(Un)Happy Birthday

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I bought a jacket like that when I was at college.

For this, and many other fashion faux-pas for which you were responsible (I can never return to that florist), Happy Birthday Steven Patrick.

Oh, and the songs. Best not forget the songs.

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Morrissey – Will Never Marry

Now please stop saying how much you like UKIP, will you? Such a silly boy…

More soon.

 

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Just Dandy

So The Dandy Warhols were not just good last night, they were astoundingly good. The sort of gig you come away from kicking yourself for not knowing more of their songs so you could have enjoyed it even more.

Other than that, just one downside: Electric Ballroom, if you’re going to insist a set is finished by 10pm on¬†a Saturday night(!!), how about advertising “on stage” times, so¬†the ticket buying public don’t turn up at 8:20pm and find the act they’ve paid to see¬†already on stage? We’d have happily turned up earlier and spent our money buying your beer rather than that of a local pub if we’d known.

In other words, we missed the start, and without checking songlist.fm, I have no idea whether they played “Get Off” or not.

Which I just have. Bugger. Stroppy Tweet sent to the venue.

Highlights? Plenty of them.

From Courtney Taylor’s solo rendition of “Everyday Should be a Holiday” which prompted the best crowd singing I’ve heard since watching Evan Dando soldier on to play¬†an acoustic version of “Big Gay Heart” after the sound system conked out mid-gig at the Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, through a boisterous rendition of “Bohemian Like You” via¬†awesome takes on “I Love You” and “We Used To Be Friends”.

But for my money the show-stopper was this, which I’ve posted before, but it’s so good¬†I make no apologies for giving it a much deserved second airing:

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The Dandy Warhols – Godless

There was no brass section with the band last night; instead the trumpet line was provided by the drummer – and the crowd – “parp-parp-parp”ing along in full voice.

Just glorious.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

In many ways, the story of Townes Van Zandt is your¬†archetypal story of a country singer: critically acclaimed but commercially¬†unappreciated during his own life-time, battling with¬†the 3-D¬†demons (drink, drugs, depression), of near misses and “What If…?”s.

Born in 1944, he was inspired by seeing Elvis Presley’s appearance on The Ed Sullivan show in 1956, and got¬†his first guitar for Christmas the same year. Years later, he¬†told an interviewer “I just thought that Elvis had all the money in the world, all the Cadillacs¬†and all the girls, and all he did was play the guitar and sing. That made a big impression on me.”

An above average student, he won a place at the University of Colarado at Boulder in 1962, but a year later his parents had to stage an intervention due to his binge drinking and episodes of depression. He was diagnosed with manic depression and was given a three month course of Insulin Shock Therapy (a form of psychiatric treatment where patients are repeatedly injected with large doses of insulin in order to induce daily comas over several weeks) which wiped his long-term memory.

By 1968, he had moved to Nashville and won himself a record contract, and became a prolific recording artist, releasing six albums by 1973 – none of which were successful – but he¬†did¬†earn himself¬†a¬†¬†small and devoted fanbase, amongst which was one Bob Dylan. Dylan¬†repeatedly asked Van Zandt to write with him. Van Zandt, though, didn’t care for Dylan’s fame and celebrity – he had forgotten why he admired Elvis, it seems –¬†and repeatedly declined the invitations.

He had a prominent role in “Heartworn Highways”, a documentary looking at¬†folk and country music singer-songwriters, which was filmed at the end of 1975/start of 1976. But his prominent role¬†was filmed at his run-down trailer home and showed him drinking straight whiskey at noon (he was a full blown alcoholic/all round addict¬†by now) and playing around with guns. The film didn’t¬†get theatrically released until 1981.

His recording career was effectively over by then; he released nothing from 1979 until 1987.

Some brief chances of redemption arose in the late 1980s/early 1990s; he finally met Dylan, but instead of writing with him, he played some songs for him. And in 1990, he toured with and opened for The Cowboy Junkies, which exposed his music to a whole new generation of audience.

He married three times,¬†and around 1993 he and¬†his¬†third wife, Jeanene,¬†separated, but not before she persuaded him to ¬†sign over the publishing rights of his entire back catalogue and recording royalties to her and their children. Townes’s only source of income after this¬†was money received from concerts, and often he would visit Jeanene and the kids straight after the gig and empty his pockets out for them.

They divorced a year later, at which point all of his worldly possessions amounted to a car, a motorcycle and a 22 foot boat.

He had been fortunate to get to 1993 with his legacy intact though: he struggled with is addiction to alcohol and drugs throughout his adult life, often performing so drunk that he forgot the words to his songs. At one point, his heroin habit was so intense that he offered the publishing rights to all of the songs on each of his first four albums to Kevin Eggers, his manager, for $20.00. At various points, his friends saw him shoot up not just heroin, but also cocaine, vodka, and a rum and Coke. By 1982, he was drinking a pint of vodka a day.

Mid-December 1996, and the end was nigh. He fractured his hip following a fall down some concrete stairs, but¬†refused medical treatment for several days before finally acquiescing, undergoing surgery several days later on December 31st. Doctors wanted to keep Van Zandt in hospital to recuperate and detoxify, but Jeanene – with whom he had stayed close – insisted that one of Townes’ previous rehab doctors had told her detoxing could kill him.¬†Against the advice of the doctors, she discharged him from hospital the same day. They had not even got to her car when he started experience withdrawal symptoms: her solution was to give him a flask of vodka.

He died in the early hours of January 1st 1997, his death sparking a legal battle between his Jeanene and Eggers, after the latter released fourteen albums of both new and previously unreleased material by the singer, all without consent of his estate, and claimed 50% ownership of 80 of his songs.

Cheerful, eh?

But it’s not all bleak. Before his death, his songs had been¬†covered by the likes of Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Merle Haggard. Steve Earle considered him his mentor and once pronounced him “the best songwriter in the whole world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that”.

Since his death, he has been cited as an influence and an inspiration not just by Dylan, Earle, Nelson, Haggard and Harris, but by artists like Neil Young, Lyle Lovett, Nancy Griffiths, Devendra Banhart, Norah Jones, Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Caleb Followill (Kings of Leon), Laura Marling, Stuart A. Staples (Tindersticks), Evan Dando and Frank Turner.

Since he died, his songs have featured in films like “In Bruges”, “Crazy Heart”, “Cavalry”, “Leaves of Grass”, and “Seven Psychopaths” and in TV shows such as “Breaking Bad”, “Deadwood”, “Six Feet Under” and “True Detective”. In 2004 “Be Here To Love Me”,¬†a film chronicling his life and musical career was released to critical acclaim – so he must have been doing something right.

Find out for yourself:

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Townes Van Zandt – I’ll Be Here In The Morning

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

One of the things I love about doing this blog, is that every now and again someone sends me a message saying something along the lines of “That reminds me of…” or “Well, if you like that, then you’ll love this…”

Such is the case with tonight’s post.

Until I had a message from my mate Cath, I’d never heard of Bill Callahan, although I had heard of, but not anything by, Smog, the name he often records under.

So, anyway, some time ago, Cath got in touch and asked me if I knew tonight’s tune; I confessed I didn’t, so I checked it out and she was right, it’s rather fine. Perfect for late night jiggery-pokery.

From his 2007 “Woke on a Whaleheart” album, have a listen to this:

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Bill Callahan – Diamond Dancer

Cath: although you can’t see me (you did take that webcam out of my bathroom, right??), I’m raising a glass to you for that one. Cheers!

More soon.

And finally…

…I’m off to see The Dandy Warhols play at the Electric Ballroom in Camden tonight, so this is the last post for today.

I’m hoping they play this, one of my favourite tracks from their most commercially successful album, “Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia”, which is mostly over-looked due to the massive success of “Bohemian Like You”:

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The Dandy Warhols – Get Off

Say hi if you see me there. I’ll be the one who looks way too old and uncool to be there. Should narrow it down a bit.

More soon.

How To Do A Cover Version

Continuing the theme, and a further attempt to prove¬†that I don’t just throw this stuff together (although, to be honest, that’s pretty much exactly what I do), here’s some covers of Kate Bush songs that I think are pretty good.

Still, none as good as the originals, of course, but pretty good nonetheless.

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way:

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The Futureheads – Hounds Of Love

When I saw them on the NME Tour I mentioned in my last post, they played this, and split the crowd into two, encouraging each half to sing-a-long with a different backing vocal part (most evident at the very start of their version), in a pantomime audience style. Great fun.

Compare and contrast with the original:

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Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love

Next up, a¬†cover which I have no idea how I have come to own, partly since it’s by a Romanian-German singer/songwriter (not a pool of music in which I usually paddle), but mostly because the missing “i” from her name really irks me.

I quite like this though, in a kinda sub-Lily Allen/Mark Ronson kinda way:

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Miss Platnum – Babooshka

Here’s the original, and I think Kate had got new art directors in for her single sleeves post-“The Man With The Child in His Eyes”:

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Kate Bush – Babooshka

Last, but by no means least, lifted from his “Distraction Pieces” album,¬†and performed by the reliably brilliant Scroobius Pip, sans regular collaborator Dan Le Sac, but avec Natasha Fox, of whom I know nothing:

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Scroobius Pip feat. Natasha Fox – Feel It

And, here’s the original, from Kate Bush’s debut album:

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Kate Bush – Feel It

Let me round things off¬†by pointing you in the direction of the Blogroll list on the left, and particularly to the link to a blog with the same name as those last two tunes. Written by Darcy, it’s a great blog crammed with predominantly soul and disco tunes, the majority of which are (great, and) new to these old ears. Darcy’s gone a bit quiet recently, so hopefully a few more visitors might spark him back into life again.

More soon.

Which Reminds Me…

…my dislike of Hue and Cry singer Pat Kane’s butchering of “The Man With the Child in His Eyes”, specifically the na-na-na-na-na’s, reminded me of this:

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Kaiser Chiefs – Na Na Na Na Naa

I mentioned some time ago that I first saw Kaiser Chiefs on the 2005 NME Awards Tour where they were bottom of the bill, below Bloc Party, The Futureheads, and The Killers.

Until that night I’d been totally unimpressed by everything I’d heard from them. But that night they completely blew me away, kicking their set off with a blistering rendition of  this, and managed to utterly upstage all the acts that came after them.

That is all.

More soon.