Late Night Stargazing

I’ve been listening to, and loving, Tracey Thorn’s latest record, called, erm…well Record recently.

I first remember hearing Tracey and her frankly incredible voice way back in the mid-80s when she was still part of Everything But The Girl, long before they changed from being a predominantly acoustic duo to being (I hesitate to call them this still, it sounds like a real Dad terminology) a dance act.

This record in fact, which sounds as great today as it did back then:

everything-but-the-girl-each-and-every-one-blanco-y-negro (2)

Everything But The Girl – Each and Every One

More soon.

Saturday Night Coming Up

I’ve mentioned before how, at the time in the late 1980s/early 1990s , when the whole rave/acid scene was properly kicking off, I was largely (willfully) ignorant to it, believing proper music had to have guitars involved somewhere, and that the whole scene was one in which only drug-takers would have an interest.

The thing is, now I’m older, I know that’s plainly not true. And, thinking back, I probably knew it at the time, but hated to be wrong.

And here’s how I know that: my girlfriend at the time was very much into the clubbing scene, but I’m willing to bet never took an E in her life.

Her and her best mate would, every month, go along to Time Flies, at the time quite an underground night; now, over thirty years later (it’s still going), the grand old lady of club nights in Wales.

And how do I know they didn’t indulge in any off-the-menu activities? Well, because they’d come back to ours and go straight to bed and sleep, exhausted from dancing all night, in  a way that I never managed when I went (chemically induced) clubbing years later.

When I finally gave in and started clubbing, I always wanted to let her know that she was right and I was wrong, not a situation I normally ‘fess up to. Our paths crossed for a while, but not after I’d joined the party. She’d have loved knowing; she was right about most things, and she could have gleefully added this to the list.

Maybe if I’d joined in at the time, we’d never have split, and then I wouldn’t be writing this.

Or maybe I’d have dived in headfirst – as I ultimately did – in which case I’d either be dead or a dribbling basket case by now.

Who knows.

What I do know is back then, the signs were there for me. There were a couple of tunes, probably classed as cheesy now, which I loved.

Like this:


Oceanic – Insanity

More soon.


Mention the above phrase, and those wise old sages amongst you will see it as a Pixies reference.

Some may see it as a Nirvana reference, but since Kurt Cobain often cited Pixies as an influence, it’s not unreasonable to assume that when his records did the whole loudQUIETloud thing, as they often did, there was a hat being tipped in their direction.

And no, the emphasis isn’t all wrong in me/us/them referring to loudQUIETloud; the very point of it is that sandwiched between loud sections, the quiet(er) moments stand out for their oasis-like (no, not them) idyllic calm and beauty.

But in 1991 one band took it a step further: quietVERYLOUDINDEEDnomorequietbits.

Step forward The Wedding Present and the first single from the Steve Albini produced Seamonsters album.

It’s hard to communicate quite the impact this made on hearing it for the first time. The lyrical bent is as one had come to expect from Wedding Present stalwart David Gedge, although rather than the protagonist being unloved or dumped as had generally been the case previously, now the subject of the song is one half of an illicit affair.

And musically: well, it starts as a slightly low-key, stripped down sound, in much the same way as Blur would succesfully adapt on their 1997 Blur album. There are no trademark break-neck jangly guitars a la  ‘Shatner’ on display here.

And then.

And then it just fucking explodes into a sheer wall of noise: an angry, seething, frustrated, unfettered, raging wall of sound, the exact opposite of that which Phil Spector tried to do in the 60s, but no less exquisite for it.

If you’re listening to this on your headphones, I recommend you either turn the volume up or down, depending on your proclivities, around the 2:18 mark, because it’s at 2:20 that the fireworks start:


The Wedding Present – Dalliance

Genuis. No other word for it.

More soon.

Ivor Gift for You

Last weekend (or was it the weekend before, I lose track so easily these days) I was at a friend’s 40th birthday. The DJ, a very lovely friend of mine, played Kirsty MacColl’s version of A New England. I was stood at the bar, awaiting service, when I became aware that a couple next to me were singing along to it, with pleasingly appropriate gusto.

It always fills my heart with joy, that. Not just to hear that record, but to witness others loving it as much as I do.

Prepare to have the wind sucked out of your sails.

The guy called to his spouse: “It’s a Billy Bragg song, but I’ve no idea who’s singing this.”

The woman shrugged.

I couldn’t help myself.

“Kirsty MacColl. It’s Kirsty MacColl. Famously, it’s Kirsty MacColl.” I spluttered/interjected.

“Is it?” the chap answered.

I braced myself for the follow-up “What’s she up to now?” question.

But instead, this, from his lady friend:

“He’s due a come-back, isn’t he, old Billy?”

I have rarely had to bite my tongue so hard.

“He’s never gone away….!” was all I could proffer.

And as proof, this week Billy has been given the Outstanding Contribution To British Music at this year’s Ivor Novello Awards.

Billy is a man who has stayed true to his principles whilst never losing the knack for bashing out a truly great tune.

I bloody love Billy.

Here’s one such great tune which features not only the dulcet tones of Ms. MacColl on backing vocals, but also one Johnny Marr, who plays guitar. Obviously.

billy-bragg-greetings-to-the-new-brunette-lineBilly Bragg – Greeting to the New Brunette

And here’s a slightly reworked version, which crops up on his B-Side heavy compilation, Reaching to the Converted (and probably, therefore, on a B-side somewhere, but I can’t be arsed with finding out which one):


Billy Bragg – Shirley

“How can you lie there and think of England when you don’t even know who’s in the team?” What a lyric.

Congrats Billy, this is long overdue.

More soon.

Replenishing the Vinyl

Regular visitors will recall that a few weeks ago, I took ownership of on the responsibility of looking after my brother’s vinyl.

In case you missed it, a brief recap: my brother has been living overseas for the past few years, the majority of his belonging in storage whilst he was away.

Now he’s back, all of his worldy belongings have been retrieved, and since he hasn’t owned a turntable since sometime in the 1990s, he decided he had no use of his vinyl anymore, and that it could go to an appreciative, caring home (i.e. mine.)

He’s quite techy, my brother, so I don’t really envisage him investing in a turn-table anytime soon. I’m not saying his vinyl is now my vinyl but….

The other week, he arrived at my gaff in North London, having driven from our folks house in Northamptonshire, dropped off his vinyl and, to my surprise, his CD collection (which I haven’t even ventured into yet; there’s three crates worth for me to investigate, although a cursory glance picked out a mix CD I’d made him, obviously much appreciated), before we headed off to Staffordshire to his new place, where we dropped off the rest of the stuff he had collected from our parents’, and then it was off to Nottinghamshire to one of those Big Yellow places to collect his tropical fish tanks and an absolute fuck load of gravel.

At the first stop at his new home, one of his new neighbours approached us, proffering a parcel of his which she had signed for. The three of us chatted for a few moments, during which time it came out that he had got rid of his vinyl as part of the move. The neighbour seemed shocked he could let the vinyl go, and we reassured her by telling her I was looking after them.

“Well, at least they’re local if you want them, then,” she said.

“Not really,” I replied, “I live in London.”

Anyway, as no doubt those of you who were aware of my recent receipt of this cache of vinyl loveliness had been expecting, I figured I’d write about some of them. But where to start?

Thumbing through them, I was reminded of both our early obsession with rock music; there’s a lot more Deep Purple than I expected, quite a bit of Led Zeppelin too. Ah,we were all young once.

And then I began to notice the records I remembered him owning but which weren’t there: where were his copies of AC/DC’s Back in Black and For Those About to Rock that I distinctly remember him owning. And his copy of Quo’s 12 Gold Bars? And, considerably less rocky, an album that we’d inexplicably both owned copies of, like (brace yourself) Billy Joel’s An Innocent Man?

And there’s my “in”, I thought. Let’s start off my by looking at the records we had in common.

For there are some, and not just ones which I’ve subsequently bought, which we have in common, and a couple of albums, by the same band, which I don’t remember him owning, but which I definitely did.

That should not be misconstrued as an allegation of theft, by the way.

But very very long term readers may remember that I wrote here about my youthful obsession with the God that is Shakin’ Stevens, and how I grew out of it and into The Police just at the wrong time in terms of Christmas presents being bought.

Weirdly, as we drove north from London to Staffs, our conversation turned to the band in question, as this got played on the radio:


The Police – Spirits in the Material World

It’s a running joke between my brother and I that I’m “in charge of remembering things”. We’re not just talking birthdays and anniversaries, but also people we’ve both known in the past and, on this occasion, that The Police was the first proper gig that he went to. I think he was a little taken aback by the fact that I remembered this.

I remember this not because of The Police, but because of their support band that night (The Alarm), who my brother and his mates came away feeling more excited about than the main act. Shortly afterwards, they all started spiking their hair up, and from there it was but a short step to the World of Goth they all inhabited for the next couple of years (and which he wrote about here), much to the chagrin of the local knuckle-draggers who, when faced with three spikey haired, tight black jeans, flowery shirts and winkle-picker wearing youths, decided that the only thing to do to something new that they didn’t understand was to kick the living shit out of them at every opportunity.

But more of this another time.

A few weeks ago, I featured an album I’d purchased on vinyl shortly before learning I’d be taking ownership of my brother’s stash, and which I suspected would be amongst his collection (it wasn’t). Since I didn’t remember him owning a copy of today’s record, which I’d also recently re-purchased, here’s some other tunes from the same album:

The Police – Every Little Thing She Does is Magic

Look, I know Sting is a twat. But that, my friends, is a fecking great pop song.

The Police – Rehumanize Yourself

The Police – Too Much Information

The Police – Demolition Man

(Yes, we have Sting to blame for a terrible Stallone/Snipes movie!)

The Police – Invisible Sun

And to round things off, a cover of that last tune; I’d like to say this is the one redeeming feature from the worthy but ghastly Peace Together project from the early 1990s, but I’m not sure that even that platitude is accurate:


Therapy? – Invisible Sun

More soon. Maybe something interesting, who can tell?