31 March 2011

David Lee Roth - Just like Paradise

David Lee Roth - Just like Paradise
I have been looking forward / dreading a track from this chap turning up since I started.
"Poodle-haired cock-rock"

and this:


Oh yeah - now where to start.  Two main people to talk about (Let us ignore the drummer with his haircut that makes poodle perms look good and the rather good bass player as he is a Scientologist) - David Lee Roth and Steve Vai.

David Lee Roth was the original singer with Van Halen, and whatever you think about him, and indeed them, you have to admit they were enormously inspirational.  Not necessarily in a good way, but inspirational.  Eddie Van Halen's guitar playing was like no other before him and unfortunately like almost every other after him. Finger tapping and whammy bar histrionics became the mainstay of popular rock until grunge came along.  Everybody copied the style and sound leading to everybody sounding the same. David Lee Roth was the great front man.  Obviously an arsehole and suffering from a brain deficiency that prevents his brain and mouth communicating he was none the less the consummate showman, as can be seen from this video.

Steve Vai - ah now what to say.  My prejudices will come into play. You see Steve Vai is a guitar geek.  I will wax lyrical about him at a more appropriate time, but he is to guitar playing what Steve Wozniak is to computers.
Aged 18 after playing for just 5 years he mailed to Frank Zappa some transcriptions of Zappa's more difficult works - The Black Page amongst them. Seeing as the piece is near impossible to play - Zappa had to check him out.  After waiting to finish schooling Vai joined the Zappa band.

Let's just leave his work there with Zappa, but remember his job was described on album notes as "Stunt Guitar" and "Impossible Guitar Parts". Eddie Van Halen had changed the expectations of speed and virtuosity on the instrument and Vai turned it into music. For the stunt guitar playing go to 3:19 - otherwise you have to learn all about the horrors of perverted groupies through the medium of song.

After quitting the band he needed a new gig.  He tried out for various outfits including recording with John Lydon's P.I.L. on the "Album" album and appearing as the Devils guitarist in "Crossroads". Roth had quit / was thrown out of Van Halen and needed a band. Luckily for both of them, they found each other.

Vai needed a band - Roth needed a really good guitarist who was road ready.  What came of it was two platinum rock albums full of loud, new and (to be honest) cheesy tracks.  All girls, cars and the usual. That's not why it's on my playlists.

I was about 16 with my first guitar, buying all the magazines and this chap Vai was who everyone was going wow about.  He was in all the guitar magazines either selling guitars or giving guitar lessons.
So we bought the magazines, sent off for the books and tried to learn the tunes. I wanted his Ibanez flower print guitar more than anything.

I wonder how many kids my age gave up quickly as this stuff is just too difficult.  Me, I tried harder, and learnt all about 'guitar tab', practicing away. That's what that weird code at the top is.  The first few bars from this track.  And usually that is about as far as I got.

Why? Because it never sounded the same.
Why not? Because I am not a virtuoso and 16yr old me didn't have thousands of pounds of equipment and years of practice behind it. And neither does this kid on YouTube. But this is really what I spent hours doing as well.  Am I glad the internet didn't exist then or what?

What I did get out of it was the time to read the rest of the guitar magazine.  So I learnt about Vai and his previous work.  He always talked about Frank Zappa and what a great mentor he was.  So I went down to my library and took out some Frank Zappa tapes (yes, tapes).  I'd like to say I was hooked from the word 'go', but that would be a lie. The first Zappa album I heard was 'Jazz from Hell' - an album of purely electronic avant-guard weirdness.  It took 2 more years before I found the version of Zappa the magazines always talked about.

I listen to this track and always remember the wonder I felt at wondering how it could be played, trying, failing and trying again - dreaming that I, one day would be up on stage twirling a guitar round my neck.

30 March 2011

Public Enemy - Welcome to the Terrordome

"I got so much trouble on my mind"

Yeah Boyyyy. More Public Enemy and possibly Chuck D's most incredible addition to the genre of Rap.

Not the most well known of PE's output, not the most musical, but certainly their most accomplished and probably the most personal.

Just the original music here - but just listen to it.....
The story of the song, how it came out of fear of political correctness, the team that made it, and how it's like can never be heard again....  Let's begin....

The track comes from PE's third album, Fear of a Black Planet. After the dissapointing sales of the debut and lukewarm reception of the second, they headed back to the studio. But what to do? Live they were making a noise, and other artists were getting more airplay than them, what should they do?  Sell out? Get a well known producer in? Nope. Keep kicking it.

The studio was all set with production team 'The Bomb Squad" and the band came in full of fire and ready to record, and they had a few demons to excise. Known as an outspoken group, talking about social issues and empowerment - areas not now covered by mainstream rappers including supporting the emerging Nation of Islam. Member Proffessor Griff then landed them all in the poo. In an interview he had expressed sympathy for the Palestinian people.  The media took this as hatered of Israel and in turn branded him anti-semetic.  Nice - stay classy.

In the short term he had to leave the band - although he later rejoined after stating he was misquoted. The situation blew up in their faces and mistakes were made dealing with the PR, causing the band some long term issues.

This wasn't the first time they had to deal with bad PR, but ignited Chuck D's fervour when the chance came to writing material for the new album.  The track itself concerns "references to the murder of Yusef Hawkins and the 1989 riots in Virginia Beach, and it has Chuck D criticizing Jewish leaders who protested Public Enemy in response to Professor Griff's anti-Semitic remarks, the controversy as being in the center of political turmoil, with criticisms of the media and lyrical references to the Crucifixion of Jesus"  Yowza.  No guns, bitchez and bling here.

The actual lyrics are up there with the best of his output, utilizing internal rhyme and weave a paranoid view of the external and internal processes at play around him at the time.  The often quoted section is;

"Lazer, anastasia, maze ya/Ways to blaze your brain and train ya" or "Sad to say I got sold down the river/Still some quiver when I deliver/Never to say I never knew or had a clue/Word was heard, plus hard on the boulevard/Lies, scandalizin', basin'/Traits of hate who's celebratin' wit Satan?"

However, reading rap lyrics really does reduce them to schoolyard skipping songs, doesn't it?

It's the dazzling multi-layered production of The Bomb Squad that punches right alongside the inflamatory lyrics that really scares me.  The tension and aggression is to the front and is unrelenting.  The density of the music and production is just about at the limit of our ability to take it all in.
Wheras most sample based music nowadays will have two main sampled sections, perhaps three -  Welcome to the Terrordome has twelve.  12, dammit.

So what? Well, this could never happen again.  At least not legally. You see back in the day (1990) bands didn't pay for samples, or even get legal clearance.  Didn't have to.  The original artists got a bit too pissed off about this and went to court.

Long story short - the precident for financial compensation for bands using samples was set.  It has been estimated that if PE released this album today, they would owe £5 more than the retail price of the CD for each copy sold. 

Why not do it without telling anyone?
Well, The Verve did that with just one sample on the single "Bitter Sweet Symphony".  Andrew Loog Oldham took them to court and won.  What did he win? EVERY SINGLE PENNY from the entire album Urban Hymns. The Verve never did and never will earn anything from that album.

PE are still going strong - 21 years after this was released and even have a documentary out.....

And what is it called?  Oh dear....

29 March 2011

Animals - We've gotta get out of this Place

The Animals - We've gotta get out of this place
Good old Eric Burdon.  Track 23 today, I could have sang this all day.  Unfortunately it turned up on my iPod at 19.38 on the drive home, and really summed up my sub-conscious feelings about working in an office.

Not only mine, as it was immensely popular with the USAF during the Vietnam Conflict... I wonder why?

When you think of the 60's (from the perspective of anyone born, like me in the mid 70s) the immediate image is that of multicoloured hippies dancing along the lines of the opening to Austin Powers. 
 Not so. There were also, certainly in the first half of the decade, well dressed young gentlemen like these.

A hell of a band - Eric Burdon on vocals, Allan Price on keyboards and Chas Chandler on bass.  Apparently my old English teacher was their original drummer, but quit just before they recorded "House of the Rising Sun" to 'be sensible' and 'get a real job'.  It certainly explained his hatred for life and his students.

The song was originally written for the Righteous Brothers, but they turned it down.  Thank goodness. At the time in London most bands had songs written for them - songwriting and performing were two different skills which worked hand in hand.  Nowadays there is a bit of a stigma about all of that - with artists pretending that they wrote their hits.  Just think of Elton John and Bernie Taupin - neither of them can do the others job, but together they make popular music.  Shit. But popular.

How great is that? They were in a movie called Bikini Beach Party - you know how good that was!!!
When it came to being popular in the US it really was three bands - Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Animals. They had an edge and more importantly the songs.

It starts off with that rolling bass line, starting low, crawling up and returning to the original note that shapes the verse. A quiet, rather menacing Burdon intoning the lyrics, with the drums slowly dashing in and out like far off fireworks. For me, it's when the guitar finally comes in to play those three chords, just after Price's keyboards build that make this a hit.  The chorus for me is a little formulaic - probably because it has been used as the formula for a dozen other hits since then. It's those three guitar chords at the end of each verse that make it different.

Of course they had a number of other hits (go and buy a greatest hits album - always worth £4) - House of the Rising Sun, probably being the most famous. But this band, like many others, split up.  Tensions within the band, management changes and the fact that even by 60s low standards they were paid sod all gave rise to eventual dissolution.  Management nicked it all.. apparently.

What did they do afterwards?  Apart from argue over the bands name? Eric Burdon went on and joined WAR in San Francisco - some great work there, which will turn up here one day, Alan Price brought Georgie Fame and Randy Newman to peoples attention and most importantly Chas Chandler. For somebody who was so screwed over by management, it is perhaps surprising that that was exactly what he ended up doing.  But he did manage bands, perhaps most importantly, he was the man that brought Jimi Hendrix into the public eye.

Although for this style of British 60's pop combo tune, I prefer The Small Faces and The Kinks, you can't fault The Animals tunes and their influence - just look at that last video again and tell me that you can't imagine that it could be The Doors.  The same brooding voice, and keyboards slicing through the tension.  Nice.

28 March 2011

The Orb - Perpertual Dawn (Ultrabass II)

The Orb - Perpetual Dawn (Ultrabass II)
A bit of a cheat here - track 23 today was P-Funk Space Jam by Parliament.  Except it doesn't really exist.  Well it's on my iPod, but I can't find a record of it or You Tube of it. Eddie Haisell will turn up again, so we shall have to wait until then.

This, however, was track 24....

I loved this so much - (and originally you could only get this mix on vinyl), I bought a turntable. A great swirlling mess of a picture disc that now lies framed on my wall.
I had so little idea about vinyl then, I put it on at 33rpm. Imagine how ungodly and bowel moving the bass sounded!

Now the Orb are written off by many as just an ambient band - my favourite being that their music is made up of expanded introductions to songs that never get going. Not true.

Their great gift to the musical world, apart from sampling from far and wide (Joey Dee and the Starlighters here) was their foray into ambient dub reggae.  And there is no better example of it than this track.

The original of this track comes from the debut album "Adventures in the Ultraworld", which I have spent far too many hours listening to.  The origins of the Orb was Alex Patterson and Jimmy Cauty playing long sets at Heaven in the late 80's / early 90's really pushing the envelope. They were set up with a 24 track mixer, a bunch of turntables, tape machines and the like, forcing unmatched music through overdubbing into a new format.  Except, with an ideology keeping the drums to a minimum.

You can only imagine the thoughts running throught the heads of the early ravers, walking into a room where they would be met by a mix of Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Vivaldi, NASA recordings and Minnie Rippertorn.

Cauty left before the first album came out - and formed The KLF.  You can hear the mutual inspirations if you compare this to Chill Out.

But what really sets this apart is the reggae dub influence that pervades the piece. Bill Laswell clearly hearing what could be achieved through sampling and editting went on to produce various ambient dub records, most noticably Panthallasa - remixing the works of Miles Davis and seperately Bob Marley. 

The thumping bass, the echoing piano and guitar stings and the ethereal rasta voices whipping in and out, calling from some forgotten realm.  The first beat we hear is a delayed dribbling bubble sound, built on slowly with other drums - all low in the mix.  Choral voices also low in the mix fade in and out adding to the general ambience of the work.  The delicate slow mixing and fading of Patterson is subtle.

The Orb themselves always remained true to bass heavy instrumentation, calling in Guy Pratt, Pink Floyd's bass player for hire, later on with Blue Room and live with the splinter group Custerd.

For me, it introduced me to King Tubby and the whole dub scene. As well as, of course, being a great 'after hours' record..... Enough said.

27 March 2011

News - Name change and design update

Lots of feedback - thanks.

As of NOW - a new name and a new set of colours.
This has been renamed 23rd Track - it now does what it says on the box.
I have even leased the domain direct from Google - so I don't have to do crap on the back end.



Everybody hated the background image. Apart from me.
It was a little oppresive and dark, so I am still trying to find a more open, peacful, yet music related one to go here. At the moment it is a sea of CDs in the countryside.  Ahhhh. It will probably change when I find something more suitable. I was thinking of a picture of my CD collection, but they all look too dark.

There is also a Twitter feed:

And the RSS is working properly.

More updates as and when....


Site now loads faster - only the last 3 posts appear at one time. As for other loading problem - I will have to rethink the posting style - why? The videos make it slow.

I will try to add an image into the start of each post and see if there is a better way of adding music in.

Other issues - if you start a second video, the first still plays.  No way I can control that, learn to stop the old video first.

Voting now added - can't see the point myself. May just remove it.

I'm not running a Facebook, and I can't be bothered to add in links to those type of things. May see if the Twitter feed can automatically run from iTunes, or a iTunes can feed direct into Blogger.

25 March 2011

Request - Snow Patrol - Run

I have added to this post at the bottom of it.
It is probably too opinionated and probably does read as a mindless rant.
For example the second line "..that isn't just an opinion".
Of course it bloody is.

Original Post:

Look Kirsty, you are great and all that, but this song sucks.
And that isn't just an opinion.

They suck.
The band is awful.
The song is dross.
It sucks so much it's at danger of imploding. I'm sorry Kirsty, I don't like it - and I have my reasons.

So, if you are sitting uncomfortably, let's listen to it together, shall we kids!

Fuck me. What a load of old cock. Dreary, self obsessed nothingness. For a start, his voice is duller than ditchwater.
"But Geej, its...."
NO. Stop. Its a bloody waste of bandwidth and they are a waste of oxygen.
Of course its a hit, it was produced in a battery farm that way. Think I'm joking? Am I fuck.

These turds were put into a brain training coma, along with the audience of McDonalds chugging pop-lovers into thinking that this genuine waste of time is acceptable. Why? How?

Well, come with me children, on a trip we can all appreciate and learn about the self-serving, corporate cock-gobbling ouroboros that is the music business in 2011.....

This all starts with a group of young lads from the Emerald Isle who see their heroes on TOTP and want to be like them. It's the early 90's and with the vigors of youth they decide "We will never give up on our dream". Fools.

So they gig around, move to the mainland, get a following after four years of working in Scotland and get signed.

1998 and they are a none to special Foo Fighters / Hives / Nirvana / Stiltskin sound alike.  Fair enough.

Not by a big label, but one they like. The label bosses get on with the band, are quite similar to them, quite young and full of vim. The band get lot of good feedback from them; "We like your sound", "Keep it that way, lads" so they do. Keeping to their own particular brand of rock and roll. Quite acceptable if you listen to the above video.  Nothing special.

A few years pass and no one is making money. Nobody has still heard of them. A couple of EPs perhaps. Maybe a low volume album. Nothing to frighten the chart compilers with. So they drop away from the label - "They were too small" they tell themselves, "They didn't understand what we are trying to say....."

Maybe a couple of band members have come and gone in the last 8 years. They remainder decide to keep to their dream - "Never give up", and get lucky at a showcase gig.

A big label talent scout has seen them and wants them to sign. Nice.

So they sign. "Just one thing though lads...", says the big label boss, "We need to have a talk about your material and how it fits with our market segmentation strategy."

They are asked the big question "Do you want to be successful?", and with their answer goes the last genuine remnant of what could have been good about the band.

They do want to be successful. At all costs.
So they sell out. They get the haircuts, they get the clothes bought for them, they are told how to speak and act. They become nothing. But that's just image marketing - nothing frightening there.

What about the sound. Now this is where it gets depressing.
Who is the most successful UK band of the last 20 years? U2.

Great, they were Irish too, let's get their producer in. That's Mr Brian Eno. (Who I like, unfortunately) However, Mr Eno is busy making albums with U2 and Coldplay at the same time. Two albums that sound remarkably similar on release. Eno even admitted "I kept two separate portable hard drives with the separate bands ideas on. I did get them mixed up a couple of times".

Really? Just a couple? Coldplay = U2lite.
Hell, in the last 10 years U2 = U2lite.

"Damn, he would have been great. Who else have U2 worked with?" Jacknife Lee.

Jacknife Lee was apparently in a punk band in the old days. Nobody has ever heard of them though. He made his name (along with Richard X) as one of the better 'Bastard Pop' innovators. What this was is some bloke in his bedroom mixing tunes from different artists together. His best work is below - a rock re-working of Missy Elliot.

Now somehow, the record companies realised there were a lot of talented bedroom producers out there.
"Instead of suing them, lets hire them."

So they grabbed them and gave them some 'aspiring artists' (pop show winners) to work with. And they were hits. So much so that the dinosaurs of pop and rock wanted them as producers if it would make them hits.

U2 are a bit like Bowie in that respect. They like to grab a bit of "whatever is hip with the kids" and use it as their calling card. "Look at us, we are still relevant". Flood, Howie B, Jacknife Lee - the list is endless. The new producer is happy, it ups their profile.

But imagine what it is like for the producer in that recording studio with U2.... Just a year ago you were in your parents basement making mix ups of Blondie and the White Stripes for a laugh. You are out of your depth. So you do what you think the millionaires want to hear from you. You need this to be a success so your future as a top producer is secure. Exactly the same sound as their previous work with Mr Eno. In fact, you learn so much from making it sound exactly like Eno, that it becomes your default style.

Well, that's how I did it with U2" and they happily follow orders. The band sits up and does what they are told, after all U2 are successful aren't they?

Because they want to be successful, don't they.

And they are. How?
Because the public buy U2 albums.Why?
Because they want to remain 'with it' - keeping up with that band from their youth U2.Why?
Because they listen to Radio 1, who are playing all the latest tunes by U2, Coldplay and Snow Patrol. They like the sound of Coldplay and Snow Patrol because it is recognisable.

Of course it bloody is. It's the same as all the rest - it has the same record company and producer for Pete's sake.

Listen to the "hit version" by Leonna Lewis.

Now, Ms Lewis is an attractive woman. No arguing there. She won a TV kareoke competition, I am told. She also sang "Whole Lotta Love" with Jimmy Page at the close of the Olympics.
He deserves to have each and every one of his fingers broken for this abortion of a version.

She used to be a singer in a band. A rock band. They are still going. Still not getting gigs, but keeping to what they believe - their music.

She left to do what she wanted - to be successful.

And she is, because the record company wants to make money. They make money by selling records.
Records that are recognisable and amazingly similar to previous releases.
Because that's what the majority of record buyers will find re-assuring.

So there you have it. You have a choice as an artist - you can either make the music you love and remain penniless, or make the popularist musical equivalent of house paint and be successful.

What can we do as consumers? Try something new, dammit. Get onto Spotify, listen to a band a week that you've never heard of before. Listen to it three times. If you like it, go out of your way to buy it. If we as consumers do not support music that is different from the herd, it will degenerate even further into this horrid cottage cheese for the ears that we have now.

Meaningless, souless pap.

Update. Later that day.

Unsurprisingly,  this wasn't a popular entry. I'm really quite a sensitive soul in real life and do take things personally. I shouldn't but I do. As do others.
I am sorry if it offended - I am going to add a section in about interpretation and opinions, from lessons learnt mainly from this weeks experiment.

The one which I agree with is "But you asked for a song to review, you reviewed the band".
Hmmm.  I did. I went off on one. I do that. I've updated the FAQ to explain how and why I write in the way I do.
I also have tried to do a 'straight review' of this song. But I can't.
I've genuinely failed.
I have written for 45 minutes and read it back and it read like crap. I tried editing it, and it just read like shorter crap.

The best I can say in summary is that it is a pop anthem.  There are many other examples in the pop genre and lots of people love them.  I saw Blur in Hyde Park a few years back and the pop anthems (Universal especially) went down a storm. Hundreds of people flooding out afterwards all singing the same song at the top of their voices. Moving, but to me, uninspired. A slow formulaic build up to a repeated chorus which is easy to remember. I know why people like them, especially at concerts. A sense of joining with hundreds of strangers in one single loud emotional chant. I myself, sang along to most of the Flaming Lips show at the Albert Hall until I was rendered both deaf and mute.

What makes us do this? Is there a psychological need for it?
Very likely. Look at the history of group singing, in our western culture hymns at church is a great example.  Every day at school we had to sing three different ones. Pop anthems give us a modern conduit for this release. As it is a release, an anthem needs to grow from a solo voice to a crescendo at climax to maximise the effect and sense of 'oneness'.
Is it my own inadequacies as an individual and perhaps a fear of such a personal connection with strangers that makes me dislike this style of song?
Could be. It's likely that my own prejudices against this type of music are amplified by such.
I will be expanding upon my thoughts on "Opinion - Environment and Interpretation" on the link at the top right of the page.

24 March 2011

Request - Yes - Owner of a Lonely Heart

Now this is what I was hoping for. A bit of classic rock.  Grrrrr....eatttt. Thanks Nick.

Funny how the 80's spawned a whole market for  expensive and irrelevant videos.... Found on a million "Driving Rock" compilations loved by men of a certain age and girth and disliked by old hippies. Where the hell to start?

Who were "Yes"?
They were what is called a "Progressive Rock" band. What that really means is that they were a bunch of old hippy musicians who performed really long songs about dragons and involved a bit of free jazz along the way - here is an excellent example of the earlier incarnation of the band.

In this line up (near classic the steadfast would say) is Jon Anderson, Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman.  Bill Buford had left to form King Crimson a bit earlier. You have the symphonic styling, jazz fusion and most importantly bad haircuts and capes with god-damned sequins.
So how are these two songs related, and how can I manage to put Frank Zappa into this?

Rather than go into a long and tiresome history of Yes and it's lineup changes, we should just try to keep to this song.
The band had fallen apart, as many bands do and were finding the 80s market a little more fickle. The split was kind of horrific, but Trevor Rabin managed to get control of the name and went into the studio with one time Yes bass player and Buggles front man Trevor Horn.  What?  You don't remember Buggles?

The first video ever played on MTV.
Legal cases were built on the fact that music videos were "Promotional Material" and didn't require broadcasters to pay money to the artists, whereas radio stations did.
Groundbreaking stuff - all because of this song. (Long story short - because it could be proved that someone had purchased a Buggles album where it could also be proved it received NO radio airplay, the video had promoted its sale - therefore no royalties were due).

Trevor Horn formed Buggles after some time with Yes and realised he had a gift for production.  We are bound to come across him again in these pages, so I won't go on too much about him now, but all of the following owe something to him; Mike Oldfield, Seal, ABC, Pet Shop Boys, Belle and Sebastian, Frankie Goes to Hollywood (I think they will still owe him money even if they all live to 300) and quite relevantly for this story - The Art of Noise.

Horn worked with Yes on the 1983 album 90125 which this single comes from.  As you can see from the video, the lineup is different, the haircuts are of the period and it sounds really different. It launched Yes into the US and made them big.  How?
Trevor Horn and his hand picked team of engineers working in his studio SARM West.

To get an impression of what they did, let's start by watching it performed live....

You can see how the musicians used to a more fluid method of performing live are really having to work to get all those 'stings' and samples in? Tough job.  Now listen again to the track at the top. Great and oppressive production on a band that needed a new direction and major assistance in writing songs that were relevant to the times.  Really clean sounding digitised guitar sounds, with a genuinely super pitch shifted guitar solo, full of bends, swoops and dives.

Perhaps, musically, that is 'wrong' - a band should be able to do it themselves, if they call themselves a band.
But perhaps not.....

It was around this time that artists were realising (as the Beatles had done decades earlier with Sgt. Pepper) that the studio had come of age, could be considered an instrument and that engineers were musicians too. If you can embrace that paradigm change you are onto a winner - as Public Enemy stated a few years later "Run DMC said a DJ could be a band", why not a studio engineer?

Hold that thought....and remember Trevor Horn and his 'special' team?

These same arrangers, engineers and producers very soon after this recording formed Art of Noise and many of the samples used on that first album are from this very same recording session with Yes. The influence of AON is basically anything with a sample in a studio.  Just shed loads - from ambient to Drum and Bass, the Orb to The Prodigy.

The same clean cut and pasting techniques used by AON later on are evident in the studio recording at the top. If you are unconvinced by how radical this can be bear two things in mind - it was originally written as a ballad, but sped up and rocked up with those magnificent orchestral staccato stings percussively stabbing through. You can see from yesterdays amazing near admission that Disco was a fore-runner of cool dance music that a bit of innovative production can change something beyond understanding.

One last thing.  Frank Zappa. Can't I squeeze him in here somehow?  Of course.
The top video at the beginning. Do you notice how you almost never see the keyboardist? That's because he joined the band after the recording of the album and left before the tour started and was edited out.  His name is Eddie Jobson and was with the Zappa band from 76-77. He appeared on the Zappa in New York album and on the cover of Zoot Allures, although he never played a note on that either.
That must really piss him off, appearing in things he doesn't perform on.

23 March 2011

Request - Imagination - Music and Lights

Housekeeping first - I have made an addition to the bottom of the blurb I wrote on Sting.  If this was an disertation into how we as humans relate to music, I'd be quite happy with that breakthrough.

Well, Nick hasn't answered yet, and Sile asked for Janis Joplin (Dear God, she had a great voice, just imagine what she could have done, given 5 more years).  I've already done a Janis tune, so I may do a short one on her later, but I called up the Merricks and Michaela kindly shouted "Do Imagination - Music and Lights" at me. She also kindly added some genuine constructive criticism, which I have taken on board. Cheers.

I admit, this track isn't on my iPod and I hadn't heard it consciously before.... but will it be a future addition?

There are few things I like about the 80's as a whole (Duran Duran bass lines are the most important) and the early 80's were a right old mess. Coming out of the 70's and still somehow clinging to the trouser legs of popular music was Disco....

There is your cultural proof of how messed up the early 80's was - A 1982 Top Of The Pops with David 'Kid' Jensen. Even 20 years ago he was taking the piss calling himself 'Kid' and that haircut.... Jesus, was it molded in a factory somewhere? And that shirt.... even I wouldn't wear that.

Now before you start waiting for some horrific vitriol on why Disco sucks, just stop for a moment.
Yes, the clothes are terrifying and the song just raises all sorts of horrid memories of being 9 again. Bad school discos, being dressed up 'nice' by your mother in C&A's finest, a tear in her eye as she sent you into the horror of mixing socially alone for the first time.

OK the song is terrible, but it does have something.
What the hell is it? It is not memories for me, certainly not good ones at any rate.
Is it the vocals? Nope. Horrid high voices, with no pleasing baritone to add a bit of mix in there.
Is it the song construction - is that it? No. That too is a bit predictable.

So what is it?
Just realised the answer  - 303

What? What is Three Hundred and Three?
No - just the numbers 3.0.3. Or to be more precise the Roland TB 303.
Here it is in action -

Originally sold as a simple drum machine - but for bass lines, people soon realised they could do so much more with it. You can hear it on the Imagination track quite clearly for it's original purpose, disco bass lines. With the advent of this little machine, popular music was quite honestly changed forever. In Chicago, New York and Essex, bedroom musicians with little or no formal musical training could make music.  And they did.

Disco evolved into dance music when people sped it up and played with it's various knobs like the teenagers they were. Just listen to a Guy call Gerald - originally in a band called 808 State - named after a later version of this very machine....

Pure bloody bliss - I could go on about this forever, but that's for another time, perhaps.

From Disco came dance and house music.  Full Stop.
Except trends always go around. Look at the fashions in that TOTP video. You can go and buy (if you are significantly mentally divergent) a puffball skirt again. Electro-pop is back in the clubs. I can't say I approve, but I know where it is coming from. I wonder if the club goers now realise it came from bands like Imagination.
And who is really the most Disco band out there? Daft Punk.

That's right. The hippest, coolest dance band of all is not only French, but Disco.
You don't believe me? Just listen, and then re-appraise Disco for yourself.

All you need to do to Imagination is remove the vocals and speed it up a bit and you have a modern dance classic.  What's that?  Somebody already did?  Oh.....

22 March 2011

Request - Sting - Fill Her Up

OK then, a request from Emma.  She put in two - one of a band called Prime Circle, who I have never heard before and know nothing of.  She did describe them as two things "..my favourite band" and "..a bit like Nickleback".
If you know me, or have read anything before, you can guess my attitude towards Nickleback and more importantly my friends. I don't wish to upset, especially when somebody uses the phrase "favourite band".
I passionately love my choice in music and will fall out with those that don't at least try to get it, so I will leave Prime Circle well alone as I love my friends more.

So, Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, just you and me then....

As someone quite rightly pointed out whilst I was chatting today about this silly task I set myself this week;
"Sting eh? Well, you can't slate The Police - proper pop, but Sting...."
Well, he is an easy target isn't he? Hanging around with African tribes and old New York queens, married to that nut bag nympho and practicing Tantric cobblers, it is really easy to pick on Newcastle's second most successful export.

The Police were great. No lies there, but they did the power trio thing a bit too much. They started as a punk band but found they actually had a bit of talent and could write these rather catchy pop chunes. Unfortunately our old friend cocaine turned up and transformed them into morons. Now the problem with hard drugs is that the effects last a really long time. Years.  Decades even. You believe your own crap and that you are some sort of god and everybody needs to share in your wisdom....

What in all that is holy is he on about?
He did have a sense of humour once though....

This track comes from the "Brand New Day" 1999 solo album - probably his most successful. I certainly thought Desert Rose was pretty darn good. This however, not so hot....

Why not?
It's probably me, but it's just a bit bland. Just a bit too much like other people. You could easily see any of the following performing it easily; Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Sheryl Crow, the list could go on. Where is the individuality? Where is the zip? A bit jazzy, a bit country, all pop.

There is a nice bit of a break halfway through when he grabs a passing gospel choir to sing the chorus lines, but he doesn't let them off the leash, ending in a double timed ending and some pointless noodling. Which sounds a bit like Phish on an off day. A standard pop song.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but I like music that makes me think - perhaps it tries me a bit, I have to stretch my taste pallet a little further than usual to understand whats going on. Music on the edge. People use the phrase "X-Factor" but old company boy Simon Cowell has reduced it's meaning to plain "popularity".

It used to mean something special, something different, something that nobody else was doing. Perhaps lyrically, maybe musically - as Steve Vai once tried to explain Zappa's guitar playing "Well, it's plain old bluesy pentatonic scales there, but just with an extra dash of Tabasco hot sauce".
That's what excites me and it doesn't neccesarily need to be complicated.

Listen to the Nick Cave track way below on the list.  That chune is astonishing. But it's an old nursery rhyme with 3 chords - what's so great about that? The delivery, the menace hidden in his voice - his x-factor.  He has added something in that adds to the song something that it wouldn't have been without it.
This song, to me, doesn't have it. His voice is great, his work with the Police is great, one of the tracks on this album is really good, but not this one.

In order to get a little balance Sting met and played with Zappa in 88. Yes, really.  They had just finished a version of the jazz standard "Stolen Moments" and "Mr" Sting sang one of his older chunes on top of it. A talented individual indeed.


Additions from the following day:

Emma emailed me the next day with this;

"The lyrics are just funny though- in the same sense of Jerry Springer being escapism. It isnt meant to be good music ad more than Jerry Springer is meant to be a talk show!"

I'm rather reticent to back down, but if you can't change your own mind, you can't change anything .  I posted back this:

"That's what is so great about music and art in general. It's open to the interpreter so much.
It's that I have found an art form that I think I know a lot about, and it is strange that sometimes it is not the song (or 'chune') itself that I am looking at, being moved by, but what it represents to me. Does it stir a memory? What was the history of this recording? Is there something special about the people involved?

Odd isn't it?
Perhaps that is why I like Pollock so much as a painter - it is all (about the viewers) interpretation"

And that is the essence of trying to write about music.  As a writer you have to be passionate, you have to involve yourself and the reader has to understand that it is all someone elses opinion - and that is all. If I listen to this another day, in another country, in another mood, my opinion of it, through my own interpretation will be different. Just look at the bit I wrote on "A Kind of Magic" - I admit, freely, that the song is crap, but it was the environment surrounding me at the time that shaped my opinion of it, and all the successive years and experiences that have changed that.

So when you read about music and the author states something  is 'good' or 'bad', stop and remember two things.
Firstly if they didn't state whether they like it or not, the text is not worth reading - throw it away. Writing without opinion or passion exists already.  It's called a maths text book, and nobody wants to read that.
Secondly, remember their opinion can be based on millions of environmental factors throughout their life. The most important factor in forming their opinion is probably whether they had a good breakfast that morning.  

As a final thought, a wiser person than me (probably FZ) once wrote;
"Writing about music is like dancing for arcitechture"
To which Laurie Anderson wonderfully replied;
"...but what about a square dance?"

21 March 2011

Request - Flying Pickets - Only You

A time of understated single covers..

Well, I've got bored by doing my music, so I asked for requests..... what a mug.

This is the first choice from Mr. Matt Green. And probably my favourite of the nominated tracks so far....

Why my favourite? Simple, pure, honest.
There was a bunch of accapello groups around in the eighties - recording instruments wasn't as cheap and easy as now, and even in my school days you were taught to sing.  The Flying Pickets had a couple of hits, but this cover of Yazoo's "Only You" was their big one.  Good old Vince Clarke. Depeche Mode, Yazoo and Erasure. Bit of a one man British pop industry....

Made up of ex-miners and jobbing actors, it must have been a shock to have found out that the Iron Lady herself liked the music.  A kiss of death for any band, but for ex-miners, it must have really stung.

What is the greatest thing about this?
The beautiful clear voices and minimal arrangement?
The great 80's suits?
The song itself - full of melancholy and longing regret?

Nope.  Its the lead singers side burns.
Bloody Classic.

Brian Hibbard (for it is he) sported these big old bugger grips, not just for the 80's but his entire life. Hibbard is a comic actor in Welsh Wales and has had some really great roles - most memorably in Twin Town...

None of his great singing I can find on YouTube , but rest assured apart from getting his end away with the gangsters daughter, he really does perform song-wise as the kareoke king and his comic delivery should be used as a blueprint for talentless twits (Mr Macintire?) who call themselves comedians.

How else ccould he get himself on the Armando Ianucci shows as Ike Turner? Skip to 6 mins 43 seconds.

It just goes to show, if you have a talent for what you thought was one thing, you may be surprised by the number of different talents you do have.  It won't stop you being typecast as a singing welshman, but it will pay the bills when your 80s one hit wonders go away....

20 March 2011

Mozart - Opening Overture to Don Giovanni

Couple of days late with both of the last two thanks to alcohol and relatives (pro-tip - always keep them seperate) However Wolfie sets us up  a treat...

Holy crapola. Now THAT is how to start a work of music. Huge great clashing chords to open your ears, softly played lines setting scenes and characters, from the playful violins to the clashing horns.
I would be a liar to say I had liked his work from youth, but it just was not available to me.  My first pocket radio ran out of battery power the same day I got it after listening to radio 3 all night, so it may have been.  But I would not know.

How did I come across it?

I went through a period of going to "The Directors Chair" every Wednesday night at the local cinema, and one night they were showing 'Amadeus'. Now listening to music on headphones or home speakers is all well and good, but hearing this bugger at top quality on a 5.1 sound system at top volume nearly moved me to tears. 

Here is the scene in the film when we first hear Don Giovanni's opening.

So - what's it all about?
"Don Giovanni, a young, arrogant, sexually prolific nobleman, abuses and outrages everyone else in the cast, until he encounters something he cannot kill, beat up, dodge, or outwit."

Is it as the film suggests, the ghost of his father? Probably not.
Is Giovanni Mozart? Probably not.
It doesn't stop Amadeus being a stupendous film and Don Giovanni being in my opinion the greatest of Operas. Buy it, listen to it, love it.

Lou Reed - Perfect Day

Another artist known as "The poet of New York" and probably his most popular work....

Lou Reed was the 'leader' of the Art/punk/pretentious arses called the Velvet Underground - basically the in-house band of Andy Warhol. Think of them as a bit like the Sex Pistols, but with musical talent and a songwriter who, I honestly think has a far too high opinion of himself.  Yes, his lyrics are better than most - there is no "Doo Doo Doo, I love you" crap here, but it isn't poetry either.

Reeds second solo album after breaking with the Velvet Underground also included "Walk on the Wildside", and the growing popularity of this made it possible for him to drop Wildside from his set list. How does this fit in with the whole Eno/Bowie/Pop trifecta of the era? Think of Reed as the cousin in the relationship.  Bowie and Mick Ronson produced this album, with Rono arranging the melodic strings.

In popular modern culture, the first you may have come across it is from Trainspotting, above.  However the one below is a bloody travesty. 

An advert for the BBC.  I was pretty sickened by using cult music for advertising on a public service broadcaster, using as many self-serving music monkeys as possible.  What made it even worse, is my Dad liked it so much he asked me to find him a copy.  He was happy when he got it, but was upset when I explained to him the apparent meaning behind the lyrics, an ode to Heroin addiction.

A continual miserable bugger, he did write some good chunes and lets face it, can't really sing.
Just say no, kids.

16 March 2011

David Bowie - Telling Lies

Ah, some Bowie at long last. Although not from what most consider his classic period. This track is from the second album of his 90s re-emergence - Earthling.

The first album of this trilogy - Outside concentrated on copying and expanding upon 'Industrial' metal / rockk along thhe llines of NIN and the like, wheras Earthling clearly was inspired by Drum n Bass. You don't hear much DnB nowadays - it probably goes under a different title.  Jungle beats and the like, although I loved them and own most of the Moving Shadow back catalogue always sounded a bit like somebody had put "Bossa nova" as a pre-program on a drum machine and sped it up.  Much of it was a lot more creative, but when Bowie co-opted it into his sound, it didn't really.  Just listen to the Prodigy - Rough in the Jungle...

Five whole years earlier and a lot more inventive.

Bowie, for all his theft of musical genres, did write some amazing tunes throughout his career. Including parts of this album.  Surrounding himself with excellent musicians like Reeves Gabriels and producers such as Mr Eno, he really couldn't muck up too badly. 

The track was the first released on the internet by a major artist.  Did I buy it? Did I heck, in 1997, with a 56k modem it would have taken hours to download. Two different remixes - one by A Guy Called Gerald and another by Adam F.  As I stated before, surround yourself with good people. I just wonder how many people realised that Adam F (The DnB producer) is actually Alvin Stardusts son.  How close was Bowie to his Dad back in the day?

I just remember feeling a little let down after "Outside" that this hadn't been an expansion of what he had hinted at there, but was just 'the next hip style' he had read about in NME the previous week.

15 March 2011

Orbital - The Box (Full length version)

Back to the 90s with probably the Brothers Hartnolls most expansive work.

Now the full length version runs at about 30 minutes so the above track is what is commonly known as "Untitled Part 1". Great atmospherics of rope straining against the mast of a ship. There are tons of versions of it out there - I think I even own all 3 CD singles of it.... This can be considered the "introduction" at over 7 minutes long.
You see, bands like Orbital and The Orb (no relation) actually changed the way the chart was compiled and in doing so probably cast the first seeds of it's eventual downfall.
Orbital used to release 3 CD singles (and 12" discs for the fake DJs out there) of each release, with dramatically different sounding songs on each. The chart boys didn't like this and only allowed 2 CD singles, with a maximum of 3 or 4 tracks on each one - and of a set length, something under 10 minutes. I own a fantastic "Fools Gold" remix CD with 10 different mixes on it. The Orb ruined the length thing for everyone by releasing their single "Blue Room" - which lasts 39 minutes and 58 seconds - officially the longest single in history. Nice. They even turned up on TOTP to 'perform' it, but instead sat down and played chess....
However, back to Orbital's 'The Box' - the version that all the clubbers and popular people know is below - with a video!

The 'real' Part 1. This was then followed by Part 2;

Try forwarding to about 5 minutes in.
On top of that the version I heard not only had the above 3 tracks, but also this "Untitled Part 2"

And this Vocal mix:

And "Untitled Part 3"

Heavens above.  So much to listen to and take in. So what was going on? A bit of a piss take? A bit of "Let's release everything, some mug will buy it?"
I expect so, but I always felt that Orbital were a little brighter and more musically educated than say, Josh Winx.

If you listen to classical music, one of the most interesting areas is "Variations", quite popular in the Baroque period. Themes would be re-used and expanded upon, different melodies stressed, time signatures changed and pieces re-ordered.  Very early remixing, it seems to me.

In modern times, Brian Eno explored this on the "Discreet Music" album, taking Pachelbels Canon in D Major and producing 3 variations on it with the Cockpit Ensemble. Also, for shame, Andrew Lloyd Webber (for it is that useless goldfish faced twat) released a popular album in the 70s called "Variations" doing a similar thing.  Although all he did was 'pop/rock/funk" up classical music to make it palletable for the public.

Orbital used this idea to expand The Box into a monolithic piece, covering harpsicord, bagpipes, ambient domains, dance (by doubling the time signature) and creating what I still consider to be a musical cross-cultural masterpiece.

After this they sort of fell down creativity-wise, but left quite a few classics which set up the horrifically named genre IDM - Intelligent Dance Music.

Rare as rocking horse poop, and worth every penny you pay to get hold of.

14 March 2011

ELO - 10538 Overture

A bit of class.  The only band (according to Les Bell) that you can add the title "The Mighty" infront of and it sounds like it fits. "The Mighty" Electric Light Orchestra.

Now, you can take the piss as much as you like, but when I was growing up, there was literally 4 albums in the house.  That was it. Four. So I listened to them endlessly for years. One of them was ELOs "Out of the Blue" with a big picture of a flying saucer on the front.  I loved it.

This, however isn't from that album, but was from the first recording by the brum group.  The lineup at the time originally included Roy Wood (the white haired weirdo on the cello).  Yes, that Roy Wood of "I wish it could be Christmas every day" horror. Along with Jeff Lynne and Bev Bevan. Three incredibly accomplished musicians all in the same band. Now, what usually happens when that occurs in infighting, acrimony and failure. Roy saw that all coming and scarpered to do his own projects before it all went wrong.  Fair play.

Now it started off as a simple little guitar piece probably a bit like the version below from a tribute album, but Roy Wood, being Roy Wood decided to overdub a bunch of cellos over the top.  He got into the studio one night and did what anybody who had listened to too much Beatles and Hendrix would do when faced with a huge multi track recording desk would do.  He seemingly filled all the remaining tracks with as he said; "Hendrix chords on a cello I picked up that day". What a tit.

Now that is probably quite close to what Jeff Lynne had originally written, but it has to be said, the full majesty of 20 cellos going for it does sound great. To our modern ears, the song structure is probably to complex, the double-tracked vocals too high pitched and the strings do sound a little bit too much like the Beatles. What can't be denied is that "The Mighty ELO" did inspire many other musicians and great tunes.
"Really Geej? This 70's MOR, uncool, dad-rock crapola inspired something good?"
Well, all you cool kids like Paul Weller don't you?  I don't, apart from "Uh huh, Oh Yeah"....

It seems that Mr Modfather listened to cheesey old musical monoliths like ELO too.....
I bet that tight git never paid a penny in royalties either.....

11 March 2011

RSS Feed now active and working

I don't really like websites with the following:
Facebook links
Twitter links
Any form of social networking cobblers

So I don't have them.
I don't even host this, it's on Blogger (a Google company) pretty simple to set up and run, without needing to use HTML at all. If you can type, you can make one for free.

However, I do use RSS feeds.These are a simple way to see when websites update.  So, along with comments being available without signing up to God knows what, I have an RSS feed at the bottom of the page.

It just says Subscribe to Posts (Atom), and you can see when I do write anything.
For simplicity it is also here.

Lilys - A Nanny in Manhattan

What a pleasant way to end the week. Another 90s pop song.

Yes it was used on a Levis advert, like anything mildly catchy during that decade.
Their image was pure 60's with the terible bowl haircuts and music to match. Their drummer even took to wearing a Micheal Nesbit hat... Trying to be the Monkeys, were they?

Well, no, but yes. You see, Lilys were a real band, that played real songs, and are still enjoying a relatively long and enjoyable career, with a dedicated fanbase, but never really lost the stigma of this song or the image from the video.
This whole era of overpromoted one-hit wonders really did spell the end of an era of musical naivety - Babylon Zoo, Stiltskin and Freakpower anyone?

You see there are four options for a young band offered money by a big brand.
1. Take the money, it's only for one track, promote the crap out of it, and try and make it afterwards
2. Say No
3. Take the money, don't promote the track, pretend it wasn't your best one and carry on.
4. Take the money, break up the band, reform under a different name.

Options 1 and 3 have the same end game - you fail.
Nobody has tried option 4.  I know, I'm a genius.
Option 2, I know Aphex Twin did for years, got a following then sold his music to everyone (except private healthcare companies) and made a fortune.

Lilys didn't have a chance....

Just look how much Jack Dohgerty actually despises them for taking the big corporate buck in this clip. Probably because they reminded him that was all he was doing performing his chat show.

If they had waited a few years and released this without Levis they could have made a decent career out of it - hell, they remind me of The Bees. A great pop band with retro sensibilities.

But they didn't. They bit the big kahuna, became corporate whores, and will, unfortunately, for songwriters this inventive (although not original) be forever remembered for this song.