Have we done songs suitable for the soundtrack to the forthcoming movie yet? So far I’ve got Shelob You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah and Mithrandir Prudence. It’s trickier than it looks.
Reading about the totally different tracklisting on the cassette version of City to City just now (look, it’s my day off, don’t judge me) I was reminded of my mate Giff’s recent purchase of the original UK vinyl version of Crowded House’s debut album, which someone at EMI (unbelievably) thought would sound better if it didn’t start with – side one, track one – Mean to Me. Then I remembered that Snowy White out of Thin Lizzy plays the solo on Pink Floyd’s Pigs on the Wing but – get this – only on the 8 Track version! I wonder if any of our correspondents can recall similar anomalous format-related A&R diversions which might delight the, ahem, Massive?
I first met Shane Kirk in 1997 when I auditioned for his Beatles specialist band The Star Club. I was feeling very pleased with myself until he dryly informed me that I was the only applicant.
In the intervening years we have shared many stages together. When I have a harebrained musical idea, he is most often the first person I call. “Do you want to help me start a songwriters’ night?” “Shall we start a band where we pretend to be an American family playing Country songs?” The answer is always yes.
There have been many books written about the goings on and antics of rock stars. This is not one of them. However, this is one in a series of books that you may enjoy if you want to know both the struggle of writing, recording and performing your own songs with very little prospect of retiring on the proceeds of these endeavours, as well as spending your weekends working in a covers band, playing songs you wished you’d written, in pubs you wished you weren’t in.
Someone had to write this book; I’m glad it’s Shane Kirk.
I’ve recently spent some time on the front line in the retail wars – I can’t tell you exactly where, as there’s a clause in the contract regarding social media, but suffice to say the company concerned will probably be closing a branch near you shortly – and so at this festive time of year, I thought I might share a few reflections.
Firstly, people are generally nice, kind and interested in being interested. Many queries regarding back catalogue or hard-to-find items would begin “I don’t suppose you’ll have heard of this…” and folk would be delighted that you could describe the cover of (say) 24 Carat Purple, Wonsaponatime or correctly attribute the director of Barry Lyndon, even of you couldn’t actually order any of these items in for them. The number of times someone would mention that they would rather enquire in person than online was heartening, at least for those still employed in the retail sector. Then again, we never saw the constituency who preferred to sit in for the Amazon man, did we?
Mind you – you don’t get to describe the plot of a film you once saw most of on a plane and are determined » Continue Reading.
If you’re not sure about the subtle differences between death metal, black metal, grindcore and speed metal genres then fear not – comedian Andrew O’Neill is here to guide you through the life and times of his favourite musical rollercoaster. The book’s origins lie in a stand-up routine, but the book’s extra volume* allows for extended riffing** on subjects such a glam metal – which gets very short shrift from the author – and Whitesnake, who get even shorter. It’s a tale as old as time, and although there are a couple of errors for the contented old metal head to flag up on social media (Slade’s triumphant 1980 festival renaissance was at Reading, not Donington) it breezes along with appropriate reverence for the deserving, and brilliant footnotes for the less so. His explanation of Smoke on the Water as “The Saving Private Ryan of classic rock songs” is a pearler, and the note on Gary Glitter made me literally snort wine out of my nose.
*Do you see what I’ve done there? **And there.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Hell Bent for Leather by Seb Hunter, Some Kind of Monster, that Anvil movie, » Continue Reading.
Very poor showing from The Times there today.
Mine: Michael Schenker Jimi Hendrix Albert King.
The Smokehouse, Ipswich.
Robyn Hitchcock at the intimate and bijou The Smokehouse in the heart of swinging downtown Ipswich. A career-spanning ad-hoc set which climaxed with a stunning encore version of Visions of Johanna. A word, if I may, for the exemplary engineering – the guitar sounded like a twelve string at times, and the ‘tween song instructions regarding the effects (“A bit of rock n’ roll echo on this one”, “Like George Harrison being double-tracked in 1967”, “Like someone playing along with a Richard Thompson album in the next room”) were all adhered to strictly to the letter. “I’m going to count down from five to one, and then pan the stereo while ladling on a lot of echo and reverbing that in turn” led to a positively Roundhousian 1967 vibe at one point. (Ed. – please insert ‘Sonic Cathedrals’ reference here).
Kudos too, to opener Polly Preacher, whose effects-laden guitar and harmony-enabling bass player led us to an interval conversation about who is our favourite ‘Polly’.
A bit Life of Brian “Are there any women here..?
It made me think..
I must look up Robyn Hitchcock’s cat’s Instagram profile. His account of » Continue Reading.
It is one of the most stirring sights in rock – two drummers (one, ideally, left-handed) pounding away behind a couple of gurning soloists – but, and here is where I defer to the wisdom and knowledge of the Afterword, if you will, massif – is there generally a ‘lead’ drummer and a ‘rhythm’ drummer, or do they usually work out in advance where the fills are going to be? I haven’t watched enough Dead and/or Doobies to take an informed view. I saw The Waterboys a couple of years ago and one of the pair was essentially an over-qualified percussionist, and when Messrs Mattacks and Conway teamed up at Cropredy it was very much an eye-contact split-stereo effort, but these were temporary experiments. Did Butch Trucks habitually pull rank? And do get me started on the latest King Crimson line up.
What does it sound like?:
Venturing out to see the estimable New Jersey stylings of Nicole Atkins this week, I was drawn to the humble and self-effacing opening turn – one Caleb Elliot – whose day job is as cello player in the headliner’s employ. Standard floppy-fringed, roper-heeled, sensitive, acoustic guitar-driven troubadour fare, one might think. Nevertheless I was drawn further into his world the more the set went on and treated myself to the vinly version of his new album (you get a download code too) at the interval. Listening to the full band version of the songs, I couldn’t be more taken with them. The electric versions are a masterpiece of introspection, a symphony of underplayment. The bass on a few tracks (do we say ‘cuts’ these days or are we still waiting for that to come around again?) is so minimalist it’s almost not there until, until…there it is, as perfectly placed as a daub of red in a Turner seascape. For all, or perhaps because of, his gosh-darn charm it’s unlikely that he’ll be taking the alt-Americana scene by the scruff of it’s neck anytime soon, so why not do a brother a favour and » Continue Reading.
Just finished Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys – which is epic, and thoroughly both commended and recommended – and saw that they put suggested Book Club questions at the end of novels these days. I can’t help thinking this would be a fine idea for albums – whether as additional tracks at the end of the CD or inserted subtly into the sleeve notes. “Do you think the vocals were too loud on track one?”, “How about that double-tracked guitar solo, eh?”, that sort of thing. Here’s my one: “What did Billy Joe throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge?”
We’ve done a thing. That’s me sounding like Chris Difford on the first track, trying to write a Justin Currie song on the second, double tracking a Tele and bouzouki on the third, and channelling a famous British novelist on the fourth. We’ve all done it.
The Betsey Trotwood, EC1.
And so to the heart of London’s swinging Clerkenwell, where former The Church, All About Eve, The Saints and current Anekdoten guitarist Marty Willson-Piper is paying for his Roy Harper ticket by initially doing an acoustic gig, which has blossomed into a short UK tour. Downstairs at The Betsey Trotwood is not a big room, and so lends itself ideally to the sort of intimate soiree we are about to experience. Accompanied by wife Olivia on vocals, fiddle and octave violin – who brings great depth, atmosphere and warmth to proceedings – Marty swaps between twelve string guitars (one of which appears to be principally gaffa tape) and brings us a wide ranging selection from his back catalogue of seventy-odd albums, collaborations, productions and guest spots including a handful from The Church’s Heyday and a very creditable Farewell Mr. Sorrow, in between rambles, reflections on mortality, a reading and the occasional impact rectification of a recalcitrant DI box. It is terrifically enjoyable, and it’s almost impossible not to be swept into MW-P’s intimate world of hand-crafted stage lighting, guitar geekdom and genuine affection for the form.
Friendly, accomodating, the sort » Continue Reading.
It’s festival application time again, so time to update the band bio and fill in the parts of the form which ask us to explain what we do, how, and why. There are generally three ways of doing this, essentially by dint of “Who we’ve played with”, “Who our band members used to be” and “Who we sound like” – cf “…has appeared on the bill with such bands as….”, “…former member of…” and “…influenced by…. I was minded of this earlier in the week when one Mike Scott, formerly of this parish (and self-proclaimed ‘Traveller between worlds’) took umbrage at a promoter and/or local paper listings editor describing his band as “Folk-Rock”. My first thought was “What’s he complaining about, at least he’s getting press..?” but then as I worked my way through a series of “Tell us about your music in no more than seventy five words” text boxes I wondered if he might have a point. I know people who are promoters and agents and who have learned to cut to the chase when it comes to artist-led PR – one immediately bins anything featuringa cajon, which cuts his workload down considerably, and I understand that Joe » Continue Reading.
Year: 2018 Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Despite having a pretty similar relationship with historical fact as some of the recent Dr Who episodes, this is a great piece of cinema – atmospherically lit, superbly soundtracked, beautifully shot and wonderfully acted by its three leads. What Olivia Colman can’t convey with the merest flicker of a facial muscle isn’t worth knowing about. I’ve seen it described as a ‘comedy drama’, but laughs are hard-earned, and the overall mood is of quiet desperation on the parts of all of the protagonists. The odd modern affectation in the language aside, this is a thoroughly absorbing work which I’m sure will be handed a bucket load of awards before the season’s out, as well as upping the traffic on Queen Anne’s Wikipedia page to hitherto unseen levels.
Might appeal to people who enjoyed:
May appeal to people who enjoyed Giles Smith’s Lost in Music.
I was lucky enough to recently visit the Eksisterende Museum in Aarhus, which is situated close to the city centre, in the middle of Vores Gade. In the main gallery was a touring exhibition curated by Dutch conceptualist Mercedes van Stuurprogramma – an artist with whom I was previously unfamiliar but who, it turns out, leans toward the Dada. What Mercedes has done is collect a number of found objects, all of which have at some point been broken while being moved or, in transit.
Those of us familiar with the delivery techniques of DPD (for example) may not be surprised at the breadth of artefacts she has assembled for the collection, but amongst the everyday objets, there are hidden gems which contrast with, and throw into relief, the otherwise mundane. The original 78 RPM version of ‘Wilhelmina (is Plump and Round)’ by Rossini’s Accordian Band – later, of course recorded by Thunderclap Newman and released as the b-side to ‘Something in the Air’ – lies in two distinct shards.
Fairground mirrors, jigsaw puzzles, Lego models, the original 1732 Treaty of Ahmet Pasha, the jaded promises of a desperate passenger on the 1500 Greyhound Bus to Texarkana, a bedside reading » Continue Reading.
The Dublin Castle, Camden.
In pursuit of Dave and Derek Philpott’s “Dear Mr. Popstar” we alight at Camden Town tube station, grab a pint and a burger at The World’s End opposite (handy tip, they don’t do any alcohol-free beers) and make our way through the glittering streets of North London to the legendary Dublin Castle, Madness-centric home of The Rock and Roll Book Club, a regular event, this evening hosting not only The Philpotts but also one Bruce Thomas, late of The Attractions, who is here to talk about his new tome, Rough Notes.
Dave is up first, and after a couple of cursory questions regarding the hows, whys and wherefores he is joined by some game guests who recount their answers in occasionally halting tones, principally because the light isn’t so good and a couple of them haven’t brought their reading glasses.
Of these, Will Birch out of The Kursaal Flyers is a dapper raconteur, and Rupert Hine (it’s a lengthy discography, but I maintain that “A Girl Called Johnny” is his finest moment) has clearly been asked to pronounce Taumatawhakatangihangakoayauo-TamateaturipukakapikimaungahoroNukypokaiwhenuakitanatahu at parties a lot. Owen Paul manages to knock a glass of wine » Continue Reading.
The thing (that we’ll kiss goodbye) is, Justin Currie was right. The story of Del Amitri is not that dramatic. Nobody died, no-one fell out, there is no heroin hell, no cocaine-fuelled wrecking of hotel rooms, although (spoiler alert) some watches do get damaged. This is a wholly functional account of how the music business worked in The Nineties, filtered through the prism of a fan of one of the bands who were there. Guitarists and drummers come and go, advances are advanced, deals are dealt, tours are toured but, ultimately, nothing ever happens. The ‘Where are they now?’, discography and gig list are exemplary and everyone involved comes out of the whole odyssey sounding like a terribly good sort but, ultimately, it’s no Hammer of the Gods.
Length of Read:Medium
Might appeal to people who enjoyed…
Diary of a Rock n’ Roll Star. Overuse of the word ‘axeman’, footnotes.
One thing you’ve learned
There’s more money to be made writing for The Fast Show than there is in being a guitarist in Del Amitri. Also, that scene of the guitar player having a breakdown in a launderette in America was faked.
The Regent, Ipswich.
Anyone who tries to stir up an Ipswich audience with a stirring call to arms like “How ya doin’, Ipswich?” or “Are there any Travis fans in tonight?” has either massively over-estimated their perceived innate connection with their audience, or hasn’t been to Ipswich before. Thus Turin Brakes, with their affable brand of guitar-based power melancholy attempt to warm up The Ipswich Regent, nee Odeon, nee Gaumont, a task that The Beatles once attempted on behalf of Roy Orbison, something Fran Healey out of The Travis will mention later on. “It’s a good room” he will say “A good vibe”, which demonstrates a certain generosity of personality, if nothing else.
Travis are here to wheel out a performance of their classic, nineteen year-old album The Man Who – a record which, according to Q Magazine’s contemporaneous review “…loses momentum after its first four songs” – an issue which often intrudes on these anniversary recreations of halcyon periods in a band’s recorded output. That slightly weak track you buried half way through side two isn’t necessarily what you want to be building your live show toward a climax with.
Fran is initially non-communicative, leading » Continue Reading.
“Everyone here is so old!” stage whispers a woman to her queuemate outside the UEA. “How dare you?” I gently mock back, however she is not wrong. We are as far from the formation of Public Image tonight as they were from Hitler being named as Time Magazine’s Man of the Year, and the mohicans have all grown longer overnight. The impression that there is a well of middle-aged politeness to proceedings is little dissipated once inside by the gentleman perched on the steps down into the central auditorium’s well passing the hour until show time (nine o’clock sharp!) by reading a hefty hardback volume, and the number of extra chairs laid out around the venue. A pointless onstage DJ plays vintage ska records.
There is a saying that one should judge a person by their actions, not their looks, but as PiL take the stage there is an overwhelming temptation to assign the roles immediately. On drums and bass, imagine Kermode and Mayo having bulked up considerable in order to play the lead roles in a remake of The Krays. Stage right, one of Geoffrey Bayldon’s more outre characters is being workshopped, » Continue Reading.
What does it sound like?:
Well, go on – what do you think this album sounds like? I won’t lie to you – you’re not far off. From the outset, as the familiar trademark licks kick in and that Ringo-commensurate vocal wraps it’s way around the first of a number of possibly non-Novello Laureate-worthy lyrics (Blow Your Mind shares all of the penetrative post-feminist analysis of the female condition as The Rolling Stones’ Some Girls) you know you’re on familiar ground, and unlikely to be turfed into a parallel universe where Wilko Johnson’s Jazz Odyssey is a Sunday night FM staple.
I wouldn’t suggest Wilko has been tempted to fuck with the formula, but he has seen fit to tweak it very slightly, and his right-panned trademark guitar is mirrored throughout by a complementary left-hand channel bearing generous gifts of blues harp, organ, what sounds like a Fender Rhodes or, if the team are feeling generous, all three. Marijuana is a rollicking bumper car ride, Tell Me One More Thing has bubbly fairground organ bearing it aloft and by the time we get to That’s The Way I Love You we may as well all be assembled down » Continue Reading.
Times are hard, people. It’s getting to that point where I’m starting to think of replying to those ads for proof-reading courses, or envelope stuffing. It’s a gig economy out there, and we all have to make a living, so think of this thread as Etsy for Afterworders. Ebay for Wordistas, Amazon for the Amazonians.
The Lexington, London N1
I’ve been watching MORATOSO (which, incidentally, no-one ever calls them) since they were makeweights on a roots and bluegrass tour some years ago, and they’ve always been fun, entertaining and a guranteed Wolf-ish night (or afternoon, or extraordinarily early morning) out. I mean, what’s not to like about a plangent guitar/vocalist, a wilding violin casting shadow and texture and a good, solid bass fiddle player backing the whle thing up? Last night however – and without wishing to go too Marty Di Bergi about the whole thing – I got more, a whole lot more.
The band’s new album Stereoscope – and it is, indisputably, the whole band’s LP – has taken a darker, more experimental turn, and whereas their take on Smokestack Lightninghas always veered more toward the fever dream sweatings of a genuine incarcerate rather than an excuse for jam-night style excesses, that approach seems to have been extended to encompass the rest of the set too. Imagine Radiohead playing a John Martyn tribute night.
There’s a healthy dig through the new material, and with Chris Lynch on fiddle and Ben Berry on upright bass both taking both a » Continue Reading.
Remarkable, astonishing and quite, quite brilliant. Pitched somewhere between The Blue Nile, the more outre stylings of John Martyn or a mildly batshit Pink Floyd. That’s just on the first listen, mind. https://martyoreilly.bandcamp.com/album/stereoscope
Okay, stay with me on this one. Dreamt a full-length caper movie last night. There were three master tapes for a legendary lost Sixties album in existence – one was the rough demos, one the finished mixed and mastered version, and the last was a copy with no vocals, intended for TV performances.
These tapes had disappeared shortly after their completion and, what with the reissue business being what it is, whoever found them was likely to be in for a big payout. Searching high and low were the putative villains of the piece, played by Michael McKean and Christopher Guest.
They track the missing reels to a farmhouse perched high on a cliff face above a small Cornish fishing village. There is a rendezvous arranged (on a small dinghy in the harbour) but just at their supposed moment of triumph they realise that someone has switched the reels and that they are left with useless 2 1/2 ips Tapes, stuck together over time and now worthless.
Meanwhile, up on the coast road, in a Scooby Doo-style reveal, the young retro pop starlet they have been working with pulls off her mask and disguise and is revealed to be » Continue Reading.