Idling through Twitter (as I sometimes do) I recently discovered that current pop stars are not as famous as they appear to think they are. Ellie Goulding was featured this week on a BBC online news post saying how ‘unprepared’ she was for fame but, interestingly, most of the comments were along the lines of ‘sorry, who is she?’ This despite rather significant chart success. Something similar happened with The 1975 recently when they proclaimed that they would only play gender-balanced festivals. Despite a couple of number one albums and Brit awards hardly anyone appeared to have heard of them. When I was a kid even my Dad (who cared not a jot about music of any sort) had heard of T.Rex and Slade. Now it seems that pop stars are fairly niche. What caused this? Was it the internet? Personally I think it eroded the mystique. But then it could also be the fact that ‘Top of the Pops’ is no longer viewed by different generations and that the prime medium for music now is the intensely private (and ubiquitous) headphone.
Most rock stars spout rubbish about politics or drugs or spiritual enlightenment at some point in their careers and most of them are ultimately forgiven and awarded knighthoods. Except for Morrissey of course. We forgave Bowie and Clapton for their naive right-wing dalliances this guy is still out in the wilderness. This tune though is probably one of the best things we’re likely to hear in the early part of 2020. Hell, maybe for most of it. It’s bonkers. The man’s a borderline genius and still easily and effortlessly the finest pop lyricist since Dylan.
I quite like his new direction…
Before he becomes totally irrelevant thanks to his recent right-wingnut behavior – here's an exclusive listen to the secret Irish Folk album by Morrissey, sent exclusively to the Ulster Fry.
Posted by The Ulster Fry on Wednesday, 13 November 2019
It’s the Beatles obviously.
But the Double Deckers come a close second…
Cripes. It seems that all my heroes are landing themselves in hot water due to their big mouths striking again.
Loads of people my age (i.e. around thirteen at the time of ‘Metal Guru’) love to bore the current crop of spotty Spotify slaves that guitar-based pop and rock music was somehow *better* twenty or thirty years ago but you know what? We’re right. Certainly in terms of the traditional template of drums, bass, guitar and vocal (with occasional embellishment by keyboard and/or sax) it would surely seem pretty obvious to even the most casual observer that everything that could possibly be written and/or sung about has been done already during a period when it was being done for the first time and when a distorted electric guitar was almost as astounding as an alien landing and an unsmiling band photo seemed as dangerous as the French Revolution.
Nothing much lasts forever though and guitar-based rock, just like trad jazz or bebop, had a life-span (quite a good innings actually compared to some others). Nobody is saying ‘don’t bother’. None of us are thinking that new guitar bands are wasting their time if they’re having a good time and bringing good times to others. It’s just that the same old shapes and chords and haircuts and clothes have become, » Continue Reading.
It’s that time of year when the BBC and others issue their ‘acts to watch out for in 2019’ but I was just wondering what does that *mean* anymore?
I suppose it used to be relatively simple. One hit and an appearance on TOTP or Ed Sullivan propelled a band or artist into the stratosphere. Now it’s changed. No one bothers with the charts. There is no pop telly to speak of (and ‘der kids’ probably wouldn’t be watching anyway). There are still successful acts out there but music is more fragmented than ever and bands or singers that many of us have never heard of can easily fill the Albert Hall without ever getting ‘a hit’ or registering with the broad sweep of the public in the same way as, say, T. Rex or Bowie once did. I keep thinking of Hepworth’s phrase- ‘it’s never been easier to play the game, but it’s never been more difficult to win’. By that I’m guessing he means that it’s never been easier for young artists to get airplay and exposure on places like the BBC but it’s never been harder to get beyond that box-ticking corporate support thingy and be » Continue Reading.
I’ve become a big fan. I’ve always been aware of it of course. It was there between the gaps of albums. Or in the library at school. Or during the awkward trips in the car with my dad. But it was almost always something to be obliterated and shattered- usually by music. At any opportunity I would fill this offending silence with whatever music came to hand- be it The Ramones or Laura Nyro. And that’s the way it was for years.
But now I have discovered that I actually prefer the gaps. I used to be on conversational terms with the noted historian Dr John Davies and, at times, I would enthuse about a new band or artist I’d recently discovered for myself and I would attempt to persuade him to investigate. I still remember his words- “ah, but is it better than silence?”
These days, in a house stocked to the brim with records and CDs, I find myself often staring at the mute hi-fi thinking “I actually like what I’m hearing now. The sound of the room. The creaks. The occasional rush of a breeze outside. A car whooshing by.”
When I walk into town through the » Continue Reading.
rock music as anything other than mere ‘entertainment’ is dead isn’t it?
Ever been slow to appreciate a ‘classic’ band? I always liked ‘Prove It’ but hadn’t really been swayed by anything else from Television until I bought ‘Marquee Moon’ on impulse this weekend in an effort to re-evaluate. And guess what? I was wrong. They were marvellous. Makes me wonder why I hadn’t spotted their sheer structural and musical genius in the first place. So yes, it made me wonder whether anyone else here had ‘discovered’ a ‘classic’ band or artist about thirty years or so after everyone else had?
Oh yes, friends sneer when I tell them how much I enjoy nothing (much) more than watching those directors’ commentaries on DVD and Blu-Ray. But sometimes you learn fascinating facts. Take yesterday for instance. I was listening to John Boorman talking about how he set up the famous duelling banjo’s scene in ‘Deliverance’ when he explained that the kid who ‘plays’ the banjo was chosen for his, ahem, *interesting* face rather than his musical abilities. In fact the lad couldn’t play at all and another boy (who could) was hidden behind him to do all the fretboard fingering. Has anyone else here learnt anything interesting from a commentary I wonder? Or is it just me?
One loudmouth. One musician. One grump. One lucky Ted.
One genius. One talented picker. Two drones.
One drunk with a megaphone. Three hundred Mancunians.
One great singer. One great guitarist. One great bassist. One so-so drummer.
I’ve never been interested in drugs. I dabbled a bit with dope when younger but I wasn’t keen and I was always too much of a control freak to try acid- the thought of being out of my head for eight hours whilst talking to dragons makes me shudder to this day. Lennon may have written some of his best tunes on it but I suspect that a mere mortal such as myself would just stand there with my tongue stuck to the fridge for half a day convinced that the milk is creating weird poetry. Perhaps, on my death bed, I might try heroin because that way I can get all the alleged benefits without the hassle of addiction. Anyway, my point is that whilst I am personally repelled by most forms of chemical stimulation (apart from booze), most of my favourite artists and bands have been unashamed consumers. It made me wonder if there were any good musicians, singers or bands who shunned drugs throughout their career? I know Zappa was famously ‘clean’. Any others?
Just thought that if you had 27 minutes to spare, some of you might enjoy this radio adaptation of my story which went out on BBC Radio Wales last weekend.
Heck, I know you’re not supposed to plug stuff on here but seeing as there is a tenuous connection with The Word (in that The Hep himself kindly offered a sentence for the front cover) I thought I could just about get away with bringing your attention to my forthcoming short story collection. It’s out in January but it is available for pre-order now. Thanks for your time!
In the good old days it was easy to know who was famous and successful in pop music. We had the charts and TOTP. But things have changed. I read the other day of a Welsh band called Pretty Vicious who are signed to a major label and whose fourth single had apparently attracted 400,000 views on You Tube. They were justifiably proud of this but there was no sign of their single on any chart-indie or ‘download’ or other. It made me wonder what the criteria for success were these days. Is it still sales-based? If not, how do ‘record companies’ get their investments back and how do the bands themselves make any (serious) money?
My daughter’s band ESTRONS are apparently taking Texas by storm!
Young bands still want to be famous. They still dream of Beatle-like world domination and cultural power. But how do they do it now that TOTP is gone? Now that there’s no NME to speak of and when no one pays any attention to the charts? Radio One still trots out the Introducing thing but what happens once you’ve been ‘introduced’?
Is there a new way to measure fame these days?
Someone alerted me to this. I have to say I’d never heard it before but I’m assured that, as a huge Elvis fan, Bowie probably would have…
I made it to page three hundred of ‘Unfaithful Music…’ but then I got bored. Dec obviously finds his subject fascinating but I came to the inescapable conclusion that the best writer in The Attractions was Bruce Thomas. His recent book ‘Rough Notes’ was self-published and was never accorded the same level of publicity as Elvis’s overblown tome but it’s a hoot from start to finish and hugely readable. He wrote it all himself too…
…there seem to be more bands and artists than ever before.
But none of them really ‘matter’ any more.
That Noel Gallagher. Wig or what?
As someone who spends a lot of time in record shops (and who therefore tends to avoid them on RSD) I often hear people extolling the virtues of ‘knowledgeable’ staff at stores. Now, I usually go into a record shop for two reasons- I either know exactly what I want or I haven’t a clue and am quite prepared to browse. The last thing I need is ‘advice’ from someone behind the counter whose musical tastes might be completely different to mind and who might only be interested in showing me how ‘knowledgeable’ they are.
Also, if ever I do have to ask something of them (a release date or something, or a minor discography query) the first thing they do is search the internet. I can do that at home. And if they haven’t got the title I’m looking for they kindly offer to order it for me But, again, I can do that from the comfort of my sofa. I don’t expect a record shop to have everything I want and part of the joy is being disappointed. The offer to ‘order it in’ is kind and well-intentioned but it’s not what I go to record shops » Continue Reading.
Here’s some of mine-
1. Charles Dance once bought me a pint. 2. I queued for a cab alongside Martin Freeman in Heathrow. (And also in Miami!). 3. I stood next to Elvis Costello at an urinal. 4. I queued behind all of U2 for coffee backstage at Glastonbury. 5. I guarded Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins’s snooker cues at Crewe station while he played Space Invaders. I didn’t recognize him at the time (although I did think he looked a bit familiar). 6. I drove Barbara Windsor around Cardiff in a Cadillac. 7. Had a pint with Mark E. Smith. 8. Played pool with The La’s. (And lost). 9. Andy Partridge took me to his favourite restaurant in Swindon. And forgot his wallet…but he did sign my entire XTC collection, gave me his plectrum and was a total gent. (And I claimed it all back on expenses anyway). 10. I was locked in a garage to write gags for Rob Brydon. (Not by him though). None of them were used.
While we were away my wife’s documentary about Sammy Davis Jr was shown on BBC 4. I just thought I’d share it with you if you hadn’t already seen it.