Claps, Clicks & Whistles #12

Following on from my post on Saturday morning, here’s another jazz number which also just happens to feature in the movie “Baby Driver” that I was banging on about last week, and which is finger-clickingly cool:

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The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Unsquare Dance

I post this merely to point out the film’s soundtrack is diverse, if nothing else.

More soon.

NB – I seem to be having issues connecting to my usual file sharing service, so I’ve resorted back to Zippyshare, so my apologies for any pop-ups which may appear if you try to listen to that.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #11

Back in November, I wrote about my sadly passed friend Tony, and as I came to write this post, I found myself thinking of him again.

See, Tony was one of the most quietly encouraging blokes I ever met, and at some point I must have told him I played guitar. I know this to be true, because I have a much valued photo of him pretending to play my (now also sadly passed) acoustic guitar.

At some point, when there was just the two of us, I must have played it for him, and sung too. And I remember that, because one evening at his house, he sprung on me my first ever gig: gathering a couple of friends and his parents round and insisting that I perform for them the song that I had played for him.

It was the first time I had ever played and sung unaccompanied (by unaccompanied, I mean that I wasn’t just playing along to a record) in front of more than one person and, truth be told, it probably wasn’t the finest solo performance, but it did give me a degree of confidence that hadn’t been there previously.

A year or so later, I was at college, in a band, and DJ’ing. And if I look back now, the latter of those two things would probably never have happened had it not been for Tony’s gentle “Come on mate, I know you can do this” that night as he thrust my guitar into my shaking, clammy hands.

I’m pretty sure that my old mate Richie was one of the unlucky few to witness that performance, and next weekend, on his birthday, Richie and I are hooking up for the first time in a couple of years, to go and see the band responsible for the song I sang in Tony’s front room that night.

I say “band”, but in reality, there’s only one person left from those days back in the late 1980s, but it’s the important one, the main man, the one and only David Gedge.

Next Saturday, we’re off to see The Wedding Present at The Roundhouse perform the whole of their legendary “George Best” album as part of the 30th anniversary of the original release.

The first gig I went to after I left home was The Wedding Present at Cardiff University’s Great Hall. It was a night that confirmed all I had hoped about life was attainable: that I could have a blindingly great night watching one of my favourite bands in the world, and not have to worry about waking my parents up when I went home. Which is pretty much all I’ve ever wanted out of life.

Since then, they’re probably the band that I’ve seen most often (yes, even more than I’ve seen The Quo). I have, quite literally, lost count of how many times it is. Once at Uni I managed to blag, via the student rag, a press ticket to see them at the Newport Centre , promising to write a review of the gig which never materialised.

And they never fail to deliver live: about ten, maybe fifteen, years ago, my friends Hel and Llyr saw them at the Reading Festival (I think, without wishing to sound too modest, because they knew how much I bang on about them, although they will probably say it was because there was nobody else on that they’d wanted to watch instead). Both regularly tell me how awesome they were that day.

I first heard The Wedding Present because of Tony, but it was Richie who, after my brother had piqued my interest by incessantly playing The Jesus & Mary Chain (who I initially hated, but, man, he wore me down), properly got me into indie music. I’ll talk more about that another time, but needless to say, next Saturday is going to be an emotional night for me and Richie; our friendship was forged over a mutual admiration of certain records, and cemented by our shared worldview and political leanings.

And, yeh, I know this sounds a bit naff, but Tony will be with us too.

So anyway, here’s the song I played for Tony et al that night. The opening track from “George Best”, the template for so many Gedge songs since, a story of a failing relationship told in the way that only Gedge can do. With some added, nonchalant, “Me? No, I’m not bothered, honestly” whistling for good measure.

For my money, Gedge is one of the great unsung heroes of British lyricists. Listen to his storytelling skills and try telling me that the likes of, for example, Arctic Monkey’s Alex Turner, doesn’t owe him a huge debt:

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The Wedding Present – Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft

I’ve been listening to the “George Best” album as I wrote this. The next seven days can’t go quick enough, and I suspect next Saturday won’t last long enough.

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #10

This should in no way be seen as part of my ongoing election ranting.

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Muse – Uprising

Unless of course you choose to see this as part of my ongoing election ranting, haven’t registered to vote yet, and decide that you might on the strength of this.

In which case, be my guest, and go here before May 22nd to do what you have to do.

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #9

Time for some more whistling shenanigans, and a tune by the artist you’ve all been expecting me to drop sooner or later.

That’s right: Roger Whittaker.

Just kidding.

Credit to the Nation.

Okay, so perhaps not who you were expecting.

The band came to prominence back in 1992, with their “Smells Like Teen Spirit”-sampling track “Call It What You Want” (which was re-released in 1993 after they signed to One Little Indian Records).

Their debut album, “Take Dis”, was released in 1993; I first encountered them at around the same time, firstly when a guy who was working at the video store in Cardiff when I started there played me some of their stuff, and then also when the aforementioned “Call It What You Want” appeared on a compilation album of NME Singles of The Week I bought.

Today’s track was their biggest UK hit, a dig at other pop stars who elected not to use their position of power and influence to actually say anything of any importance and maybe, just maybe, make a difference (I’m looking at you Sheeran. Actually, I take that back; I’m not sure I want someone who hangs out with James Blunt and Princess Beatrice to issue a call to arms to the youth of today).

It also has the dubious distinction of being one of three rap/hip hop songs (or a song featuring a rap section) which, when I’ve had a few, I’m convinced I can pull off.

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Credit to the Nation – Teenage Sensation

More soon.

What? The other two songs….? Well, one is Mr C’s rap from The Shamen’s “Move Any Mountain”. And the other….the other will feature on these pages very soon indeed.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #7

So far in this series, we’ve had songs which feature hand-claps, songs which feature whistling, but none that feature both hand-claps and whistling.

Until today.

You will let me know if the excitement gets too much for you, won’t you?

The Struts are a band from Derby, who make music which has, quite accurately in my opinion, been described as “unabashedly over the top retro-fetishist classic rock”.

Certainly, listening to their debut album, 2014’s somewhat arrogantly titled “Everybody Wants”, you do find yourself noting similarities with the aforementioned classic rock songs.

Take today’s tune for example: is it just me, or does the melody of the verse bear more than just a passing resemblance to “Waterloo Sunset”…?

In September 2015, USA Today named them “Band on the Verge”, which either means that they were tipping them for big things, or that their tour bus had broken down by the side of the road.

Anyway, on the verge is where they’ve stayed, despite – or perhaps because of – opening for Guns’n’Roses in August 2016. They’ve also opened for The Rolling Stones, which is perhaps unsurprising since lead singer Luke Stiller has been described as “the musical love child of Freddie Mercury and Mick Jagger”.

Sure, there’s nothing new or ground-breaking going on here, but don’t let the generic rock/pop-ness of The Struts put you off; they are a lot of fun.

And at the very least, you can while away a few moments spotting their influences, which apparently include Queen, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Def Leppard, The Smiths, Oasis, The Strokes, The Libertines and My Chemical Romance. Maybe they should add some more to that list to help them get off that verge. If it really does refer to a broken down tour bus (which it doesn’t, but I’m going to see this gag through to the end whether you like it or not), Mike & the Mechanics might be an idea.

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The Struts – She Makes Me Feel

Just to be clear, I would never recommend any band should try to sound like Mike & The Mechanics. Except post-Thotch Brian Pern, of course.

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #6

Just as I was heading to bed the other night, I performed my obligatory sweep of the TV channels to see if there was anything worth staying up for; I stumbled across “A Taste of Honey”, the film adaptation of Shelagh Delaney’s play, starring Rita Tushingham and Dora Bryant. I wisely decided staying up to watch it all was not a good idea, so hit record closely followed by the sack.

As I drifted off into sleepy bye byes, at that annoying moment when your body is all ready to drift off but your brain suddenly thinks of something liable to keep you awake for some considerable time if not dealt with properly, I recalled that Delaney had featured as the cover star of a single by a band I adore. In fact, she also featured on the sleeve of an imported double compilation album by them too.

I would expect approximately 99.9% of you will know where I’m going with this already. The other 00.1%, listen up.

Today’s song formed part of a release which, it seems, led to the end of one of the greatest bands not just of the 1980s, but ever; a band whose legacy as an influence was not really appreciated by many until some 10-15 years after they split.

I speak, of course, of The Smiths.

August 1987, and The Smiths were about to release what would be their last album of original, studio-recorded material, “Strangeways, Here We Come”. But first, the lead single, “Girlfriend in a Coma”; the 12″ and, lest we forget, the cass-single formats heralded two tracks which were not to be included on the album.

The three tracks, “Girlfriend…”, “I Keep Mine Hidden” and “Work is a Four Letter Word” almost seem to compete against each other to see which can be over quickest, weighing in with timings of 2:04, 1:59 and 2:48 respectively. I don’t mean that they seem rushed, far from it. They just seem, well, short.

Brevity of course was a feature the band understood very well. Take “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” which is just 1:53 long. That song is, simply, perfection. Anyone who thinks that “Please, Please…” suffers because of its duration fails to understand that the finest moments in life don’t last for long; you must cherish them, savour them, for soon they will be gone.

But I digress. One of those extra tracks, “Work is a Four Letter Word”, is often cited as being the reason The Smiths split. In an interview with Record Collector in 1992, Johnny Marr said: “‘Work Is A Four Letter Word’ I hated. That was the last straw, really. I didn’t form a group to perform Cilla Black songs. That was it, really.”

The final two singles the band released (“I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” and “Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”)  soon followed, and it has just occurred to me that the additional tracks on those releases were all different versions of already established favourites: the Troy Tate produced version of “Pretty Girls Make Graves”, Peel Sessions of “Rusholme Ruffians”, “Nowhere Fast” and “William, It Was Really Nothing”, a live version of “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” (containing an extra verse, axed from the album version) , a live cover of “What’s The World”, a song by James.

That’s because, I now realise, “Work is a Four Letter Word” was recorded in the same session as “I Keep Mine Hidden” and as such today’s choice is the last ever original composition recorded by The Smiths:

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The Smiths – I Keep Mine Hidden

The same 99.9% of you will know that the original vinyl releases of all (or if not all, most) of The Smiths records had a message etched into the run-out groove. The message on the B-Side of “Girlfriend in a Coma” reads: “And never more shall be so”.

In other words: Goodbye.

More soon.

Claps, Clicks & Whistles #5

Blimey, where does the time go? Has it really been three weeks since I wrote one of these?

We’re back in Sweden this week for some more polished indie-pop, a tune that certainly fits the remit of this thread, featuring incessant handclaps from pretty much the very first moment to the last.

In 1992, Acid House Kings set out on a 10 year plan: to produce a trilogy of albums with one album released exactly every 5th year. Each album was to be filled with catchy guitar pop songs but with new themes and a growing maturity from album to album. The first album in trilogy was the twee “Pop, Look & Listen”, which was heavily inspired by the kind of bands you’d find on labels like Sarah, Subway and Heaven.

1997’s “Advantage Acid House Kings” saw the band attempt to create catchy pop in the mould of The Smiths,  whilst third album, 2002’s “Mondays Are Like Tuesdays and Tuesdays Are Like Wednesdays” contains such wonderful titles as “Brown and Beige Are My Favourite Colours”, a fact which is rather self-evident from the picture below, where they look like a Val Doonican tribute act as imagined by IKEA.

Today’s track, though, comes from their fourth album, “Sing Along with…” and I’d probably say that Belle & Sebastian or Camera Obscura would be fairly accurate reference points, if a little unfair given that Acid House Kings were around before either of them. The Grauniad review of the album describes their sound as one which “lingers on the schmindier side of indie”, which I suspect was meant as a bit of an insult, but which is a description that’s absolutely fine by me.

Go on, give your ears a cheery treat and have a listen:

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Acid House Kings – Do What You Wanna Do

More soon. Probably by them, in this thread.