – the first CD they ever owned)
  5. Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan [Sean]
  6. I Want That Man – Deborah Harry [Maura]
  7. Carmen – Malcolm McLaren [Maura]
  8. Higher & Higher – Jackie Wilson [Patsy]
  9. From Me to You – The Beatles [Anthony & Ruth]

box of 50 records

10. Send Another Moses – The Willows (CoxSone) [Neil]

11. Run Run – Delroy Wilson (Studio One) [Neil]

12. Door Peeper – Burning Spear [Neil]

13. There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards – Ian Dury [Neil]

14. Telegram Sam – T-Rex [Neil]

15. Something – The Beatles [Neil]

16. Double Barrel – Dave & Ansil Collins [Neil]

17. The Ayatollah Song – Not the 9 O’Clock News [Dave & Nicole]

18. Murphy’s Law – Cheri [Elizabeth & Des]

19. Close to Me – The Cure [Eileen] (we saw them live together in Wembley Arena)

20. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd [Matthew]

21. LA Woman – The Doors [Jon]

22. Cat People – David Bowie [Jon]

23. Changing of the Guards – Bob Dylan [Jon]

24. Wet Dream – Max Romeo [Peter]

25. Go Wild in the Country – Bow Wow Wow [Judyth]

26. Modern Love – David Bowie [Mike] (we saw him together live in Grenoble on the Serious Moonlight tour)

27. A Paris – The Style Council [Mike] (we once bumped into each other totally by chance in the Louvre)

28. Speak Like A Child – The Style Council [Mike] (Mick Talbot shares the same birthday)

29. Universal Soldier – Donovan

30. Young Parisians – Adam & The Ants [Noah]

31. Pictures of Lily – The Who [Dylan] (he wanted My Generation but couldn’t find it – I taught him how to spell WH question words using a photo of Keith Moon’s drumkit)

32. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott-Heron [Dan & Steff] (we saw him together at Somerset House shortly before he died)

33. Denis – Blondie [Paul] (we went to see them as his first and my second gig)

34. Thank You Very Much, Mr Eastwood – Dermot Morgan [Elizabeth-Ann]

35. Come Fly With Me – Frank Sinatra [Cecelia] (we both adore Frank)

36. Sexual Healing – Marvin Gaye [Stuart]

37. Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin [Stuart]

38. The Celtic Soul Brothers – Dexy’s Midnight Runners [Stuart] (he mispronounced ‘Celtic’ in his best-man’s speech at our wedding)

39. Baby I Love You – The Ronettes [Seth]

40. Live at Hollywood High – Elvis Costello [Joan]

41. The Next Day – David Bowie [Ela]

42. Shady Lane – Pavement [Alfie]

43. Congratulations – Cliff Richard [Annie]

44. Blanket on the Ground – Billie Jo Spears [Annie]

45. Ernie – Benny Hill [Dan]

46. Tears of a Clown – The Beat [Dan]

47. Ball of Fire – The Orb & Lee Scratch Perry [Sarah]

48. Nelson Mandela – Amy Winehouse [Farrah]

49. It’s a Sin – Pet Shop Boys [Anita & Don]

50. Nothing Compares 2U – Sinead O’Connor [Maud] (my favourite female voice)

51. Irish Heartbeat (Billy Connolly) [Maud]

52. A Dreams A Dream – Soul II Soul [Maud]

53. Take It Easy – The Wilf Brothers [Maud]

54. Dedication – Thin Lizzy [Maud]

55. Round About Midnight – Miles Davis [Una] (Debbie Gould sang this magnificently at my party)

56. Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright – Bob Dylan [Una] (we named a son after him)

57. Breakfast in Bed – Lorna Bennett [Sue]

58. Wildwood – Paul Weller [Sue]

59. Streets of London – Ralph McTell [Katherine]

60. September – Earth Wind & Fire [Ja]

61. Life’s What You Make It – Talk Talk [Ja]

62. Reasons to Be Cheerful – Ian Dury [Ja] (source of Simple Pleasures blogs)

63. Running Up That Hill – Kate Bush [Ja]

64. 2-4-6-8 Motorway – Tom Robinson Band [Ja] (my first gig)

65. Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division [Ja]

Late Additions:

66. The Boys Are Back in Town – Thin Lizzy [Eddie]

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